With just 50 games squeezed in to the NBA D-League's annual schedule, and each team's respective schedule varying quite a bit depending on weekend matchups and such, it's difficult to truly define what should be considered to be the halfway point of the season.
That said, with just about all NBADL teams currently hovering around the 25 game mark, it's time to take a quick look back at the progress some of the minor league's most promising up and comers have made this far. With that in mind, some of our staff (Keith Schlosser, Gino Pilato, Ryan Ripley) thought now would be as best of a time as ever to recognize some of the better efforts thus far in the D-League with our very own midseason awards. Take a look below to find out who's been able to stand out so far this season.
RidiculousUpside.com's Midseason 2012-13 NBA D-League Awards
Most Valuable Player
KS: Andrew Goudelock, RGV Vipers-- When considering potential M.V.P. candidates, players' skill sets and ability to dominate the competition surely come to mind as things that factor in to such a decision. That said, also key is a player's role in his team's success. How crucial a player is to his team's ability to come away with victories night in and night out undoubtedly make him by definition, valuable, if nothing else.
After spending last season as a rookie with the Lakers, Andrew Goudelock is clearly recognizable as a talented player. Already one of the D-League's top scorers when he was traded last month from the Skyforce to the Vipers, the guard has quickly emerged as a key piece in Rio Grande Valley's puzzle for success. In addition to standing tall amongst the league-leaders in points/rebounds/assists combination, Goudelock has led his squad to a 10-3 record since coming to town. RGV entered the work week owning the NBADL's second best record, proving thus far that the former Laker has been a difference maker.
GP: Courtney Fortson, L.A. D-Fenders-- Fortson impacts a game in many different ways while having the ability to dominate an entire contest himself when needed. The former Arkansas Razorback is averaging 19.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists so far this season. Fortson earned two Call-Ups last season, and he has been playing inspired ball for the Los Angeles D-Fenders up until this point.
Fortson is second overall (behind D.J. Kennedy) in the NBA D-League for points/rebounds/assists, averaging 30.9. Fortson has a solid PER average as well (19.0), and has played heavy minutes for head coach Reggie Theus averaging 39.2 per game. It's likely that Fortson will earn a Call-Up at some point this season, but if he somehow he stays in the D-League, we will likely see the long-haired, strikingly quick point guard hoist up the MVP trophy at the end of the season.
RR: D.J. Kennedy, Erie BayHawks-- It's hard to look past Erie's D.J. Kennedy when looking for a league MVP. Kennedy averages 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. When he isn't stuffing the stat-sheets, Kennedy is making his presence known on the floor with solid defense and a strong floor general mentality. He has the all around game that such a title as MVP demands.
Defensive Player of the Year
KS: Jerome Jordan, Reno Bighorns-- After spending some time in the D-League last season while on assignment from the Knicks, Jordan has since returned to the minor league as a free agent. Following through on an impressive showing at the NBADL Showcase last month, the big guy has looked like a man among boys down low.
The Tulsa product has been able to thrive defensively, pulling down the boards and manning the middle for the Bighorns. Truly a defensive anchor of sorts, Jordan is amongst the league leaders in blocks and is constantly seen pestering and flustering opposing players into missed shots while on the hardwood.
GP: Jerome Jordan, Reno Bighorns-- Jordan has been the most consistent dominating defensive big man in the NBA D-League so far this season. The man in the middle for the Reno Bighorns is averaging just under 3.0 blocks per game (2.93). Jordan has previously spent time in The Association mainly based upon his defensive services.
His standout performance so far this season came against the Idaho Stampede, when Jordan led the Bighorns to a road victory and blocked 6 shots, while grabbing 11 boards and scoring 12 points. At 7-feet tall, Jordan will always be on NBA teams' radars, and with his excellent play so far this season, a Call-Up isn't out of the question for the former Tulsa star.
RR: Sadiel Rojas, Fort Wayne Mad Ants-- Sadiel Rojas can shut down any player in the D-League. Period. Coming off the bench, Rojas is consistently given the tough assignments and his 98.9 DRtg and 1.5 steals per game speaks well to his ability at stopping the best scorers in the league from lighting up the score board. His "no plays off" mentality is obvious as he puts in a great effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Rookie of the Year
KS: Henry Sims, Erie BayHawks-- Sims is a young big man with an array of the different tools necessary to make it into the NBA. As he looks to prove his worth while playing in the D-League, he's using his varied skill-set to cash in on some solid success as a first-year player.
The big man can score down low with ease, as evidenced in his 16.7 points per contest on an impressive 51% shooting from the field. What's more, he's quickly emerging as a force to be reckoned with defensively, averaging 9 boards and 1.4 blocks per contests. Amongst the league-leaders in points/rebounds/assists combination, there's no doubt the Georgetown product is aiming to garner an NBA call-up this season.
