I'm not smart enough to understand the whole advanced statistics craze, but Basketball Prospectus' Kevin Pelton is, so when he wrote about the D-League last week, I took note.
While former RU contributor Aisander D looked at the same thing awhile back, Pelton used graphs and formulas (he says "The r^2 of 0.29 suggests about 30 percent of the difference in these players' NBA production"), so I have to assume his work is more precise.
Part one explains how he came up with his results. Essentially, he says star players in the D-League aren't star players in the NBA, and their stats reflect this: Less free-throw opportunities, more fouls called against them, less turnovers due to handling the ball less and they seem to not be as aggressive, preferring to stay out around the arc.
Part two was of much more interest to me because Pelton gives the top players at each position, as well as the top five shooters, scorers, passers and rebounders.
At point guard, Pelton ranks the top two prospects as Maurice Baker and Mustafa Shakur. While I've long considered Dontell Jefferson to be the top point guard prospect in the D-League and I think Keith McLeod might be the easiest choice for a veteran point guard, I can't argue with either of his choices on this front.
He puts Reggie Williams at the small forward instead of his shooting guard spot, which apparently skewed the 2-guard rankings. If they're not skewed, I'm apparently not the most astute D-League scout in the world, as he ranks Tony Bobbitt and Mark Tyndale as the top two shooting guards in the league. Bobbitt's a known headcase, but seems to be a great leader on the court and is shooting exceptionally well this season. Tyndale just hasn't been able to show any type of consistency. Along with Williams, I would've included Garrett Temple and/or Antonio Anderson.
His power forwards are Diamon Simpson and Rod Benson. Again, no qualms from me. I am surprised that Simpson ranks as the top power forward prospect. In my mind, he's played great this season, but I wasn't so sure that he had the numbers to back it up. He does.
At center, once again, I have no issues. Greg Stiemsma's largely unheralded, but his numbers are there and he brings a whole new dimension to the Skyforce on defense. Dwayne Jones' numbers have certainly been impressive and is typically sleepwalking to a double-double. Still, I'd like to see Jones play as hard as he can, because h'ed probably be putting up nightly 25-25 games, even against guys whose names don't rhyme with Devin Grippsbogle.
His top five scorers in the D-League is where it gets a little sketchy. Reggie Williams and Mo Almond are definitely the top two scorers, but I'd argue that Andre Ingram and Rob Kurz are both much better classified as shooters. As far as Dwayne Jones, he scores points, but no one is going to mistake him as a scorer. I would have went with Romel Beck, Alonzo Gee and maybe Carlos Powell to round out the top five scorers.
Pelton's top five shooters makes a boatload of sense, though I'm not ready to throw Ron Howard in as an elite shooter. He's shooting very well from beyond the arc this season, but I wouldn't call him up to be a shooter. Replacing him, I'd choose either Kyle McAlarney (who was excluded because his minimum winning % wasn't high enough) or Chad Toppert, whose really surprised me in Albuquerque.
The passers aren't the most obvious of choices, but they're probably the right choices. It's interesting to me that he didn't include D-League Digest favorite Cliff Clinkscales, but did include teammate Cedric Jackson. As far as Erie Bayhawk point guards go, I'm on the Jackson bandwagon.
No issues with the rebounders. Obviously, in this case, ball don't lie.