Playing in the NBA D-League is constantly viewed as the next stepping stone or bridge to the NBA. Participating in a minor league stint is simply considered part of the process for an abundance of big league prospects.
But what happens after such a young gun accomplishes their goal, makes The Association, but fails to find a consistent home and gets cut later on anyway?
Of course, this has happened again and again to many players currently logging minutes in the NBADL. That said, perhaps how one bounces back from such a failure helps those special select few truly stand out.
That may be why that just after seven games back in Sioux Falls, Donald Sloan has climbed all the way up the D-League's Prospect List to the number one spot.
After appearing in two games for the Skyforce in early January, Sloan returned to the minor league team following a ten-day contract with the Hornets. At the point of the guard's return, the Skyforce had been a team in a state of disarray after free-falling from the top of their conference earlier in the season. Attempting to break out of a continued slump, no concrete end appeared to be in sight. As fate would have it, Sioux Falls' struggles gave way to the perfect opportunity for a player like Sloan. As he looked to once again begin another D-League stint, the guard had a chance to emerge as a leader by changing the culture in town and helping the Skyforce resume their winning ways.
And that he has. Since returning to Sioux Falls, Sloan has been a complete and utter catalyst while leading his squad to a 5-2 record in their last seven contests. When throwing in his first two contests with the team (both of which the Skyforce also won), Sloan owns NBADL averages of 22.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 2 steals per contest this season.
He may not be too crafty or overly flashy, but Sloan is as smart as they come on the court, which often proves to be a crucial attribute in any skilled point guard. He's a player who knows how to make the right plays at the right times. Whether it's driving into the lane and pouring the rock in the basket, or dishing it out so that a teammate can capitalize instead, Sloan has impressive instincts. As a member of the Skyforce, such prowess often earns him quite a few double-teams.
Perhaps playing in the NBADL is exactly the type of opportunity Sloan needed at this point. An important part to proving himself to worthy big league executives will undoubtedly be showing an ability to to keep his level of play up and remain consistent in his efforts. What's more, being able to knock down a few more long range bombs every now and then would also make Sloan all the more of a versatile candidate. He'd be able to keep defenses guessing even more because they'd have to apply pressure and protect the perimeter.
Despite struggling to display such skills in Cleveland, and not getting much of a chance to do so in New Orleans, Sloan has undeniably began making the most of his new opportunity in the minors. If a prospect isn't the type of player who does all the little things, standing out is often about wowing others by dominating the competition.
Sloan's recent elevation to the number one spot on the NBADL Prospect List signals that he's certainly done that so far, and his efforts to lead the Skyforce to a handful of wins as of late just may be enough to warrant another NBA team bringing him in the fold to get a first-hand look at what he can do for themselves.