To date, the Tulsa 66ers have been among the elite in the NBA D-League. The 66ers are riding a 12 game winning streak and their 20-6 overall record leads the league. According to their tempo-free profile, this is no fluke. Tulsa's +6.5 efficiency differential trails only Rio Grande Valley and Erie and by an insignificant margin. However, the call-ups of guard Zabian Dowdell (by the Phoneix Suns) and forward Larry Owens (by the San Antonio Spurs) could make things more difficult for the D-League leaders.
Dowdell's statistical profile this year is varied. So far, the guard has only managed a 49.8% true shooting percentage, which ranks 153rd out of 193 D-Leaguers with at least 130 minutes played. However, he was much better in 270 minutes (not much of a sample) last season, when he put up a 57.5% mark which would currently rank in the top 50. More importantly, given his size (6-3, 191) and position as a point guard, Dowdell has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6, which ranks 9th in the D-League so far. He has shown the ability to score in the past, and will probably need to do so at a better rate to have success in the NBA. However, it appears clear to me that the real reason Dowdell is getting his chance in the Association is due to his point skills, not his scoring.
Judging by this piece from Scott from earlier in the month, Owens's call-up might be a bit of a surprise, as he wasn't on Scott's shortlist of call-up candidates. However, the Spurs saw something they wanted in the 6'7" forward, and I think I see it too. Owens is a solidly efficient scorer, with a 55% TS% (ranking 83rd out of 193) and particularly good from three (25/67, 37%). HIs 5.5 rebounding average is respectable, particularly on a slightly slow team like Tulsa in only 31 minutes per game. Finally, Tulsa has been a good defensive team for the past two seasons, and Owens has been a large part of both those teams.
Although I'm sure their teammates are happy for their new opportunities, the departure of Dowdell and Owens could make things tougher for the Tulsa 66ers going forward. Such is life in the D-League, as the ever changing talent landscape affects teams on a nearly daily basis. The 66ers have managed to maintain their organizational success regardless of the names on the roster over the past two seasons, and personally, I expect them to continue to do so in 2011.