March means the NCAA tournament, but it also mean it's almost playoff time here in the pros. Scott's great NBA Ready post last week got me thinking about which D-League players could help each playoff team or potential playoff team. These aren't necessarily guys who will make the playoff roster (though some of them could definitely help there), but players who can contribute and help teams either make their push for a spot or get the starters some rest without completely falling apart over the last the last 12 or so games.
I based this off of several sources, including looking at the team rosters, stats from 82games and Knickerblogger, Scott's last few call-up posts, Kevin Arnovitz and TrueHoop's excellent look at the playoff teams' benches, some individual team blogs, and talking to a friend of mine who's a Rockets fan. If an NBA team owns their own D-League affiliate I tried to take that into consideration, but there weren't always good fits. I picked one player for each team (with a few exceptions) and tried to find the best fit for need and roster construction. I also couldn't include every player worthy of a call-up. I approached this as a puzzle, and some pieces just didn't fit.
I broke this up into two parts due to length; today we start with the Western Conference. Feel free to put any disagreements or alternate suggestions in the comments.
They keep calling up Sun Yue, but he doesn't really work from a basketball standpoint. One thing's for sure, it won't be Smush Parker. LA is one of the few playoff teams without any real needs anywhere. Another defender to throw at the Cavs/Celtics? A frontcourt shooter to replace Radmanovic? Now we're just nitpicking, and more so than with other teams. Because they can afford to take on more of a project and because he has some knowledge of the triangle, I'll say their 2008 draftee Joe Crawford.
Personally I'd like to see them experiment with starting Kyle Lowry alongside Aaron Brooks, which would call for bringing up a PG, but that would also mean moving Shane Battier to the bench, and while he hasn't been quite as good this year, they need him defending opposing starters. Looking at their bench, their biggest need is size, especially to match up with, say, the Lakers; Carl Landry is 6'7", James White is 6'7", Chuck Hayes is 6'6". Brian Cook and Joey Dorsey are slightly taller, but they never play, and this was before Landry's unfortunate shooting incident. They'll need someone who can fit in with the team's new (post-McGrady) defensive identity, which sounds like Richard Hendrix to me.
The Spurs have done a good job integrating young players like George Hill and former Ime Udoka, but I'm a little skeptical of how much they're going to get from Drew Gooden. They probably make the best use of their D-League affiliate, I'm just not sure there are any Toros that are a great fit for them right now. Josh Davis just sounds right, doesn't he? Unfortunately he's needed elsewhere, so to give Duncan's knees a rest they should consider solid stop-gap Lance Allred.
Injuries have thrown George Karl's rotation out of whack, so while he has some good bench scorers and bangers, another one of each couldn't hurt. They already have last year's version of Dahntay Jones (the actual Dahntay Jones), so why not the guy Scott called "this year's Dahntay Jones," Quincy Douby?
Oden being in and out of the lineup leaves Joel Przybilla as their only reliable down-on-the-block center, so I'm going with Dwayne Jones. Jones has been killing it on the glass and won't take any touches away from Roy, Aldridge or their wing scorers. If there's room on this roster for Michael Ruffin, there should be room for Dwayne Jones.
I'll let Arnovitz illustrate this point: "To start the second quarter, Byron Scott inserted five reserves into the game -- Antonio Daniels, Devin Brown, James Posey, Ryan Bowen, and Hilton Armstrong. In a mere three-and-a-half minutes of action, a tie game spiraled into an eight-point Hornet deficit." The bench's offense is a bigger problem than its defense, and as Scott might say, need offense? Call up Marcus Williams. He's really increased his efficiency of late, which fits with how few possessions New Orleans tends to have. He can handle the ball a bit as well, which helps because to be honest, I don't think Daniels has much left.
They foul a lot, so I'm tempted to suggest Erik Daniels, who in addition to being solid is averaging 4 fouls a game, but they don't need another forward. Brevin Knight is apparently still in the league and plays for the Jazz, and while I guess he's dependable, he's also "dependable." I can't imagine Will Conroy would mesh well with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, and they seem to be getting the least production from the SG spot, so why don't they bring back Morris Almond?
This team's bench is all over the place, in part because do-a-lot Josh Howard has been injured. Despite or perhaps because of the presence of guys like Nowitzki, Terry, Kidd and occasionally Bass, they have offensive question marks everywhere else - Erick Dampier, Antoine Wright, Devean George, should I continue? Let's see, someone who can score a bit and maybe defend a little, too. Mark Cuban, meet Derrick Byars.
I'm including the Suns in this because they're three and a half games back with 13 to play, even though I don't think they're going to make it up. Still, they'd been looking for a point guard for most of the year until Barbosa started taking over recently, and now he's likely out for the rest of the regular season. I think Walker Russell Jr. could help them out. He's second in the league in assists per 48 minutes, and while he turns it over alot (I know I keep saying it, but it's true), the rest of his game will make up for it in Phoenix.