This week, the NBA D-League hosted its annual Showcase in Reno, Nevada. Giving each minor league prospect a chance to strut their stuff on a universal stage, the promising young guns were all undeniably playing to impress the immense amount of NBA executives who looked on throughout the week.
It's easy for players with past NBA experience to make headlines and garner attention of their own, but when it comes to some of D-League's up and comers, seeing is believing. The Showcase is the perfect opportunity for some of the league's first or second year pupils to make a name for themselves by turning heads for the first time.
One player trying to do just that this week was Jam swingman James Nunnally. Despite a steady collegiate career at Santa Barbara, the 6'7" 205 pounder has yet to receive consistent minutes in Bakersfield. Much of that, however, is out of his control. With his team serving as a D-League affiliate to four different NBA squads, various assignees are able to swoop in and take away playing time from others on a nightly basis.
But after impressing in pre-draft workouts with teams like the Warriors and Kings this past summer, there's no denying the talent level for Nunnally is there. He just needs to stay motivated while patiently waiting.
"I've never been in a spot where I can play just a few minutes and then get taken out," Nunnally told RidiculousUpside.com in Reno. "I'm just trying to do the most I can in my minutes. I want to make the right plays, play the right way, and bring the defense. I have to keep knocking down shots, too. That's all I can do."
Though the swingman's minutes have proven to be sporadic, he's still managed to be an efficient player, scoring 8.1 points in just 14.5 minutes per contest. Though the Jam may have lost their final game of the Showcase against the Red Claws this past Wednesday, Nunnally played a big role in helping his team close the gap. They went on to lose 131-124, but it was the Santa Barbara alum who, given minutes down the stretch, hit a couple of clutch shots to keep his team in the game late.
Bakersfield's resident NBA veteran, Damion James, has been forcing Nunnally to stay on his toes all season long. In addition to taking notes and learning from him throughout the season thus far, Nunnally says James is often his man to defend in practice. That's quite the assignment, for a first-year NBADL rookie.
But it's one that Nunnally embraces and welcomes with open arms. He added, "Damion's a big factor in my learning and my overall progression. Guarding him in practice is hard because it's always real physical and you have to bring that mentality."
Nunnally realizes that it'll be a versatile skill-set that helps him stand out amongst the rest of the competition. Despite still being a rather potent offensive option, the swingman picked an interest former player to compare himself to, when given the chance.
"As far as what my role would be in the NBA," he said, "I'm thinking more of a Bruce Bowen type player. I'm a good defender and I'm continuing to get better. I'm learning all the tactics and rules to being able to defend in the NBA. Doing that and being a knockdown shooter are the two things that will help me get there."
Bowen was a talented player who obviously realized plenty of his own success in The Association, but such a standard isn't one that should necessarily be considered out of reach for Nunnally. He may not score 20 points every night, but the fact is he's still a threat to knock down shots, no matter where he stands on the court. He helps his team spread the floor, and with a continued extra defensive effort, could prove to be that necessary spark-plug a team brings off the bench to to receive an injection of life.
Not one to shy away from big moments or fear taking a big shot, Nunnally is simply a player hungry for his time to shine. The 22 year old said, "Guys like Damion and Renaldo [Major] are just teaching me to stay positive. Sometimes it's difficult because when I'm in the gym working hard, I feel like I should be playing. Hopefully my chance will come."
With some extra time on the court, Nunnally would undoubtedly show executives what he'll ultimately bring to an NBA team at some point in the future.