In professional sports, contributing to a winning team's success does wonders for individual players gunning for end-of-the-season awards.
But with so many players coming and going in the NBA D-League all season long, developing continuity might be a tad more difficult. Still, one can't deny the necessary progression a player needs to make en route to garnering consideration for the minor league's "Most Improved Player" award.
In a league that's obviously all about development, Texas Legends' guard James Nunnally personifies all that one needs to know when pondering what kind of strides an NBADL player needs to make, from one season to the next, in order to get noticed.
As a rookie last season, Nunnally was a quiet and under the radar player hungry to prove himself worthy of earning more minutes on a Bakersfield Jam already packed with talent. By the end of the year, the swingman emerged as sixth man of the first-seeded squad, and looked as though he were poised to truly break out in the season to follow.
As it turns out, he certainly was.
Before getting traded to the Legends midseason, Nunnally started off the year by spearheading the Jam's offensive attack. His sharpshooting prowess, coupled with his other evident talents put on display in Reno during the D-League Showcase earlier this year, helped Nunnally raise some NBA eyebrows for all the right reasons.
From there, the young gun went on to play out two ten-day contracts with the Atlanta Hawks. In the season's final weeks, he also played out two ten-day contracts with the Philadelphia 76ers. Through thirteen games, Nunnally averaged 3.4 points in 12.7 minutes per contest.
But in the weeks and months in between his gigs in The Association, Nunnally continued to steal the show in the minor league. In 35 D-League games, he averaged 18.1 points (on 47% from the field and 41% from deep), 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal. All of such marks represent vast improvements from the 23 year old's rookie campaign.
Above all else, however, what the numbers won't necessarily tell you is that Nunnally has gained an immense amount of confidence as the months have continued. In addition to now understanding the type of role he'll have in the NBA, the UC Santa Barbara product now knows exactly how to turn up the heat (if need be) and pour in the points on the D-League level as well.
If the chances taken on Nunnally by the Hawks and 76ers aren't evidence enough, his recent play in the NBADL certainly should be: this sharpshooter deserves to be in the NBA. But in the meantime, however, his latest efforts and continued progression should be enough to earn him the D-League's "Most Improved Player" award.