The 2011 NBA Development League Draft took place last Thursday night and, after a weekend that was almost as much of a whirlwind as a draft, Ridiculous Upside has decided it is ready to discuss the draft. Those that were given the good grades got my thoughts on Monday morning, in case anyone missed it, while the rest of the teams are included below.
As a quick note, the D-League Draft is not as big of a deal as it might seem. For the most part, teams are typically only counting on finding three or four contributors to complement their returners from the past through the eight-round, serpentine-style draft.
This means that even if a team doesn't have what looks to be the greatest draft on paper, they still have a chance to be a good team this season (preliminary power rankings coming this week, probably!). Until then, however, feel free to vehemently disagree with my picks below.
C - You have a good team, but you didn't impress me with your picks.
Dakota Wizards: The Wizards are one of those teams that didn't really need to have a great draft to have a great D-League team as they returned what could be a solid D-League starter at all five positions. I was a huge fan of their original draft, too, as Osiris Eldridge seemed to be a steal at No. 12 ... but he was then traded, along with longtime Dakotan Renaldo Major, and their draft didn't seem quite as impressive.
This is not to say the Wizards had a bad draft, but their draft looked better prior to the trade -- at least from my perspective -- forcing me to downgrade them a bit. Still, Edwin Ubiles is a very solid player, Andrew Gonzalez could make waves in the D-League and Travis Walton is just a couple of seasons removed from being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year so talent is definitely there.
The Golden State Warriors probably had their hands in the draft a bit, which is why it makes sense that they would trade a veteran like Major for the younger Walton, but it remains to be seen if he's actually an NBA prospect -- or if Ubiles will end up that much better than Eldridge.
Erie BayHawks: Erie did about as good as it could with the draft, but looking at its roster, their depth is still going to be a problem this season. The BayHawks' big move was trading Blake Ahearn and third round pick Taj McCullough to the Reno Bighorns for point guard Donald Sloan, but trading two D-League starters for one D-League starter isn't exactly what I would do -- especially considering Ahearn has NBA talent himself if the move was done from a New York Knicks perspective.
The BayHawks (now being ran by Allan Houston and the New York Knicks) did have a good first round, though, as Colorado's Cory Higgins and veteran big Chris Daniels should both be opening-day starters. Aside from that, however, they really weren't able to add depth at the wing positions and their bigs might be a problem, too, if Jeff Graves is as out of shape as he's sometimes been in the past.
Fort Wayne Mad Ants: The Mad Ants were essentially in the same boat as the Wizards heading into the Draft. They returned five players that have shown their worthy of starting in the D-League, but with two of them occupying the power forward spot, a solid two-guard to complement the rest of the starters was the biggest position of need going into Thursday night.
Fort Wayne's front office addressed that need, too, but they seemingly reached when selecting Northern Arizona's Cameron Jones when players like Cedric Bozeman, Osiris Eldridge, Durrell Summers and Mustapha Farrakhan were all still on the board. They turned around and picked up Montana's Anthony Johnson in the second round, a pick I really like, but their first round gaffe seems like too much of a bad risk to give them a better grade.
The Mad Ants don't have many open roster spots so really only their first couple of picks will matter, but both Sadiel Rojas and Brian Wanamaker will be interesting players to keep an eye on prior to final cuts.
Los Angeles D-Fenders: Los Angeles did as well as one might expect, probably, it just wasn't a draft class anyone is going to consider impressive. The D-Fenders used their first pick on a former NBA starter, but when remembering that former NBA starter is Jamaal Tinsley and he's been known more for off the court issues and not playing basketball the past few years, I've decided to take a wait-and-see approach.
The D-Fenders used their next two picks on a pair of solid wing prospects in rookies Anthony Gurley and Eniel Polynice, though Polynice is anything but a sure thing when looking at his statistics in college the past couple of seasons.
The biggest reason the D-Fenders fall to this point in the draft grdes, though, is because I'm not exactly sold on any of their bigs -- aside from returner Brandon Costner (from the Utah Flash) -- and yet they still didn't draft a big worthy of a roster spot.
