The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are the hottest team in the NBA D-League right now. The Rockets' affiliate has won 10 of its last 12 contests, despite dropping a 102-99 decision to the Erie Bay Hawks on Wednesday morning in Erie.
Having evaluated this team in-person, it's easy to envision between five and six Vipers with legitimate shots at call- ups.
Three Vipers have been selected for the February 16th D-League All-Star Game in Houston. Guard Andrew Goudelock, center Tim Ohlbrecht, and Rockets assignee Terrence Jones will each appear.
The 6-foot, 3-inch Goudelock is a shooting guard who physically resembles a taller Dana Barros. Goudelock is confident, shoots a lot, and is fundamentally sound. He showed some explosiveness in the open floor, in similar fashion to that of Kerry Kittles.
Goudelock also uses a floater in the paint successfully, similar to Sherman Douglas. The former College of Charleston standout anticipates well on defense and works hard. Goudelock came to Rio Grande Valley from Sioux Falls in a late December trade. Ranked #14 on NBA.com's prospect list, the guard would be a solid 10-day contract guy for NBA clubs.
Ohlbrecht, a member of the German National Team, is a post player with a 6-foot, 11-inch light body that resembles former NBA player Brad Lohaus. He has a right-handed hook shot, which is his "go to" move and can turn and face the basket off the mid-point. The 24-year-old is a fair offensive rebounder and solid defensive rebounder when he doesn't get pushed too deep into the paint. Despite still developing his skills, Ohlbrecht could attract attention from lottery-bound NBA teams looking to evaluate players at the NBA level in March and April.
Jones is a 21-year-old small forward currently on assignment by the Rockets. A member of the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats national championship team, Jones can shoot the mid-range jumper, rebound, and is an excellent passer.
His body type and frame, style of play, along with him being left-handed helped me compare him to Zach Randolph. The 6'9" Jones still needs to work on running the floor better, finishing, and defending better (especially on the perimeter). Jones has a unique skill set though and is intriguing due to his skills and age.
Three Vipers players that were not selected for the All-Star game, but still have legitimate chances at call-ups are point guard Scott Machado, shooting guard Glen Rice, Jr. and power forward Vernon Macklin. Machado leads the team in assists per game (6.6), while Macklin leads the club in field goals percentage (57.8). Rice is coming off a 35-point, 15 rebound performance in front of this scout earlier this week.
Machado is a 6-foot, 1-inch point guard with the body type of a shorter version of Byron Scott and the best point guard that I've seen in the league so far. He's a very good ball handler, uses both hands well, and changes speeds well. The former standout at Iona College, Machado has real good court vision, makes good decisions, and has a knack for getting the right player the ball in the right situation. He showed good speed in the open floor and the ability to finish in the paint. Machado also showed good footwork on the defensive end. While averaging 11.4 points off the bench, this scout can envision Machado as a backup NBA point guard in the future.
Macklin is a 6-foot, 10-inch power forward and a very strong post presence. He physically resembles Zach Randolph and has both a right handed baby hook and running hook as his "go to" moves. The big man has a very strong frame and deceptive athleticism. He has good instincts, uses his body well, feels the defense and reacts naturally, and finishes in the paint. Macklin establishes really good position in the post, often getting the ball deep into the post and makes a quick scoring move. The type of positioning he gets resembles former NBA player Ed Pinckney.
Rice is a shooting guard and primarily a "catch and shoot" guy. He had a career game the night I saw him, scoring 35 points and grabbing 15 rebounds; shot 12-20 from the field and 6-10 from three-point range. Rice, the son of former NBA star Glen Rice, will slash to the rim at times and finishes with some success. He is athletic and finishes in transition as well. Defensively, he shows good lateral movements and a strong desire to defend. He also showed good instincts and understanding of defensive rotations and court awareness. Although under-the-radar in the D-League up until this point, Rice would be a 10-day contract guy as a shooter/scorer and someone that could hold his own defensively.