Fab Melo has been one of the top stories in the NBA D-League this season. - Jared Wickerham
The NBA D-League All-Star Game is set to take place in Houston today which also signifies the unofficial end to the first half of the NBADL season. This season has lived up to expectations set forth by prior successful D-League seasons, and here are some of the more notable highlights that took place over the first half.
Heading into the 2012-2013 NBA D-League season, expectations were high due to the rather increasing success that the league has built for itself over the last decade. The league has more exposure than it has ever experienced in it's history, and is becoming one of the most exciting forms of minor league sports in the country. As the league continues to grow, so have the storylines in which there were plenty over the course of this season's first half. Here are some of the top storylines from the first half of the season.
Assignments, Assignments, and Even More Assignments
As it currently stands, there have been 127 assignments involving 53 players during the first half of the season. The record 67 assignments from a season ago has nearly been doubled by the midway point of this season. NBA teams have taken liberty in their ability to assign players with 2 years or less experience an unlimited number of times, allowing many of the NBA's future stars with an avenue to experience real live game play instead of riding the pine.
Some of the more notable assignment players so far include 2012 first round draft picks such as; Jeremy Lamb, Kendall Marshall, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Fab Melo, Jared Cunningham, Tony Wroten, Miles Plumlee, Arnett Moultrie, and Perry Jones. Second round draft pick assignment players include; Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, Will Barton, Tyshawn Taylor, Doron Lamb, Kevin Murphy, Kris Joseph, Tornike Shengalia, Darius Johnson-Odom, and Robert Sacre.
Out of that list of players, many will go on to one day contribute meaningful minutes for their respective NBA teams, some arguably already have. Despite the utter confusion in keeping track of player movement throughout the season regarding assignments, both the NBA and NBA D-League will be better suited under this new set of assignment guidelines. Look for the trend to not only continue for the second half of this season, but for many seasons to follow.
The Royce White Saga
After being suspended for refusing a D-League assignment earlier this season along with extended disputes involving the Houston Rockets, White and the Rockets have seemingly found some common ground which has led to the first round draft pick participating in his first two contests prior the All-Star break. In what could of easily been a black mark for both White and perhaps the D-League itself, White's time in the NBADL has proved to be beneficial for both White and his team.
The young forward from Iowa State is averaging 6.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 19.0 minutes in his first two games. It remains to be seen if White's documented mental illness issues will hinder any part of his NBA D-League assignment, but so far it seems like he and the organization are committed to using this D-League stint to both of their benefits.
As White's minutes will likely increase in the second half of the season, it will be interesting to see how the Vipers progress as well. RGV is currently second overall in the D-League standings and boasts one of the most talented lineups in the league. Will White add or deter from their success already generated? The Houston Rockets organization have to come to embrace their D-League afilliate and it's capabilities more than any other NBA franchise, and with their concentrated attention to seek out the rewards of the system, it seems like the Royce White story has the makings to end in a positive manner.
Jamming Out In Bakersfield
The Bakersfield Jam have put together an excellent first half of the season, in which case head coach Will Voigt and his staff were rewarded by being selected to guide the Prospects team at the NBA D-League All-Star game. Voigt and his staff have been able to mix assignment player stints into their well-rounded roster wonderfully this season. The team has been perfect thus far in February, going 4-0 and have only dropped 3 of their last 16 games overall.
The reasons for the team's success has been due to their balanced roster leading them to an impressive high scoring offense along with steady defense. The Jam are currently ranked second overall in points scored averaging 106.2 points per game, and their team defense skills has placed them atop the league in opposing teams turnover total at 17.9.
The veteran leadership from Renaldo Major alongside the emergence of Jerel McNeal are also reasons for the Jam's first half success. McNeal is averaging 22.3 points and 5.3 assists over his last nine games, improving his season averages to 16.9 points and 5.0 assists. McNeal has really turned it on heading into the All-Star break, and if he can keep up the momentum that he has created for himself, the Jam will remain a dangerous matchup for teams.
Major has entered his fifth consecutive season in the NBA D-League and second season with the Jam as consistent and reliable as ever. Major is averaging 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists through 28 games, and is a big reason for the Jam's early success. At 30-years old, the former Fresno State Bulldog can be looked to for guidance out on the court, as his time as a professional has undoubtedly crafted him into the smart and dependable player that he has become.
Mix in the steady contributions from Brian Butch, Damion James, Adam Koch, James Nunnally, and the Jam have created a lineup that will likely keep them atop the standings through the second half of the season.