I planned to do this after the draft, but then I wouldn't be able to gloat about it - so we'll do it live, damn it.
First, a shout out to the two D-League prospects:
Latavious Williams, PF, Tulsa 66ers
This is going to surprise/disappoint a lot of my fellow D-League aficionados, but I'm not in love with Williams in the NBA this year - and I've watched him play more than almost anyone other than Tulsa coach Nate Tibbetts.
Williams didn't seem like he was ready to play at even a D-League level at the beginning of the season (by nearly all accounts, he wasn't), but he seemed to get better and better from when his playing time increased in January through the D-League playoffs in April.
While it was widely speculated that he can play both forward positions, he has a lot to work onto become more than an "energy forward" in the league. Even though his mid-range jumper did improve over the course of the season, he still hasn't shown the ability to put the ball on the floor from the wing, nor is he able to shoot off of the dribble.
I think that his body was actually the main reason it was suggested he can play at the small forward, but he seemed to put good weight on from the highlights I'd seen from high school and is probably more like 215 than 195 currently (with room to grow).
Either way, he's currently a combo-forward only because he hasn't developed the all-around abilities to excel at either position in the NBA. Currently, I project him as a power forward if only because that's where he's more suited to play defense.
If he's able to bring it every night (and notice I have some questions since I used the if qualifier), he's worth at least a late round draft pick this year with his combination of athleticism, rebounding and the ability he's already shown to learn and play in an NBA system against near-NBA players (as opposed to like college players).
Even though Williams had some of the better coaches helping him progress this season, he'll need to put in good work over the Summer to develop his major deficiencies (go-to post moves, being able to put the ball on the floor) so that he can definitely be a high-energy 8th man for an NBA team (that's not necessarily a ringing endorsement, I guess).
As is, he's a 21-year-old raw athlete (think the type of high school athlete that colleges recruit and assign a position later) with some pretty freakish athleticism and a penchant for tip-dunks.
Jeremy Wise, G, Bakersfield Jam
hasn't been mentioned much here at Ridiculous Upside, but that's mostly due to the Jam being, let's say, uneasy on the eyes - which isn't really Wise's fault. Still, last night he did things that merit talking about the Jam: 10-of-10 from the field, 5-of-5 from the free-throw line and seven assists with just two turnovers while matched up against , one of the better point guard in the D-League. If he can prove that he's a capable point guard, his stock improves quite a bit. I'm not sure if he'd be drafted, but did it, and I don't see the talent-gap being that large between the two.
The part that should give merit to Wise as an NBA prospect is that he had that game against Shakur who was probably one of the top two defensive point guards in the D-League last season (he'd eventually end the season with the Wise stepped up to the level of his competition quite often last season:). If you're familiar with D-League box score reading, you could actually surmise that
Wise would finish the season averaging 16.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 52% from the field, 38% from beyond the arc and 85% from the charity stripe in just over 32 minutes per game. Putting that into perspective, he averaged 16.7 points and 4.7 assists in his final season at Southern Miss while shooting worse from the field (42%) and the college three-point line (31%) in just under 36 minutes of action.
What does all of this mean, you ask?
In short, the D-League worked - Wise became more efficient while learning a new position in a league more suited to the NBA style of play.
Ryan Richards, F, Britain
The 19-year-old lefty hailing from London drew quite a bit of buzz after he, as ESPN's NBA Draft expert Chad Ford describes, "shot the ball well, was very fluid running up and down the court and showed a sound basketball IQ" in Chicago.
That was about the only time the majority of the high-level NBA executives in the gym had ever seen Richards play, after he played sparingly in Europe over the past few years. Most recently, Richards played this past season in Switzerland with BBC Monthey on loan from Spain's Gran Canaria.
Richards played six games for the lower-level European team before dislocating his shoulder in February, prematurely ending his season. He averaged just over 20 minutes of action, scoring 13.3 points and grabbing 5.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field and a beyond-impressive 91.3 percent (21-of-23) from the free-throw line.
That is about the extent of basketball knowledge I'm qualified to offer regarding Richards' game (though I have been brushing up on the YouTube highlights seen here and -- despite some of the worst camera work ever -- here), but it's enough to catch readers up with the majority of the NBA world regardless.
Dinma Odiakosa, PF, Illinois State
Odiakosa, a 6-foot-8 power forward out of Illinois State (yes, the same college Doug Collins attended), averaged 12.8 points, 8.7 boards and shot 61% from the field his senior year of college.
I can also tell you that he looks to have an NBA body and that he's worked out in Chicago with world renowned trainer Tim Grover.
From what I can tell in the above video he looked a lot better than D-Leaguer Latavious Williams (hopefully he had higher points than those shown) and judging from the following comments from the Grizzlies' Director of Player Personnel Tony Barone (Sr.), I'm not alone.
(Odiakosa) has an unbelievable work ethic," said Barone, Sr. "He will eventually be in the NBA. It will be a longer route; there is no straight line to the NBA for him. He will bang you, rebound and probably end up in the NBA D-League to start off with and go from there in terms of developmental progress. I had one of the coaches come up to me today and tell me that he thinks he will be an All-Star in the D-League next year.
Odiakosa may not hear his name called tonight (though it's possible that a smart team that misses out on Williams looks his way), but he definitely appears to be a player to watch for the future.