The D-Fenders were fortunate enough to get a few bigs to show up at their open tryouts, but I don't know if they are good enough to warrant not selecting a big from the Draft. Former Syracuse big man Terrance Roberts once seemed to have quite a bit of potential at one point, but he hasn't exactly lit up the professional basketball world over the past four years ... and the same can be said for former Bradley big Zach Andrews.
D - I hope you drafted some sleepers I was unaware of in the draft.
Canton Charge: I imagine I'm going to regret putting the Cleveland Cavaliers-owned team this low in my draft grades as general manager Wes Wilcox has made several other pleasantly surprising acquisitions for his D-League teams in the past (the hiring of Erie BayHawks coach Jay Larranaga and stealing of Ivan Johnson in last year's draft being the major ones). As it stands today, however, the Charge had quite a few holes to fill in the draft and came out a bit short of expectations.
Their first pick was NBA prospect Tyrell Biggs, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Pittsburgh who attended their local tryout a few weeks back and then their draft party on Thursday night. They probably could have found better value, but considering they didn't have another pick until the fourth round and he was obviously a guy they targeted, that pick is fine.
The rest of their selections, though, were -- for lack of a better word -- uninspiring. Looking at my version of the preseason depth chart, two of their starters will be players that attended their local tryouts. I can't exactly say that I would have done something different than they did considering the lack of draft picks the New Mexico Thunderbirds left them, but these are my grades and I'll keep them here so I can regret it later.
Rio Grande Valley Vipers: The Vipers are another team ran by an NBA franchise -- in this case the Houston Rockets -- that will surely make me regret placing them so low in the draft grades next month. With only two players returning, though, their front office had its work cut out in the D-League Draft ... and I'm not sure they did enough to quell my concerns.
Nick Nurse's new team picked up a solid player in the first round when they selected former Ragin' Cajun Tyren Johnson and then again with former Butler Bulldogs guard Willie Veasley, but the team's front court seems to have a few rather large holes in it that the team failed to address.
The Vipers traded for former Connecticut Huskies center Charles Okwandu who should have some talent considering he played for the National Champions last season, but the 7-footer averaged less than 15 minutes for them and even his per-36 averages were less than impressive. The other big they drafted, Hofta rookie Greg Washington, didn't exactly light the CAA on fire -- though he was a three-time member of the conference's All-Defensive team.
Sioux Falls Skyforce: The Skyforce needed to address the point guard position early in the draft as it seems stalwart David Bailey won't be returning, and with the fourth overall pick in the draft, they had quite a few players available to choose from. Out of all of those players, they chose former second round NBA pick Gabe Pruitt -- a player that has had his share of off-court issues (even in his past D-League experiences) and wasn't great when he played in the league two seasons ago.
The team picked up a second potential off-court issue causer in the third round with former West Virginia standout Casey Mitchell. Mitchell can score with the best of them, but he didn't buy into the defensive concepts during his time as a Mountaineer and was already released in Greece earlier this year for reportedly testing positive for cannabis.
Aside from those two picks, the Skyforce used three of their remaining five picks on point guards despite having very little depth at any of their other positions.
Springfield Armor: The Armor actually got a potential steal in former NBA big man Chris Taft with the 48th overall pick in the draft, but the rest of their draft consisted of players that seemed like reaches. In fact, their selection of Marshall's Jonathan Thomas with their first pick drew quite a bit of befuddlement from rival coaches talking to Ridiculous Upside.
Thomas might end up being a solid pick, but quite a few were skeptical considering he had to attend the D-League's National Tryout in Kentucky just to get the D-League to offer him a contract. He'll more than likely be the team's opening-day starter at small forward, but it's assumed Springfield could have had him at least one round later while using their first round selection on someone with more potential.
The New Jersey Nets probably know what they're doing, but Milton Lee has started off on an interesting foot for now.