Two games will kick start the 12th season of the NBA D-League Friday night as the Maine Red Claws will take on the Canton Charge in Canton, Ohio, and the Erie BayHawks will face off against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Following those matchups will be a set of games featuring the Bakersfield Jam and Rio Grande Valley Vipers in Hidalgo, Texas, while the Texas Legends and Tulsa 66ers will tip off in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Amidst the numerous angles and story lines entering the evening, here are the top 5 things you should be keeping an eye on.
1. Number Of Assignments Will Be On Full Display
The latest rather big name assignees joining the D-League are Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson for the Mad Ants in Fort Wayne. These two rookies will join a list of assigned players set to take part in Friday night's games. The list includes; Fab Melo (Maine Red Claws), Kris Joseph (Maine Red Claws), Donatas Montejunas (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), and Scott Machado (Rio Grande Valley Vipers),
Fab Melo will look to impress early on with the Red Claws, the rookie will be closely monitored by the Boston Celtics as they hope the youngster will relish in the playing time that he will enjoy for their D-League affiliate. The duo from the Houston Rockets, Montejunas and Machado, will be exciting to watch as each player surely has proven that they have what it takes to earn minutes at the NBA-level.
The assignment list will continue to grow as this season unfolds. NBA teams will be looking to utilize their ability to develop some of their prized talent in the D-League which should be an intriguing angle for NBA fans to follow.
2. How Will Top Draft Pick And Overall Top Prospect JaJuan Johnson Perform?
Johnson was just two blocks away from a triple-double in the Mad Ants impressive preseason showing on the road against the Canton Charge. Johnson finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 blocks. The former Boilermaker has high expectations, and it is very likely that he will deliver for Fort Wayne. It will be only a matter of time until he receives a Call-Up so we should enjoy his time in the D-League while we can.
3. Two First Time International Head Coaches Will Do Battle In Oklahoma
Mexican-born Eduardo Najera and Euro-born Darko Rajakovic will lead their teams and in a landmark game for the NBA D-League. Both coaches are firsts for the NBA, as they assume the head coaching position for both the Texas Legends and Tulsa 66ers. The NBA D-League is fortunate to have their services involved with the league, it will be beneficial for the league as it looks to broadened itself internationally, and having two foreign head coaches certainly helps this effort.
4. Will Bakersfield Kick Off Their Season With A Win, And Continue To Progress?
The Jam have assembled a roster based upon experience and depth they feel, and returning players such as Brian Butch, Renaldo Major, and Stephen Dennis (who was with the club in the 2010-2011 season) will look to lead the Jam as they hope to continue their success. Dennis led the Jam in scoring as they lost to the Los Angeles D-Fenders in an OT thriller this preseason. Dennis came off the bench and provided 30 points, 4 steals, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds. The Jam's managing partner David Higdon was chosen as the NBA D-League's Team Executive of the Year last season, and it will be interesting to follow the team to see if they can continue to improve like they have over the last few seasons.
5. How Will The Erie BayHawks Transaction Activity Pay Off?
The BayHawks were very active entering this season, they traded their top two draft picks away in a deal with the Reno Bighorns receiving Mike Davis and Demonte Harper in exchange for Jack McClinton III and Alex Ruoff. The BayHawks only have two of the nine players that they selected in the D-League Draft. After receiving Davis from Reno, the team traded him him away to Sioux Falls for point guard Nick Covington and center Keith Benson. You still with me? Ok, well the BayHawks roster will also include some impressive returning players in D.J. Kennedy Tirrell Baines, Mychel Thompson to go along with the top center prospect in the D-League, Henry Sims. Will all of their shuffling around pay off for the club? We will find out Friday night as they take on Fort Wayne.