Marcus Lewis has been very productive this season in the D-League.
The NBA trade deadline comes Thursday and, with that, comes hope for quite a few of the top prospects in the NBA Development League. With the possibility of uneven trades -- for instance, three players traded for one or trading a player for a draft pick -- new teams could have openings to fill on the end of their bench.
Luckily for the NBA teams that decide to mine the D-League for talent, there are still quite a few prospects in the D-League that deserve an NBA opportunity. There have already been 30 players called up this season, meaning the pool is a bit picked over, but the NBA veterans entering every day have made sure the league isn't completely watered down.
With the possibility of teams beginning to look at the league to see what's lying around in the minors, your's truly has taken on the task of giving the scouts some options deserving of filling the end of an NBA bench. Not all players listed are necessarily good enough to play in the NBA, but if a player isn't listed below, I'd be very surprised if he gets called up.
The D-League is typically said to be a very guard-oriented league so the statistics may be a bit inflated at the point guard position. That said, however, the guard crop has to be looked at pretty closely considering the players at this position are matching up against solid talent in nearly every game they play.
Top Player: It probably has to be Donald Sloan, considering he's played most of this season in the NBA already and is still young at just 24 year's of age. In seven D-League games this season -- split between stints with the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Hornets -- Sloan is averaging an impressive 24 points, 8.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds while making 52 percent of his shot attempts from the field under head coach Jay Larranaga.
The shooting guards in the D-League are mostly a mixture of players either trying to prove they can play the point guard after being told that they're simply too small to play off the ball in the NBA or NBA veterans that have to prove they can do more than score to play in the NBA.
Top Player: If I were running an NBA team, I'd choose JamesOn Curry simply because it seems he deserves another shot at proving whether or not he belongs in the big show. Considering he hasn't played in a week due to an ankle injury, however, we may have to look elsewhere for the time being.
That player would likely be Derrick Byars of the Bakersfield Jam. Byars is shooting a lot worse than he's capable of this season -- 44 percent on field goals and 33 percent from 3-point land -- but is still averaging a solid 17.4 points and 6.1 rebounds while trying to prove he was worthy of the 42nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.
At a glance, the small forward class is loaded. There are no longer any can't-miss NBA players in the crop considering Gerald Green is now in the NBA, but there are quite a few players capable of contributing if teams are willing to deal with their weaknesses as well.
Top Player: In this case, I think I'd go with Edwin Ubiles of the Dakota Wizards. He isn't a finished product considering the Siena alum is only his first season of professional basketball, but it has to be hard for teams already out of the playoffs to resist taking flier on the 6-foot-6 wing.
The smooth small forward seems like he'd fit well in a complementary role on an NBA roster and his averages of 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 51 percent from the field show that he's capable of doing a little bit of everything.
Bigs aren't the big thing in the D-League and most NBA scouts will make that clear (Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers did that over the weekend, in fact). There are still some players that deserve a look, however -- If for nothing else, just to show that they don't belong in the NBA after clearly being better than their D-League brethren.
Top Player: Let's give some credit to Tulsa 66ers power forward Marcus Lewis, one of the few good stories in the D-League considering he's actually used it to develop. Prior to leading his Tulsa 66ers to an 81-79 victory over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Sunday night with 22 points and 18 rebounds, Lewis was averaging 15.2 points and 12.9 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.
He doesn't have an NBA body or an NBA-type resume -- the Oral Roberts graduate began his D-League career with an open tryout -- but there's no doubt he has the right attitude (along with hustle and rebounding instincts) to contribute on an NBA roster.
s that could fill in quick: Eric Dawson
There's a good chance if an NBA team needs a man in the middle to come in and play, they'll probably look elsewhere now that the league's best young bigs -- Greg Stiemsma, Greg Smith and Jeff Foote -- are already in the NBA. There are still some 7-footers left, though, if teams are interested in making sure their call-up is already in playing shape.
Top Player: Yep, this is the Development League, but Mikki Moore is probably the top prospect as far as centers in the D-League are concerned. The 36-year-old has 557 games of NBA experience already behind him and, if teams have been paying close enough, attention, there are likely a few more games that'll be tacked on to that total before the end of the season.
Moore is averaging 12.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and a block while playing 28 minutes per game for the Idaho Stampede, but the numbers typically aren't important when looking for a third center in the NBA. The most impressive thing about Moore, at this point in his career, is his basketball IQ and leadership ability (plus there aren't many good centers in the D-League and I had to pick someone).
Youngish prospects: Keith Benson