As the NBA D-League playoffs continue, the minor league will proceed to recognize the most talented and versatile individuals from this past season by distributing out end-of-the-year awards.
So far, Fort Wayne Mad Ants' head coach Conner Henry has been named "Coach of the Year," and the team's top player, Ron Howard, was recognized as the "Jason Collier Sportsmanship Award" winner for the second straight season.
Of course, there are a handful of awards still remaining, and even more deserving candidates across the league that stand to be up for consideration.
After spending last season as a rookie with the Oklahoma City Thunder, DeAndre Liggins found himself in the player pool for the 2013 D-League Draft, and was subsequently selected in the first round by the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Since then, he has slowly but surely ensured his presence has been felt by the Skyforce. In addition to emerging as a minor league all-star this past season, Liggins went on to earn an NBA call-up (in the form of a ten-day contract) with the affiliated Miami Heat. Following his return to town, the young gun led the way and helped propel Sioux Falls to a strong playoff berth and home-court advantage in the first round.
Despite averaging 2.6 steals over 42 contests this year, it could be argued that Liggins will lose out on the league's "Defensive Player of the Year" award to his Skyforce teammate Justin Hamilton, who actually ended up replacing him on Miami's roster earlier this season.
Still, Liggins' efforts on the minor league hardwood (in addition to his impact on the Sioux Falls' evident success) should be enough to earn him some sort of worthwhile recognition, perhaps in the form of an "All-NBA D-League" team nod of some sort.
A man who likes to do a little bit of everything, the 26 year old posted averages of 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and of course, the 2.6 steals --- a true stat-sheet stuffer each and every night.
But as we ponder what kind of award honor (if any) Liggins will receive when its all said and done, perhaps he can take solace in this simply assertion: the former Thunder swingman matches up against fellow prospects across the minor league and often stands tall as the most athletic player on the floor.
Liggins' numbers aren't all that imposing or overwhelming, despite how impressive they may be. He isn't the best shooter nor scorer, either.
Still, his athleticism and fiery nature on the court are downright scary. Liggins is quick, has plenty of eye-popping spring in his step, and could probably beat out any fellow D-League athlete in an 100 yard dash. What's more, his strong physical frame and long arms help him pull down the boards and pester opposing offensive players. He's energetic, intense, and there's plenty of bounce in his legs.
Liggins may not be the best player in all of the D-League, but often times, that isn't necessarily a trait NBA executives tend to look for. Instead, the question more often than not lies within what kind of impact such a player can make for a team in The Association.
Liggins has had his share of off-the-court troubles in his young career. Still, it goes without saying that such athleticism is what sets him apart from all others in the D-League. His athleticism puts him on par with, if not head and shoulders above, even some NBA players.