Following a strong showing at the NBA D-League Showcase this week, Bakersfield Jam swingman James Nunnally officially signed with the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
Such a promotion has been a long time coming for Nunnally, now in his second minor league season. A year ago Saturday marks the first time RidiculousUpside.com spoke with the swingman. At last year's Showcase, Nunnally was a young gun just hungry for a shot. Determined to earn more minutes, he compared his skill set to that of Bruce Bowen.
As the season progressed, Nunnally slowly but surely received those minutes he desired, and went on to, in turn, deserve as well. Playing his way further into the lineup as a sixth man, the swingman's prowess from long range earned him more comparisons to another Spurs player. But this time, it was current San Antonio sharpshooter and fellow D-League alumni Danny Green.
After finally breaking onto the scene with a string of of strong postseason outings last season, Nunnally has since burst out like a rocket on his quest to becoming a name first on the minds of NBA executives when considering players worthy of a potential call-up.
Following a NBA Summer League stint with the Miami Heat and training camp with the Jam-affiliated Phoenix Suns, Nunnally returned to the D-League. Like many prospects, Nunnally faced the questions many up and comers are often met with. After experiencing a bit of success, does one venture overseas and cash in on a more lucrative contract? Or better yet, or does one stick around in the minor league, hoping that NBA call-up instead subsequently follows soon after?
Needless to say, Nunnally's decision to return to Bakersfield has paid off, as he was quickly able to emerge as a bit of a D-League star.
RidiculousUpside.com caught up with the swingman on the heels of his solid Showcase (he averaged 19.5 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and shot 50% from deep) once again.
Nunnally reflected upon the progress he's made from year one to year two, saying, "My second season is going a lot better. My first season in the D-League was probably one of the best ones, with regard to the team I was a part of. We had a great group of guys and won a lot of games. Those were NBA caliber guys, guys who were leaders. They helped us win a lot of guys, and I had a small role on the team. But everyone played their role well. That was a good experience just because I was around those guys."
He added, "The second year has been all good. We have a different group of guys, but they're all hungry. We all want to prove ourselves, just like I came in last year. We have guys like that. These guys are willing to learn and get better."
Clearly, this season has seen Nunnally emerge as a leading man in the Jam's offense. It's a role he's fully been able to embrace and thrive in. The swingman asserted, "I'm comfortable. It's just basketball to me, but I'm learning new things and doing what I can do to help the team, showing that I help this squad or any other team that will want me. I'm just learning. It's good to learn on the go and play well."
Of course, Bakersfield was confident in Nunnally's abilities enough to look to him to carry the scoring load, but what's been the difference in the young gun's own increased comfort level? He added, "I'm just been working hard. I was in the gym all summer and took everything that I learned last season [in Bakersfield] with me. I learned even more with Miami in Summer League, and Phoenix in training camp. The game is coming a lot easier to me now. Things have slowed down. I kind of know what's going to happen and what to expect. That's been the difference for me."
Nunnally joked that although he was still the youngest player on the Jam in age, he didn't mind lending a helping hand to those other prospects who are currently in their first D-League season. The fact of the matter is that being a pro in your second D-League season makes you a bit of a veteran, so Nunnually is undoutedly able to relate to those others who may look to him as a leader.
As he joins the Hawks, Nunnally ironically enough, enters into a situation where he's looked at as a youngster once again. He'll be the one leaning on veterans for guidance. Still, he appeared confident in what he could do to help a team, adding he has plenty to offer.
Nunnally concluded by saying, "We all know I can shoot, but I don't want to be labeled as just a shooter. I'm pretty good in a lot of areas on the floor. I have a high basketball IQ. I'm just a winner, man! I know what it takes to win and I can just adapt to any situation. I feel as though I can help any team."