Now that we know the draft order, and Matt's thoughts on how ridiculous the process is, lets look at how important the draft even is. In most sports, a good draft can turn a team around, but in the D-League, if you draft a couple NBA call-ups with your first couple picks and don't find any sleepers later, come mid-January, your team could look terrible, losing it's first couple picks either to the NBA or them heading overseas post D-League Showcase. Granted, most teams will have a few starters returning for them (last year, every team had at least 6 guys in camp from their camp, returning players, and played "allocated" to them).
With 6 guys in camp already that the teams have basically hand-picked and seen in action personally, the Draft is good for adding the league mandated rookie and two or three other guys outside of the first round pick to contribute. You're basically looking at 4, maybe 5 guys from the ten round roster. Having a draft on a Friday night that has 16 teams each picking ten players seem to be a bit much. I know most coaches have no way of getting familiar with every player in the draft. Last year, Bakersfield coach Jim Harrick missed his first round pick, and when he answered later in the 2nd, sounded like he may have fell asleep. Though they get preliminary lists of who has signed a contract for the season early, the majority of the players that will contribute are the guys that have either just been cut by the NBA or have waited until the last minute to make the decision to stick around or head to Europe for the season. Looking at last year, I found that the draft didn't help many teams outside the first round, but found the biggest steals and re-did the first round last year. Continue on for results...
When looking at last years draft, I found that only 76 of the 140 players that were drafted actually made it into a regular season game. Starting in the third round, at least four players from each round didn't even make it into the regular season, and in the 8th and 9th round, only 12 of the 28 played in the D-League last season. Of the 76 players that did make it to the league, 18 didn't even play with the team that drafted them the entire year, either getting traded or released, including 3 first round picks (Kevin Pittsnogle, Glen McGowan, and Darvin Ham).
The average player drafted played in 31 games last season, starting half of them, and played just 23 minutes per game. This player would score 9 points per game, grabbing 4 boards and 2 assists, shooting 47% from the field and 74% from the line. While not bad, certainly you can see the Draft as a whole won't help your team too entirely much. If you look at the first round picks, even this isn't great. The average 1st round player scored 15 points per game, adding 5.5 boards and 3 assists in 32 minutes of playing time. The 2nd through 4th round players averaged 10 points, 4 boards, and about 1.5 assists per game, playing about 23 minutes a game. Round 5 and 6, players averaged right around 6 points, 3.5 boards, and an assist in 16 minutes per game. In the 7th round, production shot up, averaging 10 points, 3.5 boards and 1.5 assists, playing 22 minutes per game. The last 3 rounds of the draft, players averaged 5.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and an assist, playing about 18 minutes a game.
Knowing that other than the first round picks, you're pretty much able to get equal value in the next six rounds, the draft is pretty much a crap shoot. This is more than likely due to the coaches not being able to scout much due to the time it takes for them to get the final draft eligible list. If coaches were to re-draft last years draft, I believe it would look more like this. Although most of these players were called-up, in the first round you've got to take the best talent and hope that the players plays well until the inevitable call-up happens.
2007 D-League Draft -- First Round
Colorado -- Picking first overall in the draft, the 14ers are built around allocated player Kaniel Dickens and returning big man Elton Brown, so they're basically looking for a point guard to slash and free Dickens up on the perimeter when not dumping the ball down inside to Brown. The best guard in the D-League that has shown he can both get in the lane as well as rack up the assists, C.J. Watson. Playing just 16 games before getting called up last season, Watson averaged 27 points, 6 assists, and 5.5 boards, along with two steals and shooting better than 50% from the field. Though their original pick, Eddie Gill, played well in the D-League last year, Watson had much more upside and would have been extremely dangerous on the dangerous 14ers.
Dakota Wizards -- Picking second overall, the Wizards were returning a great core from their championship team the year before. Maurice Baker, Dontell Jefferson, Rod Benson, and Kevin Lyde were all returning, meaning the first round pick would be a player that could come in and mesh with a team already teeming with talent. Though Dwayne Mitchell would have been an option that may have been able to mesh better with the Wizards, their original pick of Carlos Powell was the right one, taking the best player available, especially since Powell played the position needed. Powell played in 48 of the Wizards games, scoring 22.5 points per game, along with 6.5 boards and 4.5 assists. Probably the best pick in the first round, as he played well and played almost all of the games, without heading overseas or getting called-up.
Albuquerque Thunderbirds - The Thunderbirds returned just one player from the previous season, Steven Barber, and weren't helped out much by the D-League's allocated players, so they were more or less starting from scratch. They picked Darvin Ham Slamwich, which wasn't the wisest idea as he was more a coach on the floor, rather than a playmaker to build around. Had they had a good team returning, he would have been valuable, but I don't think he was the right pick to start a team with. This would have been a good spot for Eddie Gill to go, seeing as he is a good player to build around, has enough experience to be a leader that other players are going to look up to, and plays the most important position on the court at the point.
