The return of Renaldo Major and others should help the Dakota Wizards get off to a good start this season.
(I shouldn't have to do this, but just to be on the safe side I'll say that while former RU writer Ridiculous Scott has moved on and now has a job with the, he had nothing to do with the writing of this piece. I saw a news article and needed something to post today other than a fanshot about some college player I'm unfamiliar with.)
It's early, of course, but the Dakota Wizards look like they'll have a pretty good squad early on this season. That's because they're returning at least five players from last year's playoff team. Maurice Baker, Romel Beck, Renaldo Major, David Bell and Carlos English are all coming back to the Wizards, and David Monds may or may not be joining them (if coach Rory White is to be believed, anyway). It's possible but doubtful that all of those guys will finish the season with the team - Beck and Monds are both call-up candidates, plus there are trades, injuries, what have you - but that experience and talent should help the team get off to a good start.
Baker returns as the starting point guard, though those duties were split somewhat with Blake Ahearn. Baker doesn't rack up a ton of assists, averaging a little over five per 36 minutes last season, but he's a very good rebounder for his position (over six per 36), especially when you consider that he's 6'1". Bottom, he's a solid veteran.
Beck can be a scoring machine, as long as he doesn't try to go 1-on-5, which unfortunately he does quite a bit. He was a late cut by the Rockets this preseason, and he's been pegged for an eventual NBA call-up for a while, but injuries and that isolationist tendency have kept it from happening thus far. He's 27 years old, so this should be the year when he finally "gets it" - should be.
David Bell could slide into the starting lineup with Blake Ahearn playing overseas this year. He's a catch-and-shoot player, and a pretty good one. Baker shot 40.7 percent on three-pointers, so he should be able to replace Ahearn in that area. He also handed out three and a half assists per 36 minutes last season, so he can chip in there as well.
Renaldo Major is a small forward who can defend well, rebound a little bit, handle the ball a little bit, and give the team some energy when needed. The article I linked to focused on Baker, but Major may be the key to the Wizards getting off to a good start, as he can help compensate for some of the other guys' weaknesses. Major made the all-D-League third team last season.
Carlos English didn't play a lot last season, averaging seven minutes game, but he's quick, which he uses to his advantage on both sides of the ball. He doesn't shoot particularly well (.265 last year), but if he can maintain his per-minute assist numbers while (maybe) playing a larger role he'll be a solid bench contributor.
If David Monds goes back to the Wizards, then their frontcourt won't quite be as decimated as it otherwise would be. Monds played very well for the Lakers' Summer League team this year, averaging over 13 rebounds per 36 minues, leading the team in per-minute scoring and shooting over 60 percent from the field. That comes after averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes last year. Richard Hendrix is playing overseas now, so Monds will be the team's key post player to start the season