This past week's NBA D-League Showcase provided promising prospects and veterans hungry for another shot alike the opportunity to prove themselves to the bevy of NBA executives who came out to see what they were all made of.
While some of these very players caved under the pressure and/or failed to make the most out of their opportunity, others still managed to shine and make the good impressions necessary to garner consideration for that oh so coveted call-up to The Association.
Without further adieu, read on as we reveal RidiculousUpside.com's 2014 All-NBA D-League Showcase Teams from Reno. In the interest of focusing in on the players still working towards NBA gigs, no assignees were considered for this squad (sorry, Shabazz Muhammad).
I (Keith Schlosser) handled the "First" team, whereas RU contributor Dakota Schmidt put together the "Second" team.
RU's All-NBA D-League Showcase First Team:
PG Pierre Jackson, Idaho Stampede:
Fresh off an underwhelming nineteen win season, Pierre Jackson has led the Stampede to an amazing turnaround year thus far. By far the most dominating and polarizing offensive force in all of the D-League, the minor league's leading scorer knows how to put the ball in the basket in an array of different ways.
This week at the NBADL Showcase was no different. He struggled from the field, but Jackson was assertive and confident enough to get his points anyway. The guard knew all too well to simply keep on trucking. In addition to finishing with scoring outputs of 33 (January 6th) and 28 points (January 8th), Jackson also finished with at least 7 assists in each contest. Thus, he's a player who can control the tempo of his squad's offense, and is effective at getting his teammates involved when not scoring himself.
SG James Nunnally, Bakersfield Jam:
We've followed Nunnally's D-League journey for quite a while here at RidiculousUpside.com. Able to stand out as a defensive specialist and spot-shooter last year for Bakersfield, Nunnally has continued to progress from rookie role player, to sixth man, and sometimes starter.
This season, he's only continued to flourish, emerging as the team's leading man. His first game of the Showcase proved to be an ever efficient one, as Nunnally scored 20 points in just 23 minutes on January 5th. He followed up such an easy performance with a near triple-double on January 7th, tallying 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Editor's Note: It's since been reported that Nunnally will be the first D-League prospect to officially cash in on his efforts at the Showcase with an NBA call-up to the Atlanta Hawks.
SF Justin Brownlee, Erie BayHawks:
Here's a player most D-League enthusiasts wouldn't expect to break onto this list so easily. But this week at the Showcase, Brownlee burst onto the hardwood with an offensive explosion on January 6th. With the pressure on from all angles, the forward scored 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in quite impressive fashion.
Needless to say, Brownlee picked the perfect time to step up and shine. After logging one of the best performances by a prospect all week, the young gun followed that up by helping the struggling BayHawks earn a rare victory on January 8th. Proving he can also be one to do all of the little things, Brownlee hustled his way to a near triple-double with 13 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.
PF Devin Ebanks, Texas Legends:
At the D-League Showcase this week, Ebanks asserted that he was working on embracing more of a stretch-four type role. For the sake of him fitting in this mock lineup, that's exactly what he would be.
After a quiet rookie year with the Lakers, Ebanks has come to the minor league in hopes of putting his offensive assertiveness and efficiency on display. He did that pretty well at the Showcase.
Even when the shots weren't falling, the forward still managed to hustle, follow up his own attempts, and play steady defense as well. Ebanks scored at least 25 points in each of his contests in Reno, showing a certain confidence level while playing with the type of swagger necessary to stand tall in the NBA. Needless to say, he's certainly embracing being the leading man in Texas.
Whereas Jackson and Ebanks rank high as number one and two of the league's official Prospect Watch, it's difficult to find such elite prospects in front courts across the NBADL. Still, Armstrong ranks relatively highly himself, and as an NBA veteran, is always someone worth keeping an eye on.
And for NBA executives hoping the big man display more potential staying power in The Association, Armstrong proved he could remain an ever consistent player, if nothing else. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that at all.
Armstrong tallied 13 points and 7 boards on January 6th, and scored 19 points to go along with 12 more rebounds on January 9th. His efforts stand tall against those of his front court opponents on other teams.
RU's All-NBA D-League Showcase Second Team
PG - Ron Howard, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
As one of the most prominent fixtures in the D-League of the last five years, the 31 year old Howard appears to be getting better with age. With Detroit assignee Peyton Siva struggling with a wrist injury, the Mad Ants put the team on the shoulders of Howard.
With his unique ability to drive to the rim and get to the charity stripe, Howard averages nearly 22 points on 52% shooting. While his real lack of a perimeter game hurts Howard as an overall NBA prospect, his overall quickness and solid mid-range shot might be enough for an NBA team to take a second look at this D-League vet.
SG- Cameron Jones, Santa Cruz Warriors
Overshadowed by the returns of Hilton Armstrong and Seth Curry, Jones proved during his short time in Reno that he's one of the more well-rounded guards in the D-League. Averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, the 24 year old Jones stuffed the stat-sheets almost as quickly as your average Santa Cruz possession.
With the ability to control his 6'4 frame in penetration, Jones is one of the more breath-taking D-Leaguers to watch, which says a lot, a lot, given the fact he court with the likes of Seth Curry and RGV's Troy Daniels. While his work from beyond the arc could definitely improve, the combination of lethal defense and a solid first step makes Jones one of the more viable D-League call-up candidates on the market.
SF- Trey McKinney-Jones, Fort Wayne Mad Ants:
While Howard manned the Mad Ants ship, McKinney-Jones was the engine that could all week long. Despite the fact that he didn't have the most spectacular numbers, TMJ still managed used his long frame well as a defensive stopper, helping propel the Mad Ants to back-to-back Showcase victories.
With his all-around offensive skills in place, there really isn't a spot on the court that's a weakness for McKinney-Jones. His ability to break to the basket alongside his prowess from around the perimeter (he shot 3 for 4 from beyond the arc against Tulsa) makes McKinney-Jones into one of the more under appreciated D-League wings.
PF - Dennis Horner, Springfield Armor:
With their rough 4-13 start to the 2013-14 season, D-League fans may be starting to overlook the Springfield Armor in terms of solid prospects. That's definitely a crime, considering the solid duo of Willie Reed and Dennis Horner create one of the best front-court combos in all of the NBADL. WIth Reed's ability to create his own shot down low with Horner's knack for the mid-range jumper, Springfield is definitely an interesting team to watch.
Horner played quite well in Reno this week. In the closing game of the 2014 Showcase, the forward closed out the event by putting up 30 points and 8 rebounds on 11-19 shooting to help keep the Armor in the game against Iowa, with Reed playing extremely limited minutes. While Springfield was unable to come away from Reno with a victory, Horner definitely was able to have his skills showcased (no pun intended), as finishing the two games by averaging 25 points.
C: Melvin Ely, Texas Legends:
As one of the oldest players in the NBADL, the odds are definitely against the 35 year old Melvin Ely as he pursues one last opportunity in the NBA. Still, Ely turned heads on the final day of the D-League showcase as the NBA alum put up a huge 32 point, 9 rebound outing against Delaware.
While Thursday's outing was the big highlight, Ely started out the Showcase with an extremely respectable 24 point, 5 rebound performance on Monday against Canton. NBA executives may be intrigued by some of the younger NBADL prospects with higher upside, but the 35 year old Ely has proven that he's one of the most efficient low-post scorers in the entire league.