Idaho Stampede - The Stampede had a great team coming back, returning the reigning league MVP Randy Livingston, skilled big man Lance Allred, former NBA draft pick 7-foot swingman Ricky Sanchez, and also being allocated two overseas studs in Roberto Bergersen and Cory Violette. Basically, they already have their starting 5 right there if they want, so they're just looking for a good complimentary player that can contribute. They picked Jamaal Tatum, a rookie point guard and former Saluki, but he was injured in the preseason and never regained his health to come back and play. Assuming they stay with a point guard, there are two options that really might warrant the fourth overall pick in the draft left. Blake Ahearn or Kevin Kruger, rookie white point guards who showed they can play. At the time, Kruger probably would have been a better pick, as he was more well-known and played well for the Flash last year, facilitating the offense and scoring 13 points and dishing 7 assists a game. Blake Ahearn however is my pick here, though. A sharp-shooting rookie who can play both guard positions, he would have brought a lot to Coach Brian Gates' offense, and would have been an instant spark off the bench which might have needed it being the oldest team in the D-League. Nonetheless, they won the championship without a first round pick, so it didn't really matter.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers - The Vipers, an expansion team, were allocated Gabe Muoneke, but little else. With their original pick C.J. Watson off the board, the Vipers probably would have went with another point guard, and the best point guard left would be Kruger. Kruger, although not a flashy player, is a solid player, was coming off of a great season at UNLV, and would have been a good player to build around. Being a rookie, he also filled a huge need, as each team needed two rookies, and if a quality rookie was available, that's the best bet. The other option might have been going big, where NBA veteran Jelani McCoy would have been a good pick.
Sioux Falls Skyforce - The Skyforce started out with a ready-made backcourt, with returning player Elton Nesbitt and allocated player, along with being a former Skyforce player, David Bailey. With their backcourt already set up, the team would be wise to grab a big-man. Their original pick was Nik Caner-Medley, a 6-8 forward out of Maryland that could gun from outside. Looking at his D-League season, he played six games, averaging 22 points and 11.5 boards in 42 minutes a game. Though the Skyforce didn't really need another outside shooter already having Bailey and Nesbitt, Caner-Medley was a great pick, though going overseas after just six games definitely hurts his stock. I would take Marcus Campbell in this spot, as he would have really helped Coach Nate Tibbetts team have great inside-outside dynamic. A 7-foot lefty and D-League veteran, he put up the best numbers as a big man in last years D-League draft, averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds and over a block per game in just 25 minutes of action. In the actual draft, the Stampede actually picked Campbell late in round 4.
Fort Wayne Mad Ants - The Mad Ants were in a great position coming into the draft, having been allocated a starting backcourt with Earl Calloway and Jeremy Richardson, plus having Pistons 2nd round draft pick Sammy Mejia, Roderick Wilmont and Justin Cage to round out 5 players that are legitimate D-League starters. Unfortunately, the Mad Ants weren't blessed with a big guy that could play in the post (This showed later in the season when they actually let Nate Gerwig play some games). Their original pick was Larry Turner, and I liked what he brought to the table. A 6'11" rookie out of Tennessee State, he had just been the last cut of the Los Angeles Lakers. Being a rookie and a legit big man, this was a good pick. Though he usually battled foul trouble and thus never really got enough playing time, his per-36 minute averages were 12 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocks. With those averages, coupled with getting a legit big man in the first round that doubles as a rookie, I think Fort Wayne made the right pick. Knowing they would have the Pistons Cheikh Samb for most of the season, though, I think I would have picked Caner-Medley, a 6-8 forward that would bring a lot more firepower to an already explosive team.
Los Angeles D-Fenders - The D-Fenders returned a lot of good players from the season before, with Brian Chase at the point, Devin Green at the 2, Sean Banks at the 3, and Andre Patterson at the 4, so really all they were looking for would be a skilled big man. Though they originally picked Jelani McCoy, with the D-Fenders being owned by the Lakers, Larry Turner would have been the pick made here, as the Lakers could have watched their final cut develop until he was ready to be called up to the Lakers.
Anaheim Arsenal - The Arsenal had a decent starting team with Guillermo Diaz and Noel Felix, cuts from the parent club LA Clippers. With that, they were pretty much open to draft anyone but a point guard. Their original pick was Kedrick Brown, former Celtics lottery pick, and he played well for the Arsenal, averaging 15 points and 6 boards for the Arsenal. However, I think this would have been a good spot for the Arsenal to grab Jelani McCoy, a big man that could get it done down low, a good compliment to the undersized post Felix.