GP: Tim Ohlbrecht, Rio Grande Valley Vipers-- The German big man is having a nice rookie campaign in the NBA D-League, Ohlbrecht has played professionally overseas, but this is his first crack at professional basketball in the States. Ohlbrecht is only 24-years-old and has plenty of upside which he has demonstrated so far this season with Rio Grande Valley.
Ohlbrecht received his first heavy dose of playing time in mid-December, and the 6-11, 255 pound center made good use of it. Ohlbrecht also impressed many at the NBA D-League Showcase where he turned in a solid performance despite the loss against Fort Wayne. Olhbrecht scored 22 points on 8 for 11 shooting, and grabbed 9 rebounds. This season Olhbrecht is averaging 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks.
RR: Micah Downs, Maine Red Claws-- In his first season in the NBADL, Micah Downs has clearly established himself as one of the top players in the league. He can score from anywhere on the floor, works hard on defense, and runs the floor well. Downs averages 19 points and 7 rebounds per game. He's also a big threat in transition and challenges defenses to keep up with him.
Most Improved Player
KS: D.J. Kennedy, Erie BayHawks-- By the end of the season, not only will the likes of Goudelock, Fortson, and Kennedy warrant M.V.P. consideration, but players such as Luke Harangody and Jerel McNeal are sure to raise some eyebrows as well, largely in part due to their impact on their respective team's records.
With the BayHawks currently settled in at seventh seed in the D-League, such a record may lose Kennedy some M.V.P. votes. Still, the versatile guard deserves credit for something, as his impact is continuously felt. As fate would have it, Kennedy could certainly be considered a worthy M.I.P. candidate for his efforts this season too. Elevating his game to a more dominant level, Kennedy has seen improvements to his points, rebounds, and assists per game averages, as well as his free-throw shooting percentage.
GP: Kyle Gibson, Canton Charge-- Gibson has raised his points per game average from 9.9 in 2011-2012, to 15.3 points a contest this season for the Canton Charge. Gibson has also increased his assists per game going from 1.5 per game last season to 3.2 this season. Gibson has been the model of consistency for Canton, in all 26 games that he's played in, he has been a starter in every game.
Gibson has scored over 20 points in five games this season, his most impressive game this season came in a one-point victory over a tough Maine Red Claws team. Gibson that night poured in 20 points and had 11 assists to go with 4 rebounds. Gibson showed off his solid free throw shooting skills that evening as well getting to the charity stripe 13 times and converting 11 times.
RR: Taylor Griffin, Santa Cruz Warriors-- The 'D' in NBADL stands for development and when it comes to most improved, Taylor Griffin embodies that goal better than anyone else. Last year with Dakota his stat line was unimpressive: 6 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes played per game. His time in the gym over the off-season seems to have paid off as every one of his stat lines have improved. Griffin now averages 12 points and 7 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. His shooting percentages are much better and his defensive game is much improved. He now plays with an intensity that shows his desire to improve and join his brother in the Association.
Impact Player (A D-League specific award, this honor goes out to a player who has been making a positive impact for his team after joining them mid-season)
KS: Luke Harangody, Fort Wayne Mad Ants-- Like Kennedy and some of his more formidable competitors, Harangody is another player who could very well see his name associated with M.V.P. talks by season's end.
That said, as it stands now, the forward is just another player who has helped catapult the Mad Ants back to some impressive winnings ways as of late. An automatic double-double machine, Harangody has been putting up such numbers in quite the dominant of ways. More importantly, however, he's a key factor in Fort Wayne's turnaround after joining them a few games into the campaign.
GP: Elijah Millsap, L.A. D-Fefenders-- Millsap joined the D-Fenders in mid-December coming back to the club after being a top performer for the D's last season. Millsap has averaged 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists so far this season, which is just below his averages from last season.
The brother of Paul Millsap, Elijah brings a different style to the floor as he can dominate offensively while also chip in as a distributor and rebounder. Millsap dropped 32 points in a win over Fort Wayne earlier this season, and has clearly been a much needed boost to a D-Fenders team that needed it. As they continue to rely on his services, Millsap will look to guide the D-Fenders back up the standings in the second half.
RR: Luke Harangody, Fort Wayne Mad Ants-- It's hard to argue with results and in the case of Luke Harangody it is very clear that the Mad Ants win games with him on the floor. Prior to acquiring Harangody the Mad Ants were 3-10. With him they are 10-5. Harangody is a double-double machine (21 points and 13 rebounds per game) whose productivity has nearly brought Fort Wayne back to the .500 mark. This big turnaround demands that Harangody get the nod for the Impact Player Award.