Hey Ridiculous Upside readers, my name is Steve Neff and hopefully I’ll be making a couple of posts on this year’s upcoming draft in the next few months. With the D-league Finals now over, it will be a down time for minor league basketball so the blog posts will shift ocassionally the draft. Here is a short preview of some players in the draft who could have to go through the D-League to solidify a spot on an NBA roster, a la Von Wafer or Mike Taylor.
First, though, there are a few players that almost definitely won't be making the long bus rides from Dakota to Sioux Falls next winter. Next year’s presumable Rookie of the Year, Blake Griffin, will be too busy averaging 15 and 7 in the NBA to be sent down to hone his skills. Hasheem Thabeet is raw, but he doesn’t need the D-League - can't coach size and his blocking ability. B.J. Mullens from Ohio State is overly unpolished - you will almost certainly see him next year in the D-League. An NBA team will pick him because he is young and 7 feet tall but this guy is Patrick O’Bryant 2.0. Really, he can only dunk the ball, but scouts love his size and potentially ridiculous upside. Maybe he'll be able to develop after his NBA team sends him down to the D-League. Maybe.
Tyreke Evans from Memphis should not be playing in the D-League next year. Mark my words, Evans will end up being the best player in this draft when you look back 20 years from now. I felt he was a little under the radar because Memphis didn’t play on National TV often - Evans should be a Top 5 pick. People make James Harden out to be very good but I think he plays too slow. He will be a high pick, but I don't think he'll be great in the NBA.
Another player that'll more than likely get sent down to the D-League is Patrick Patterson from Kentucky. Patterson will be drafted later in the first round, ending up on a good playoff team where he won’t play as an undersized 4 - reminds a bit of Richard Hendrix. His teammate Jodie Meeks will probably end up being a 2nd round pick if he stays in the draft and could possibly be the leading scorer in the D-League next year, similar skill-set to Mo Almond of the Utah Jazz/Flash.
The UNC trio of Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington should not be going down to the D-League, either. Ellington will be the best pro of the 3 as he has the best all-around skills. We won’t be seeing Johnny Flynn, either. Some D-League fans should see Austin Daye however. The 6’11, 190 pound forward from Gonzaga will not be able to handle the NBA at first - way too skinny and should go back to Gonzaga but opted for the NBA.
There will be some players that will have to go through back doors to make the NBA and will use the D-League for that. Scouts don't love undersized power forwards like Jon Brockman and Luke Harangoudy, especially tho who don’t have amazing athleticism. Brockman should be in the D-League draft in October; Harangoudy will probably be a late second round pick and end up inthe D-League, averaging something like 16 and nine. Whether he can do that in the NBA is another question. Jeff Adrien out of UCONN is another small PF who should have success in the D-League.
The D-League has produced many good guards in recent years. These guards will be coming to a D-League city near you. Tyrese Rice from BC has a lot of potential - I expect him to get a few Gatorade call-ups next year and eventually stick with a team - if he isn't drafted. UMass PG Chris Lowe had to deal with a coaching change which stifled his development, though I expect him to do very well in the D-League next year - perhaps for D-League Springfield? He is extremely quick and has the skills to be a backup PG in the NBA. Ben Woodside from North Dakota State is underrated and could use the D-League to make it to the big leagues. If Chris Quinn can be in the NBA, Woodside definitely should be.
Other players who could be in the D-League because of their NBA potential are forwards Dante Cunningham from Villanova and Micah Downs from Gonzaga. Downs is versatile and can really jump - he is very similar to Matt Barnes (without the thuggish attitude). Also watch for Raymond Sykes from Clemson to do well in the D-League. He'll be a sleeper in D-League draft. He's big and is a hustler. He had a similar college career to Rod Benson - Benson, as you know, is a D-League All-Star and on the cusp of the NBA.
Thanks for reading and hopefully you have been informed on whom to look for in this year’s draft and next year in the D-League.