Seriously, I decided this yesterday after looking at the SBNation NBA Power Rankings.
I think the best of the NBA D-League might be able to compete with what Mike Prada calls the "Dregs of the League."
You're probably asking, "But Scott, is it really a positive to think that a team made up of D-League players could compete with the worst of the worst of the NBA?"
I'd answer, "Actually, loyal reader, kind of, considering that most dismiss the D-League altogether. If a team made up completely of current D-League players could legitimately compete with even one NBA team, doesn't that show that there is, in fact, talent in the D-League?"
Now, to explain myself.
As we've pointed out in the past two days (here and here), the talent doesn't necessarily run extremely deep in the D-League. Still, I wouldn't be scared to match-up a ten man roster of the top players in the D-League (D-League rosters run 10 deep, FYI) with Prada's "Dregs" of the NBA (New Jersey, Minnesota, Detroit). Personally, I might even match-up them up with Indiana and Washington, believing that a seven game series would go at least six deep.
Seems to me, the D-League would have the one huge advantage:
Motivation. To me, it seems like the D-Leaguer's would have a lot more to gain if they were playing an actual NBA team. If they win, all 10 players would have to get a call-up, right? They'd be looked at as legitimate, NBA-caliber talent! The negative connotation would still be there, sure, but certainly to a less extent.
- For a team like the Timberwolves, it proves nothing if they win because they're supposed to win - It's not as though Kevin Love is going to come back to tweeting and talk about beating a team made up entirely of D-League players (thought it would be nice if he came back to tweeting). The NBA may be able to out-talent the D-League team, but what are the chances that team is able to come together and play better than 10 players whose only dream is to be where the team on the other bench already is?
I may get into how exactly a team made up of D-League players could beat each individual team tomorrow if there's an outcry of NBA support, but somehow, I have faith in whoever reads this that they'll believe that a team with much more motivation and not that less of a talent difference can beat a team whose already lost 34 of their 38 games.
Also for a bit of historical perspective, a D-League team made up of the best players that didn't make an NBA Summer League team (read: not the best D-League players) went 3-2 in the Vegas Summer League. Not that the NBA sent their best, either, but it's worth noting.
Since I assume you're familiar with the NBA opponents, my pick of the D-League team is as follows:
PG - Sundiata Gaines, Utah Jazz via the Idaho Stampede - It's true, he's currently in the NBA (on a 10-day contract) but he began the season on a D-League roster, and thus, I feel he's usable, in this instance, on the D-Leegue team. He's got a chip on his shoulder, he ran the best offensive in the D-League and he can hit the long -ball with consistency. He'll be the emotional leader of this team.
SG - Morris Almond, Springfield Armor - He's the top scorer in the D-League. He may not offer much anywhere else, but his scoring is exquisite. Almond was a first round pick by the Jazz in 2007 and C-USA Player of the Year.
SF - Carlos Powell, Albuquerque Thunderbirds - Powell is going to bring the whole package. He can hit the 3-ball, get to the bucket, he's left-handed, plays solid defense, rebounds well and can get his teammates involved until he's needed. Powell was an All-SEC selection as a junior at South Carolina. Here's video of him. He's the guy scoring in orange.
PF - Rod Benson, Reno Bighorns - Benson's going to bring buckets, boards and blocks, son. The backcourt has enough scoring, so we'll focus on defense and rebounding in the front court. Benson brings both of those attributes.
C - Dwayne Jones, Austin Toros - Jones has the skills and determination to be a big man in the NBA (played 80 NBA games over the past four seasons) - that is, he's large, he blocks shots and he attacks the boards. Offensively, he's not bringing much, but we don't need it. Let's see Kevin Love boxout this guy.
6th Man - Anthony Tolliver, Idaho Stampede - Tolliver's already been in the NBA once this season, with the Portland Trail Blazers, so he'll be a fine sixth man on this team. In the right position, Tolliver's a 6'9" human match-up problem. He'll hit the 3 and the glass, plus make all of the hustle plays this team needs him to make. He'll be our answer to Charlie Villanueva.
Bench - Reggie Williams, Sioux Falls Skyforce - Williams will be Mo Almond's back-up. He's almost as explosive of a scorer and contributes a bit everywhere else. Williams was the NCAA's leading scorer two straight seasons at VMI, so he can play.
Bench - Mike Harris, Rio Grande Valley Vipers - Once again, he has NBA experience. Remember, he was a rotation player on that Rockets team that won 22 straight games in 2007-08, so he knows how to win. With his developing skills at both the 3 and the 4, he'll be a big weapon off the bench.
Bench - Greg Stiemsma, Sioux Falls Skyforce - Stiemsma will be able to cover up any defensive ineptitude that the team brings off of the bench. The 6'11" big man out of Wisconsin would be a great 9th man on an NBA team right now, actuallly - the guy leads the D-League in blocked shots per 48 with an astounding 7.8.
Bench - Antonio Anderson, Rio Grande Valley Vipers - We'll keep him on the team for his versatility and defensive prowess. A C-USA defensive player of the year last season at Memphis, he's been able to step up his offense as well this season. Our defensive stopper, he'll double as the back-up point guard. He'll be in charge of stopping former Memphis teammate Chris Douglas-Roberts.