A reminder that we're having an Open Source Live Blog in this here comments section, so join us in roughly two hours as we follow the draft and watch Rick Kamla try not to say anything offensive.
It's finally here. The D-League draft is tonight sometime around 7 PM eastern (7 is when the "selection show" starts on NBA TV), and as a preview for what to expect tonight, I thought I'd highlight some of the top players in the draft pool. And I also wanted to go over what each team's needs are. Oh, and I also thought a mock draft would be a good idea. That's a lot of writing, especially when you're me and everything you do is overwritten. So I've combined all of those ideas, sort of. What we have here is a look at each team's major needs with an explanation of who they could draft, done in the first round's draft order. So I guess that is almost exactly like a mock draft, except that I may talk about more than one player per team. To follow along with each team's needs be sure to check out my rundown of each team's major returning and allocated players; Dakota, Fort Wayne...and the rest. I'm not going to talk about every player in the draft pool, because there are 200 of them (you can find the full list here). Also I should warn you that whatever I say in this preview is probably wrong.
I'll be tracking the draft on the D-League site this evening, so those of you who are doing the same or are watching it on NBA TV should come on by for the first Open Source Live Blog of the season. The preview's below the jump.
Kevin Pittsnogle is a power forward/center-type, but his game was always further out along the perimeter. Byrd and Siler are probably the best centers in the draft pool. Siler turned some heads with his Summer League play, showing good instincts around the rim, very good rebounding and efficient scoring. Of course, he's pretty, uh, big. Byrd isn't all that efficient offensively, but he's a decent rebounder and shotblocker, and he has some D-League experience having played in Los Angeles and Rio Grande Valley. Point guard-wise, they could look to any number of players, including former NBA player Orien Greene or D-League vets Curry, Jeremy Kelly, Ryan Diggs or Gary Ervin. That's right, JamesOn Curry is (possibly) back. Also, there are a lot of pretty good point guards available. JamesOn Curry is, of course, the biggest name among them, although he was always more of a scorer than a distributor. In two season with the Iowa Energy he shot a combined 36.6 percent on three-pointers and averaged 15 and a half points, while averaging about four assists per 36 minutes. It's entirely possible that teams will shy away from Curry's off-court "issues," but the talent should still be there. There are some rumors that the team will go with Carlos Powell here, and to be honest he's probably the most talented player in the draft pool
Needs: Point guard, a big man
Best fits: Curry, Orien Greene, Jeremy Kelly, Sundiata Gaines, Byrd, Sile
A point guard is probably the biggest need for Erie, since both point guard Maureece Rice and point-center Erik Daniels are both gone. That's a lot of points, and I haven't even talked about their scoring! (I'm so, so sorry.) Anyway, if Curry is around he'd be a pretty good fit, since he can shoot threes (which this team seems to like), and while I downplayed his assists above they're about as good as anyone else's who's available. Jeremy Kelly is another option. His three-point shooting and overall scoring have steadily improved over his three years in Tulsa, and his five-assists-per-36-minutes average is, like Curry's, about as good as anyone else's. If not either of those, then how about Sundiata Gaines? The team is reportedly looking at Gaines with this pick. I'm not that familiar with him, but DraftExpress seems to be fairly high on the guy, although I'm not sure what following the sentence that says "he's forced to do far too much ball-handling" with one that says "he...handles the ball well" means. I'm also listing a big man here because their options right now boil down to Jarvis Gunter, a backup last year, or playing Rob Kurz out of position like they did with Daniels, even though Kurz isn't really much of a rebounder. The presence of so many point guards means they could wait until the second round to address that and grab a big man first.
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Needs: depth, defense
Best fits: Carlos Powell, S. Gaines, Yaroslav Korolev
If Powell has fallen this far Los Angeles is probably certain to pick him up, in that they have their bases covered (point guards, shotblocking center, versatile wing player) and can draft pretty much any position. Sundiata Gaines might also be a good look here to pair alongside Joe Crawford, who's more of a scorer, though with Ryan Forehan-Kelly in the starting lineup that leaves them pretty small on the perimeter. I'm throwing Korolev into the mix because he has pretty good size (6'9"), still has some athleticism and started his career in Los Angeles (but with the Clippers). Really, the D-Fenders could go in any direction, and it's not even like they're burdened by being directly affiliated with an NBA team.
