Taking a page from the Nightmare Ant's Boss, Mr. Jeff Potter himself, today I've decided to look at what teams might look like regarding guys that could be coming back this year. For this, I looked at everyone that played in the D-League last year to see where they're at this season. If they're not overseas yet, I'm assuming it's because they are either still looking overseas, just came out of NBA camp, or are coming back to the D-League. Obviously, all of the guys listed probably won't come back, but this is a list of guys that could possibly come back, though none of them confirmed.
Albuquerque could return a good team this year, with four possible starters that haven't signed overseas yet in Will Conroy, Cheyne Gadson, Kevin Pittsnogle, and Cory Underwood. Though Gadson and Underwood were both in NBA camp and thus haven't had as long to decide, I think it'd be wise for both to come back to the D-League. Julius Hodge has said his plans don't include the D-League this season, or else, legitimately, they could return a starting five. Daryl "Majic" Dorsey and Ramon Dyer are also still unsigned overseas.
Anaheim could also return a pretty good team this year, with Kedrick Brown, Mario Boggan, and Noel Felix all currently unsigned overseas. If the Arsenal wanted to play small ball, that could be one of the top front courts in the D-League. Terrence Crawford and Ejike Ugboaja could also come back. If they can find a good backcourt in the draft, this could be a pretty strong team.
Austin, thanks to their affiliation with the Spurs, could be a very solid team this season. They had three guys in NBA camps that could come back, with Darius Washington, Marcus Williams, and DerMarr Johnson. Add to that recent Spurs cut rookie Malik Hairston, and once again, the Toros could look really good this season. Filter in some solid back ups like Serge Angounou, Eric Dawson, and Justin Bowen, and they'll almost certainly be one of the top teams in the D-League.
Bakersfield could return seven guys this season. Though the Jam weren't a great team last year, with a possibility of seven guys coming back, Coach Roth's team could improve a lot on last season. Mateen Cleaves, Trey Johnson and Justin Reed both were in NBA camp, and Cleaves have been known to head overseas, so he's pretty questionable. Reed, however, would be wise to stick in the D-League and get back up to the NBA. Trey Johnson, though he didn't show much with the Jam last season, is a phenomenal scorer and got a shot with Phoenix, though didn't stick. Other possibles are Scooter McFadgon, Donell Williams, Richard Andrews, and Nick Lewis.
While the 14er's don't look like they have too many options on returning players, the players they can return are some of the best in the D-League. Eddie Gill, last years number one pick and recently cut by the Nets, and Elton Brown, stud bigman who was in Bulls camp this preseason, could both return and hope that they get their shot at the NBA once again. The rest of the possibilities are not as promising, however, with Damien Lolar, Eric Osmundson, Roderick Riley, and 33 year-old John Thomas.
Once again, it looks like Dakota could return a very good team. Last year, they returned four starters from a championship team in Mo Baker, Dontell Jefferson, Kevin Lyde, and Rod Benson. This year, it looks like two of those guys, Baker and Jefferson, could return again, along with Will Frisby, Blake Ahearn, David Bell, David Palmer, and Mike Peeples. I also assume that they will bring Renaldo Major back from their championship season, as he spent last year out of basketball recovering from open heart surgery.
Erie did not have the best expansion draft, as it looks like the only two guys that are available right now are Jackie Manuel and Jeff Hagen. I hope Coach Treloar drafts better Friday, as his picks in the expansion draft, especially Randy Livingston, assistant to Coach Gates out in Idaho, strike me as puzzling at best.
Since Jeff Potter went over this in his blog, I'll make it quick. Coach Jaren Jackson looks like he'll have something to build on this year, as the Mad Ants are hoping to return Ron Howard, a recent cut by the Bucks, along with Walker Russell Jr, Eric Smith, and Anthony Kyle. Unfortunately, Rod Wilmont headed back overseas, as he recently signed with a team in Turkey.
