The Santa Cruz Warriors arguably have one of the deepest teams in all of the NBA D-League. In their inaugural minor league season, Golden State's affiliate has found success by putting forth a team on the court that is comprised of a solid mix of past NBA vets and a couple special under the radar neophytes. Whereas some squads choose to ride a player or two with big league experience, the minutes are distributed rather evenly in Santa Cruz, giving each player a chance to shine while all the while, not pouring on the pressure for them to have to do too much.
Such a formula has resulted in winning ways all season long for the team, with the Warriors anxiously sitting just a half a game between the D-League leading Bakersfield Jam for not only the division lead, but the best record in the NBADL.
As Santa Cruz gears themselves up for what surely promises to be a steady postseason run, they've reeled two players who have both played roles in their success back to town. Travis Leslie and Jeremy Tyler each return to the D-League Warriors hoping to give the team a helpful boost.
Earlier this season, Leslie slowly but surely began to rise up as star of the Warriors. From being selected as one of the top picks in last fall's NBADL Draft, to emerging as a late All-Star and then All-Star Game M.V.P., the athletic and high-flying swingman has put in the work this season to continue to prove he belongs in discussions concerning some of the league's top talents.
His steady improvement helped Leslie reap the ultimate reward earlier this month, when he headed to Salt Lake City to play out a ten-day contract with the Utah Jazz. Playing in the NBA may truly mean moving on to greener pastures, but since, Leslie has returned to the sunny skies of Santa Cruz ready to resume his role as leader and help the team make some postseason noise.
Tyler also returns to town, but his road traveled has been a bit different. The big man appeared in the D-League earlier this season as an assignment player from Golden State, averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds through five games. Traded by the NBA squad to the Hawks closer to the trading deadline, Tyler was waived by Atlanta after appearing in just one game. He now joins Santa Cruz on a more full-time basis, but is currently listed as inactive.
Leslie is a scrappy and agile player who seems to understand how to use his athleticism and quickness to his advantage. He enjoys alluding defenders to effectively charge towards the basket to cash in on easy buckets. Playing good basketball is all about knowing your strengths and honing in on them, and Leslie seemed to have been doing that well as the season progressed.
On the other hand, Tyler is more of a raw talent. His rugged frame may prove that he has the potential to take advantage of defenders down low, but the big man appears yet to really have fully developed his otherwise varied skill set. Whereas Leslie will continue to break down doors in an attempt to reach the NBA again, Tyler is a player who may need more time in the D-League. No longer facing the pressures of meeting an NBA team's present expectations, Tyler can just continue working at his own pace and hope for the best. Perhaps with the pressure off, he'll thrive and another team will take notice later on. There's no doubt by bringing him back into the fold, he's been able to peak Golden State's curiosities and keep their interest to an extent.