Unlike the D-Fenders who have a lot of things covered, Bakersfield needs just about everything. They signed Robert Swift, so I'll take the hint and say they're going to keep an eye out for NBA pedigrees. Washington is very athletic and was just cut by the Pistons. So is Gee (a San Antonio Summer League player), who's a good slasher but not much of a defender or a shooter. Paul Harris (who spent Summer league with Minnesota) is a little more polished and a (much) better defender, and he's been working on his shot this offseason. Korolev, as I mentioned above, came into the NBA with the Clippers, who are affiliated with the Jam. Korolev didn't play particularly well in the NBA, but is that really important? Aminu is a sushi-raw power forward who a lot of people think has some upside (including me, sometimes), but he hasn't gotten much of a chance to show it in Summer League or the preseason. But think Andray Blatche, skill set-wise.
Needs: Point guard
Best fits: Kelly, Ervin, Greene, S. Gaines, Mustafa Shakur, Ryan Diggs
The Flash are returning pretty much everyone last year except for point guard Kevin Kruger, so that's where they're likely to look. I can't imagine Gaines falling any farther than this. I keep listing Orien Greene because of the NBA background, but the fact is that he wasn't what you'd call "good" playing in those three seasons. But, the NBA is the NBA, and in the D-League, the NBA is marketable. The team could go with a D-League vet like Kelly, Ervin or Ryan Diggs, who played 41 games for Utah last season. They also could go with a European player like Shakur, who's athletic and averaged about 15 points per 36 minutes last year playing for TAU Ceramica and Panellinios BC.
Gee and Taylor were both on the Spurs' Summer League team, so the team may give either or both of them another look. Taylor spent some time in the NBA a few years ago with the Washington Wizards, and picking him would give the team the added benefit of providing the Spurs with a solid call-up option for the end of their bench (after they give Malik Hairston more playing time, of course). Antonio Anderson is a combo guard from Memphis, and his biggest asset is his defense, and at 6'6" he can guard some small forwards as well. Offensively he's primarily a spot-shooter, although he worked a little on his ball-handling during his senior year. They also could look at Harris for his defense, the problem is that the Toros don't have a ton of reliable scoring as it stands now unless Marcus Williams materializes (or if you really want to count on Fred Gibson or Justin Bowen), so Harris or Anderson may or may not be the best option for them. McFadgon isn't much of an outside shooter (he averaged 22.4 percent on three-pointers in the D-League) but he can score. Sy has spent most of his playing career in Europe, and while he's not a great three-point shooter he's an overall efficient scorer and a pretty good rebounder.
Needs: Wings, three-point shooting, backup big man
Best fits: Terry Martin, Rashad Anderson, Washington, Harris, Korolev, any of the other wings I've mentioned, Ronald Allen, Major Wingate, Bryson McKenzie
There aren't really a lot of great three-point shooters in this draft pool, at least not that would be on the early-round radar. Martin showed off some outside shooting ability early on at LSU (around 38 percent), although that dropped off a bit his junior and senior seasons (30-35 percent). Rashad Anderson made around 35 percent on his three-pointers in Italy last season, and he's streaky. A 7-8 game was followed by a 3-13 game. Reno probably could go in any number of directions (except point guard).
Maine Red Claws
Needs: Wing scoring, big men
Best fits: Martin, Gee, McFadgon, McKenzie, Erek Hansen, Wingate
Noel Felix is a solid post defender, but he's not really a center. Wingate is a pretty good one, having played in Europe ever since he got kicked off his college team for failing a drug test. He averaged about 15 points and nine and a half rebounds per 36 minutes last year in Romania. He still mainly relies on his athleticism, though that's not uncommon for D-League prospects. Erek Hansen was the all-Big Ten defensive player of the year back in 2006, and shot-blocking is his calling card. He averaged about four blocks per 36 minutes playing in Turkey last season along with 11 points and eight rebounds. Maine had a chance to take Ronald Allen in the expansion draft and didn't, so they probably wouldn't consider him tonight until the later rounds. Bryson McKenzie's per-minute scoring and rebounding numbers from the last few D-league seasons are very good, but they he played only nine games last year and eight the year before that, so sample size likely plays a part.
