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Playoff Game Thread: #1 Colorado vs. #7 Erie

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Colorado is, without a doubt, the deepest team in the D-League. They're an up-tempo team with multiple scoring options off the bench and can rebound with anyone. Erie, on the other hand, has NBA-vet Erik Daniels and rookie Maureece Rice. That's not entirely fair, but in picking the 7 seed BayHawks (score one for the new playoff format), it's not exactly like Colorado sought out a tougher matchup. I'm sorry if this sounds dismissive, I'm just a huge fan of what the 14ers do.


Possible starters:

Scott would probably throw something if I didn't start with Josh Davis. The guy does a little bit of everything - rebound, shoot threes, defend. He's tied for third in the league in per-minute scoring averages, second if you take out James White. He's second among forwards in steals and FT percentage, and is a guy every D-League (and NBA) team should want.

Surprise surprise, I'm mentioning Dominique Coleman next. Coleman's another do-a-lot type of player. He can hit threes, distributes the ball well for a shooting guard, is an excellent rebounding guard, and made RU's all-defensive team. Coleman had a triple-double back in February, but my favorite line of his might be from March 21, when he scored 30 points on 19 shots, including making four of his six threes, with nine rebounds, four assists, eight steals and only one turnover. The main area he could improve on is free throws, as he shot just .698 from the charity stripe.

Point guard Eddie Gill has had a few stints in the NBA, and he's a solid stop-gap there. Here, he runs the offense extremely well, keeping the tempo up and coming in third in the league in assists per 48 minutes. He's not a great shooter, but with all the other weapons this team has they don't really need him to be one.

Joe Dabbert is a decent rebounder, ninth among forwards per 48 minutes (though Austin's Serge Angounou doesn't play much, so you could say Dabbert's eighth). He starts at center, and the 14ers usually try to feed him the ball early, but he's the most fouling-est player in the league so he plays less than most D-League starters.

I'm listing Billy Thomas as a starter here, though there's a slight chance Sonny Weems may get the call instead. Thomas technically plays the small forward position for Colorado even though he's more of a guard-type. If it seems like he's been around forever it's because he has, but he's a steady player who occasionally has a good game but most of the time gets lost in the shuffle of the 14ers offense.

The bench:

Sonny Weems is on assignment from the Nuggets (you may remember him from no one knowing who he was during the dunk contest), and he really should get a shot to make their roster next season. He's a scoring machine (though not always efficient with it), and tends to play a lot of minutes even when he's not starting. He doesn't get to the line as consistently as I'd (or probably the Nuggets would) like, but he also a decent ballhandler. Trey Gilder should get drafted later this month, and if he does he's going to make an NBA team very happy with his instant offense off the bench. John Lucas III is a talented point guard who can run the offense (and sometimes plays the off-guard position alongside Gill), though the NBA apparently sees him as too undersized. On the other side of that coin you have Kentrell Gransberry, who although he's a 6'9" center will never be called "undersized" (he's listed at 270). He's a very good rebounder, tied with Kurt Looby for sixth in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes, though he's never played more than 25 minutes in a game this year due to a propensity for fouling. In fact, Gransberry is second in the league to Dabbert in fouls per 48 minutes, and fellow Colorado reserve Jamar Brown is third. What is it with the 14ers big men?


The starters:

Erik Daniels is a reigning all-NBDL first-teamer, but we don't talk about him a lot here at RU, mostly because we're hoping he gets better. He puts up numbers, sure; he led the league in double-doubles, and his per-game averages are all solid. It's when you break his game down on a per-minute basis that he starts to slide. When you make the conversion he falls from fourth in the league in rebounding to 33rd, and from seventh in the league in scoring to 22nd. The good news for him is that the same thing happens when you look at his fouls, going from seventh in the league to 58th.

I'm starting to like Maureece Rice a lot. He's a pretty efficient scorer and rebounds well for his size (how he got eight rebounds against Reno at 6'1" is somewhat of a mystery). His assists and turnovers are still a little uneven, and his overall assist numbers aren't great, but for the most part he seems to have straightened those out recently.

Ivan Harris is a pretty good three-point shooter, at least I think he is. He's played in all 50 games this year, and his stat page says he shot 42.9% from downtown this year, but when I tried looking up the league three-point stats he's not listed at all. Assuming his individual page is correct, he should rank second among forwards in three-point percentage, and tied for sixth overall.

Jackie Manuel also isn't listed in the league stats for some reason. His biggest asset is his rebounding, though even then he'll sometimes follow up a nine-rebound game with a two-rebound game. Manuel's an okay shot blocker, with four four-block games this year and a five-block game. He's also a small forward without much of an outside shot - he's only taken 22 three pointers all year, and still managed to make less than 28 percent of them.

Oliver Lafayette is another mostly-inefficient scorer. He's not afraid to pull the trigger on his three-point shot, but his average there is only .328. He had a triple-double against Utah in February, but even then it was an 11-10-11 in 42 minutes. If it's okay with you I'm going to stop talking about Oliver Lafayette.

The bench:

Tony Bethel may get the start ahead of Lafayette, but he's another up-and-down scorere. Here are his point totals for the month of March: 13-32-5-13-0-10-4-0-15-9. He's also an even worse three-point shooter than Lafayette. As much as some commenters might try to convince us that he plays center so Daniels doesn't have to, Jarvis Gunter doesn't really play a whole lot. He'll have the occasional solid eight-points-and-seven-rebounds-in-19 minutes game, but just as often will only throw in two and three. The other backup center is Darian Townes (which sounds like the name of a mixed-use development), and while he ranks fourth in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes, he also averages less than 14 minutes per game (and has only reached double figures in minutes in six of his last 14 games), so I have some sample-size doubts.