Utah Flash - The Flash, an expansion team, didn't get much through the expansion draft or allocation players. They were left with the humongous James Lang, and two local tryout players, John Millsap (Brother of Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap) and Brian Hamilton, who nobody knew at the time, but ended up playing well and is now in NBA camp. Regardless, they could pretty much pick anyone, and with original pick local prospect Kevin Kruger off the board already, I think they should go with Dwayne Mitchell. Mitchell, although he has a streaky jump-shot, is a fun to watch athletic freak who would have brought some excitement to this team. He averaged 20 points, 6 boards, and 3 assists with the Iowa Energy before heading overseas last year, and with him and Brian Hamilton on the team, there would have been a lot of steals going around creating a fun, fast-breaking back court, especially when Mo Almond was on lease from the Jazz. Unfortunately, neither Flash big men James Lang or Kyrylo Fesenko would get in on the fast break action.
Tulsa 66ers - The 66ers didn't return much other than Mike Hall, a stud that played both the 3 and 4 for them. The 66ers could use a lot, but I think it would have made sense to pair Mike Hall with Kedrick Brown. Brown, the 6-7 guard and former Celtics lottery pick , would have given this team a lot of talent to build around. Though nobody would guess, Brown scored the third most points in the D-League last year, behind Wizards Carlos Powell and Blake Ahearn.
Austin Toros - The Toros, freshly acquired by the San Antonio Spurs, had a lot of talent allocated to them, acquiring Keith Langford and the Spurs 2nd round pick, Marcus Williams out of Arizona. With a 2 and 3 already there, they need either a big man a point guard to distribute the ball. Knowing Ian Mahinmi would be with the team most of the tiem, Darvin Ham would be a good pick here. He was actually traded to the Toros toward the end of the season and started all 4 of the games he was with them. With a young team and loads of prospects that the Spurs rotated through, Ham would have been a good mentor for the players that came through, especially DerMarr Johnson and Marcus Williams, who could use a good mentor that's already been in the NBA and knows what they're looking for.
Bakersfield Jam - Coach Jim Harrick fell asleep during the time allotted to make this pick, so in all reality, Perrin Johnson or Forrest "Whyte Cloud" Fisher would have been good picks here, just because they at least would have been less humiliating then completely skipping the first round. They returned Rod Riley, Brandon Bowman, and Yuta Tabuse, so, had they been awake for this pick, they probably would have been looking for a 2 or a 4. Kevin Pittsnogle would have made sense here, as he is a known player that could have gotten some butts in the seats and shot the 3, a lot, sometimes even making it. Unfortunately, he wasn't really into playing defense or stepping inside. Instead, I think that Carl Elliott, the rookie out of George Washington, would have made sense here. While playing behind Bailey and Nesbitt in Sioux Falls, he still was able to manage averaging 14 points and a couple steals per contest.
Iowa Energy - After being allocated Jeff Horner and Doug Thomas to give the expansion team a local feel, the team basically just has to look for a playmaker. With their original pick, Dwayne Mitchell, already off the board, Josh Gross would probably make the best substitution of players left. Gross, who played for three teams last season, Iowa among them, averaged 15 points and 5 boards in 30 minutes a contest.
Most Value By Round
First Round - Carlos Powell (DAK) - Though not the best player in the first round, obviously had the most value to the Wizards, as they weren't expecting the 2nd overall pick to play in 48 of their games.
Second Round - Carl Elliott (SFL) - Elliott, playing behind Bailey and Nesbitt in Sioux Falls, he still was able to manage averaging 14 points and a couple steals per contest.
Third Round - Corey Minnifield (FTW) - Minnifield averaged 16 points and 6 assists for the Mad Ants, starting 28 of the 43 games.
Fourth Round - Blake Ahearn (DAK) - Ahearn, an unheralded rookie out of Missouri State, started the season coming off of the bench for Dakota, and ended up coming off of the bench for the Miami Heat.
Fifth Round - Keith Closs (TUL) - Closs, when not smoking cigarettes minutes before the game starts (Saw this in action), actually played well for the 66ers, coming off the bench to provide a dominant defensive presence. Though old and short on stamina, he averaged 3 blocks in 19 minutes of action.
Sixth Round - Jesse Smith (RGV) - Smith averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds, starting 33 of the Vipers 50 games.
Seventh Round - Ron Howard (FTW) - The seventh round was a very productive round, producing 4 or 5 players with a lot of value so late, but Ron Howard, who started 37 games with the Mad Ants, played very well for being named after a kid on Happy Days. He averaged 11 points in 28 minutes, shooting 52% from the field.
Eighth Round - Michael Joiner (SFL) - Joiner, out of Florida State, was the utility man for Skyforce, playing everything from the 2 to the 5 as a 6-7" forward. He averaged 10 points and 4 rebounds, starting 30 games for Sioux Falls.
Ninth Round - Ramon Dyer (ABQ) - Dyer played in all 50 games for the Thunderbirds, averaging 6 points and 5 boards.
Tenth Round - Tony Gipson (DAK) - Gipson didn't make the team coming out of training camp, but once Dontell Jefferson and Mo Baker went overseas, along with Blake Ahearn being called up, Coach Duane Ticknor found Gipson ready to play. He joined the Wizards for the last 21 games of the season, starting 15 of them, averaging 13 points in 32 minutes.