After the immense popularity of yesterdays column, which I owe all to Skeets and Matt Moore (thanks fellas), the basketball Gods decided they needed more possibilities with Ridiculous Upside and the NBA. Thus, they decided to let me know that Andrew Bogut is out for awhile and Elton Brand is done for the year, adding to a growing need for a big man in the league, after the recent Andrew Bynum injury out in Los Angeles.
Well, D-League afficianados (Don't worry, you'll soon become one of us) I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news, of course, is that the D-League is here to help. The bad news, unfortunately, is that there is only one Courtney Sims (and my breakdown of the rest of the guys ran a little long, as they have so much to offer)!
The Iowa Energy's Courtney Sims, who was recently called-up to the Phoenix Suns (barely getting in three games during his 10 days of fame), has been the best player in the D-League, hands down, since opening night. On opening night, if you don't remember, Sims had 22 points (on 5-of-10 shooting from the field), 17 rebounds (five on the offensive end), and 11 (yes, ELEVEN) blocks. While doing all of that, he also stymied (love that word) Chris Alexander (who was with the Thunder during camp). Alexander was held to a 1-for-10 shooting night with five turnovers.
In review, Sims is polished on the offensive end (can even put the ball on the floor), has a Dennis Rodman-like knack for grabbing rebounds, and swatted 11 shots in one game. This season, Sims is averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game, shooting an even 60% from the field. As a bonus point, Sims has also made the only 3-point shot he's attempted this season. I challenge you, Mr. NBA GM, to call him up (both literally and figuratively) and let me know in a nice letter why it took so long for him to solidify a spot in the NBA.
Don't worry Mitch Kupchak, once the Bucks call up Courtney (they need him more than you do), there's still serviceable big men left for you to fill in for Bynum. First, I'll offer you Idaho Stampede big man Lance Allred. The Not-Quite-As-Big Fundamental has NBA experience (stuck with the Cavs through the playoffs last season), is smart enough to pick up the triangle quickly (he's currently writing a 14th century historical novel and his autobiography entitled Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and his Journey to the NBA is set to release in May), and is pretty good at basketball. Playing on a stacked team (his front court mates have included Golden State call-up Jermareo Davidson and Dwayne Jones), Allred is averaging 14 points and nine rebounds. Nothing extraordinary, but he'll come in and play hard and smart, picking up the triangle offense quickly. Allred's best game of the season was January 24th against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, when he scored 16 points and grabbed 20 boards.
If solid, but unspectacular, isn't your thing, let me direct Fort Wayne Mad Ant Chris Hunter your way. Hunter is physical, has a great body, and puts up big numbers in the best big men division in the D-League (other big men include Courtney Sims, Too Much Rod Benson, Richard Hendrix, and Erik Daniels). Hunter is a 6'11", 240 pound big man who does nearly all of his work down in the paint (except for a game on January 19th when he was matched up with Courtney Sims and decided to take his game outside, shooting five 3-pointers), and in the paint he excels. The only downsides are he's the 2nd big man from Michigan on my list (I've been scared of Michigan big men since Tractor Traylor) and he averaged eight points and four boards his senior year as a Wolverine. This season, however, Hunter is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, coming off of a 17 and 17 performance against the Dakota Wizards Tuesday night. That game, he also swatted two shots and showed some range, making a 3-pointer.
Alright, don't worry, I've got defense and rebounding for you too, if you're looking solely for that. Dwayne Jones, the big man whose seen action in 79 NBA games, is playing with Lance Allred for the Idaho Stampede right now. Jones will never be an offensive force as he scores the majority of his points off of offensive boards, but he will be a force on the glass as well as the defensive end. He's a pesky defender, working hard to deny the entry pass and and will contest almost all of the shots in the lane. This season, Jones is averaging 11 points and nine rebounds, with 1.6 blocks per game. Jones's best game of the season was January 23rd versus Colorado, where he scored 25 points, grabbed 13 boards (eight offensive), and swatted three shots in under 30 minutes of action.
My last choice is Richard Hendrix. Is he a center? No. But he does have a good low post game, right? Not in the least, other than the occasional hook shot. Well, he's at least tall then, I'd assume? Not really, he's only 6'8". Well, than why are we talking about him to replace Andrew Bynum/Bogut?! What Hendrix does have is tree trunks for legs (Seriously, with roots and all), the will to be the best rebounder in the World, and Golden State saw enough in him to draft Hendrix in the 2nd round. When he's motivated, which seems to be most of the time, he's going to dominate a game on the boards and the defensive end. Take the second half of his most recent game -- at halftime, he had zerop points, three rebounds and three fouls. In the second half, with a one-point deficit, Hendrix decided to go to work. By "go to work", I mean "explode for twelve rebounds and five blocked shots, while picking up just one foul. On the season, Hendrix is averaging 13.5 points and 11 rebounds. Hendrix' best outing of the season came on New Years Eve, when he scored 11 points and grabbed 25 rebounds.
If none of these guys peaked your interest however, there is one other option available. Chris Richard is in the D-League and while not playing up to his potential (Yet still being named an all-star), he did play in the NBA last season and is currently averaging 12 points and eight boards. You know what you're getting with this guy though, and that's not nearly as fun. Go for the Upside! Ridiculous Upside!