Idaho, champions from a year ago, could return almost the entire nucleus of the team, save for now-assistant coach Livingston. The Stampede had Luke Jackson, Brent Petway, Lance Allred, and Jamaal Tatum (first round pick last year, though never played) in NBA camps. If they're able to return them, along with Rob Bergersen, Jason Ellis, and Ricky Sanchez.
The Energy could also return a very strong team, anchored by three guys recently cut from their NBA camp teams. Darryl Watkins, Dwayne Mitchell, and Courtney Sims would all return to Iowa if they don't sign overseas. These three, along with Doug Thomas, Curtis Stinson, and Aristide Sawadago, could provide a solid base to build around and improve on last years showing, especially since Mitchell, Watkins, and Sims all only played with Iowa for only part of their seasons last year.
The D-Fenders could return three guys from last years team, highlighted by Jelani McCoy, recently cut by the Clippers and Devin Green, who was with the Spurs this preseason. The third option, Darren Cooper, doesn't excite me quite as much.
As it stands, it looks like Reno drafted very well. Though none of their players were in NBA camps, it looks as though nine of their ten drafted players are currently not-signed overseas. Damone Brown looks like he might return once again to the D-League, as he's played in parts of five D-League seasons. He's atop the leaderboard in the following D-League categories: 5th most minutes played, 11th most games played, 11th in rebounds, 6th in points, 12th in steals, and 16th in blocks. Quite the D-League careeer. Last season, after just six games with Sioux Falls, he headed overseas, and I wouldn't be surprised if once again he doesn't make it the whole year in the D-League. Hopefully he sticks around for a call-up rather than overseas this year, though.
They also could return Tony Gipson, a guard that played well for Dakota last season after all of their other guards went to the NBA or overseas, Jesse Smith, a big man that averaged 9 points and 7 boards for RGV last season, and Larry Turner, a young big that was Fort Wayne's first round pick last year. Other players include Jamaal Thomas, Andre Patterson, Davin White, Mustafa Al-Sayyad, and Al Neale, who didn't play anywhere last year.
RIO GRANDE VALLEY
The Vipers could return a lot of guys, but not many of note. Gabe Muoneke, who went overseas early in last years D-League season, is the best possible player. Chris Taft, if healthy, could also be a good returning player. Besides those two, however, the talent is quite as strong, including Stanley Asumnu, Quin Humphrey, Trent Strickland, Craig Winder, and Kris Collins.
The Skyforce, if everyone comes back to the D-League, could be the strongest team of returning players. The possible players they could return are Kasib Powell, last years MVP, Chris Alexander, a big man that was a last cut by the formerly known as Seattle Supersonics, Bobby Jones, a stud that should come back to the Skyforce before getting called up by his 57th team in the last three years, and Carl Elliott, who, behind Mike Taylor, would have got my vote for rookie of the year for guys that played the entire D-League season last year, not to mention Nik Caner-Medley, who looked like he could have a strong season before going overseas after just six games last season. Other players include Milone Clark, Michael Joiner, and Ronald Allen.
Tulsa could return the oldest team in the league, with Derrick Dial and Keith Closs both being possible returnees to the D-League. Besides that, however, not too many players that can contribute a lot to the 66ers, as other possibles include Russell Carter, Chris Ellis, and Jeremy Kelly.
Last, but not least, comes the Flash. They could return the majority of their team from last year, including Kevin Kruger, who was recently cut by the Bucks, Brian Hamilton, a recent cut by the Nets, and Brian Jackson, one of the more consistent players in the D-League over the past three seasons. Other possible players that could come back include Andre Ingram, John Millsap (Jazz's Paul Millsap's brother), Garry Hill-Thomas, BIG man James Lang, Aleksandar Ugrinoski, and Britton Johnsen. A starting lineup including Kruger, Hamilton, Jackson, Johnsen and Lang would be very good.
I'm hoping to do some profiles of some of the veteran guys that could be in the draft pool Friday, so look forward to those throughout the week. Let me know who you think might be the strongest coming back this year as well.