The annual NBA Development League Draft was held last Thursday, but it took a little while to gather the thoughts needed to actually analyze what each team had done in the two hours it took 16 teams to select 127 players. After a weekend to think about it, however, the official Ridiculous Upside 2011 D-League Draft grades are enclosed below.
In an interesting turn of events, D-League.com actually beat your's truly to this column. Considering the Matthew Brennan replacements inexplicably didn't account for trades or returning players, however, it still seemed worthwhile to put this together on Sunday evening -- after watching the Green Bay Packers continue their undefeated season, of course.
The difficult thing to think about when analyzing the D-League Draft is that, typically, the only picks that are going to make a roster will come within the first four rounds as returning players and those that made the team by way of local tryout will account for at least half of a team's roster -- and typically the top half, at that. This isn't to say that the Austin Toros pick of Dan Vandervieren in the seventh round was worthless, just that it's more or less a crap shoot after the first few rounds.
A - You guys are the best (Yes, all three of you)!
Bakersfield Jam: Head coach Will Voigt and his staff went into the draft needing to fill quite a bit of roster space as Brian Butch was really the only sturdy building block on the team's roster ... and even he hasn't played regular season basketball in over a year. The Jam passed the test with flying colors, however, acquiring three good should-be starters on draft night (Renaldo Major, Mac Koshwal and Osiris Eldridge) while adding depth with Mustapha Farrakhan and Lawrence Westbrook.
It doesn't hurt, either, that at least two of the local tryout players for the Jam should make the opening-day roster as Minnesota's Damian Johnson, Miami's Adrian Thomas and former Oklahoma rotation player Juan Pattilo all were acquired by Bakersfield through local tryouts.
Texas Legends: The Legends, to be honest, are one of the more annoying teams in the D-League as they just don't seem like they play to the underdog role the minor leagues should be about. They hired longtime NBA coach Del Harris to work their bench this offseason, they had all sorts of former first round picks on their roster last season and Dallas Mavericks GM Donnie Nelson and Nancy Lieberman -- a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame -- are working together in the front office.
Nonetheless, it doesn't look like the Legends will embrace the little guy role this season either after selecting former NBA players Alando Tucker and Jamal Sampson in the first round. The team had to give up Justin Dentmon to select Tucker, but considering there were probably going to be playing time issues for Dentmon regardless, the swap ended well and netted the Legends former NBA players at positions of need.
Jake Kelly, a one-time promising player at Iowa before transferring to Indiana State, was also a solid selection in the second round ... especially if they're able to play him at point guard, the team's lone weakness on the roster.
Reno Bighorns: To be honest, just acquiring an NBA talent with the 20th overall pick probably would have got Paul Mokeski's new team an A on Thursday night. Along with selecting Cedric Bozeman in the second round, however, the Bighorns were also able to deal the disgruntled Donald Sloan to the Erie BayHawks for a pair of good D-League starters in Blake Ahearn and Taj McCullough.
The Bighorns starting front court looks good on paper as both Doug Thomas and Nick Fazekas are known commodities and D-League veterans, but it remains to be seen how healthy Fazekas is this season after missing most of last year due to ankle injuries.
B - Good picks, fellas!
Idaho Stampede: Randy Livingston and Joel Abelson are one of the D-League coaching staff not yet overseen by any NBA teams, making the goal to win games ahead of developing players for the big club. The Stampede's draft showed that, too, as they picked solid veterans like Jason Ellis, Kendall Dartez and Cheyne Gadson to round out a roster that will again feature Antoine Walker, Seth Tarver and Mildon Ambres.
Idaho also picked a couple of prospects with ridiculous upside in Texas Southern's Kevin Galloway and the much-maligned Eric Devendorf out of Syracuse. Galloway played at big-time programs USC and Kentucky during his college career before eventually ending up at Texas Southern while Devendorf was a major-contributor on one of the top teams in the Big East not that along ago.
Iowa Energy: The Energy didn't have a first round pick in the draft due to trades made last year by the previous coaching staff and, to be honest, the cupboard was left a bit bare as only Stanley Robinson and Moses Ehambe are non-drafted players guaranteed to make the opening-day roster. That said, they got good players at positions of need as former Wyoming point guard Brandon Ewing was probably a bit overlooked leading up to the draft and South Florida rookie Jarrid Famous is the perfect D-League big man.
The off-guard position is still probably up in the air at the current time. Former Louisiana Tech standout Kyle Gibson and Jake Anderson, a rookie out of Iowa State after beginning his career at Southern Illinois, should hopefully alleviate my concerns by the time the regular season rolls around.
Maine Red Claws: I went back and forth on where to place the Red Claws, but in the end, it's tough to find too many faults with their draft. Dayton forward Chris Wright probably could have been had a bit lower than the third overall pick if the Red Claws were able to trade down a bit in the draft, but he's a first-round talent and helps round out a starting lineup that should be fun to watch.
General Manager Jon Jennings work in the second round is really what sealed this draft, however, as he was able to pick up NBA prospects Durrell Summers and Mike Tisdale with the 24th and 29th picks respectively. The three aforementioned players, along with returner Paul Harris and former Virginia point guard J.R. Reynolds should make the Red Claws contenders this season.
Tulsa 66ers: The 66ers are almost guaranteed a good team thanks to the coaching staff of Nate Tibbetts and Dale Osbourne, but they had a bit of work to do in the draft as Jerome Dyson, Ryan Reid and Marcus Lewis needed some help on the wings. The Oklahoma City Thunder affiliates realized that, too, if their first few picks are any indication.
Tibbetts, who coached the 2011 Pan-Am Games, selected Curtis Sumpter to be on his team during the regular season after not getting a lot of burn for him in the off-season tournament. Along with Sumpter, Tulsa worked to fill its off-guard position with Marquette's Dwight Buycks and Kansas shooter Brady Morningstar while Texas's Gary Johnson should also provide plenty of depth.
Austin Toros: The Toros actually were not included on this part when I first published it because, due to a clerical error, I didn't count Justin Dentmon as part of their haul on draft day (he was traded by the Texas Legends for the No. 2 pick). Whenever a team is able to pick up a near-NBA talent that can shore up all of the backcourt needs, well, it's worth it.
After acquiring Dentmon and trading for Bakersfield's Luke Zeller for a couple of picks, the Toros didn't really need to add a lot through the actual draft considering they returned starters Leo Lyons, Lance Thomas and Squeaky Johnson. They did add one potential difference maker, however, in the other Tristan Thompson -- a 6-foot-4 rookie out of Southern Texas.