The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (D-League affiliate of the Rockets) have arguably boasted the most talented and versatile roster to hit the minor league hardwood all season long.
While much of that is due to the Rockets organization's ability to utilize the minors effectively to nurture and/or development some promising home grown talent, another component to achieving such success has been RGV's solid trades. This season, the team earlier acquired NBA vets like Andrew Goudelock and Hassan Whiteside.
The team only continued to pack on the talent and notable NBA experience by acquiring D-League All-Star D.J. Kennedy from the Erie BayHawks in a five player deal on Monday.
Kennedy has been included in NBADL M.V.P. talks all season long for his ever so versatile efforts to help lead the way for Erie along with recently signed Hornets big man Henry Sims. He's been having a stellar campaign by embracing a leadership role, but his reputation as a tweener in the NBA has presumedly been what's held him back from the next level so far this year.
Having a talented roster from A to Z stacked with all of the potential in the world, RGV undoubtedly had no problem taking a chance on a player of Kennedy's caliber to get a closer look in order to find out if Kennedy's dreams to break back into the NBA are more in reach than most think. Along with the St. John's alum, the Vipers re-acquired Mike Singletary, who they had originally been traded to the BayHawks in the three-team deal for Goudelock earlier this season.
Coming to town for the BayHawks include Wesley Witherspoon and Terrell Harris. Erie also acquired the NBADL rights to Mustafa Shakur, who is represented by NBA super-agent Leon Rose.
It will be interesting to see if a player like Shakur, who has been playing most recently overseas in Italy, will be enticed to play in the D-League as a member of the BayHawks. The Knicks (the parent squad of Erie) have a strong relationship with Rose and his agency. Perhaps the Knicks' added consideration and guidance for the 28 year old Shakur will be enough to convince his agent that the D-League is the best place for his client at this time.
Coincidentally enough, the traded away Singeletary shares an agent with Knicks guard James White.
Nevertheless, this trade (for both squads involved) appeared to be about weighing potential and/or readiness to contribute now or in the near future. Kennedy's been phenomenal all season long, but his failure to stick in the NBA thus far may leave many key decision makers wondering why. The Vipers (and the Rockets) not only have the patience and potential curiosity to find out for themselves, but a landing spot like RGV could be one Kennedy comes to only to thrive, as many others before him have under the special guidance of his new organization.
Witherspoon impressed in Spurs' training camp last fall, but has since bounced around in the D-League. Perhaps with two key players out in Erie, Witherspoon will swoop right in to capitilze on some extra minutes. Harris was seen playing for the NBA champion Heat in each of the last two seasons. He may be more NBA ready than anyone else involved in the deal, so perhaps the BayHawks' interest in him comes from the Knicks' own curiosities.
New York has been in need of guard help in the most recent months. With Kenyon Martin still only playing on a ten-day contract, Rasheed Wallace out for the season, and Chris Copeland currently in Mike Woodson's doghouse, perhaps there's flexibility to be had if a player like Harris looks like an NBA worthy contributor for Erie in the coming weeks.