The Energy should be set for scoring early on with Anthony Tolliver around, and at point guard with Curtis Stinson, so finding a guy to man the middle could be a focus. They also could go after another scorer under the assumption that Tolliver could be called up at some point. I listed Williams and Sykes here because they're both athletic semi-big men, who could be developed in the way that Courtney Sims was (though they each have a ways to go to reach Sims's level). Williams, of course, decided not to go to Memphis and said he wanted to go play in Europe, except that Europe apparently doesn't want him. Whoops. That article calls him "not overly skilled," though I wonder how much of that is to reinforce the whole "he made a bad choice" angle. He's certainly raw, but ultimately the development he'll undergo wherever he ends up (and I'd be surprised if he isn't drafted) should be beneficial for his career. Sykes is mostly known for his dunking, and didn't put up great numbers at Clemson, but he's athletic and could do alright in the D-League. The Energy also could go after Doug Thomas, a power forward who played at the University of Iowa and played 50 games for the Energy two seasons ago. He put up some decent per-minute scoring and rebounding numbers, so maybe they'll give Thomas another go. Hansen also went to the University of Iowa, so that would be another fit who's also local.
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Needs: Point guard, depth
Best fits: Jeremy Wise, Kelly, Ervin, Diggs
Walker Russell was one of the best point guards in the D-League last season, and now he's gone. The Mad Ants could go with a veteran, or they could go with Wise, who was a pretty good scorer at Southern Mississippi but not a great distributor. His three-point shooting also steadily declined over his three college seasons, which is a bit troubling. The team also could give allocated player Kyle McAlarney a shot at the job, though he's a point guard more in the Blake Ahearn sense, where he's a very good three-point shooter but not much of a distributor.
Needs: Big men, depth
Best fits: D. Thomas, Hansen, Aminu, John Bryant
David Bell is a decent post player, but he's not Richard Hendrix. The Wizards will need some rebounding and shotblocking. Thomas and Hansen would both be solid options (provided no one better like Siler has fallen in the first round), while Aminu would provide new coach Rory White with a project. One name I haven't mentioned yet is John Bryant, who put up pretty good numbers (18 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes) his senior year at Santa Clara. He's not all that athletic, but he has pretty good hands and he's been working on getting in better shape since the end of the college season.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Needs: Three-point shooting
Best fits: Martin, R. Anderson, Desmon Farmer, Geno Carlisle
Sorry Marcus Hubbard, you're not really a three-point shooter. The team needs an outside game. Carlisle shot 37.5 percent last year in the D-League, which is decent. Farmer played for several teams in the NBA and Europe last year, and his three-point shooting fluctuated, ranging from 56 percent over four games in Croatia to 25 percent with the San Antonio Spurs.
Sioux Falls SkyForce
Needs: Big man, depth
Best fits: Bryant, Aminu, Sykes, D. Thomas, R. Allen
Depending on what role the team sees Greg Stiemsma filling (starter or reserve), the SkyForce could target either solid post guys or rangy power forwards. Ronald Allen is the only one I haven't talked about in depth, and he played 16 games for Sioux Falls a few seasons ago so there could be a reunion. He's put up decent but not great rebounding and scoring numbers, and he can get into foul trouble at times. Oh, and he shot just under 40 percent over the last two seasons, which is pretty bad for a center who's theoretically hanging out around the rim. Did I mention that he'd be an okay option?
Needs: Point guard, wing scoring
Best fits: Gee, Washington, D. Taylor, McFadgon, O. Greene, L. Williams, Wise, Carlisle, Farmer
Expect the Armor to focus on the perimeter after taking some dynamic players in the expansion draft only to see them head overseas. Expect James Mays, get Alonzo Gee. The teams are winding down now, and I'm starting to repeat myself, so let's leep this moving.
Needs: Big man
Best fits: Bryant, Wingate, Hansen (plus someone like Byrd or Siler, if available)
With Lance Allred and Brent Petway both overseas, the Stampede will need guys who can rebound, block shots and guard centers and/or power forwards. Siler or Byrd would be ideal, obviously, but someone like Bryant falling this far would be a boon for Idaho. He's not all that athletic, which is probably a negative for a Bob MacKinnon offense, but Joe Dabbert did okay last season. Someone like Wingate might work better from an athletic standpoint, though the Stampede may shy away from his collegiate transgression.
Needs: Point guard, backcourt scoring
Best fits: Kelly, Diggs, Ervin, Wise, Reece Gaines
Ervin played the last 25 games with the 66ers last year. Given how poorly Tulsa played last year, his connection with that team could be seen as a negative, or he could provide some veteran stability. The same could be said of Kelly, who has three years in Tulsa under his belt. The team needs scoring from its guards as well as ball distribution, so someone like Wise could work for them. Reece Gaines is also in the draft pool, and I haven't talked about him because every time I look at his stats I get a little more disgusted. He could provide some scoring at the two-guard position, probably? He averaged about 13 points per 36 minutes in Italy last year, which is fine.