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NBA D-League Faces, Far Away Places: Mustafa Shakur Leading the Way

Many players who were in the NBA's D-League last season have either moved on to the NBA or are playing overseas. This is meant to focus on the latter, where each week you will get some insight into how former D-League players are performing with their new teams.

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It's early October, but there are still so many of the top leagues not yet in full force The Italian Serie A, Greek A1, Israeli Winner League, and the Russian VTB will all play their opening games this upcoming weekend. Look for some updates from those players in next week's installment of D-League Faces, Far Away Places.

That said, there are still a few leagues with games finally underway, so here's a look are three players who have had a smooth start (disclaimer: early statistics can sometimes be misleading).

Mustafa Shakur - Neptunas Klaipeda (Lithuanian LKL)

Shakur split time between the Erie BayHawks and the Tulsa 66ers (now the Oklahoma City Blue) last year in the NBADL, and even played three games with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Now he travels over the pond to play in the top league of Lithuania, the LKL. Neptunas, the team he plays for, has started the season 5-0 and leads the LKL in the standings. Shakur has played four games and leads the team in scoring (14.5) and assists (5.5), and he does all of this in only 18.5 minutes per game. Shakur is the starting point guard however 10 players on the team play 16 or more minutes per night -- a stark difference from what you will see in the NBA or even the D-League in a couple of weeks.

Shakur is the lone American on the team and though its early, it looks like its going to be a great season for the 30-year-old point guard. In the opening week of the season he earned Player of the Week honors as well as he's posted efficient shooting number across the board: 68.4 percent overall, 54.5 percent from 3-point range and 93.3 percent from the charity stripe.

Scott Suggs - Chalon (France Pro A)

Suggs was selected by the Santa Cruz Warriors in the D-League Draft last November, but then he was subsequently traded to the Erie BayHawks --- where he played in 47 games last season. He most recently played for the Miami Heat in the NBA's Summer League.

Suggs is playing in the French Pro A where he joins a cesspool of American players like Kenny Boynton (Florida), Erving Walker (Florida), Darlyl Watkins (Syracuse) and Stephen Gray (Gonzaga). Suggs is the starting shooting guard for Chalon and he has four other Americans in the starting lineup with him as well; quite the contrast from the aforementioned Shakur.

Chalon has started 1-1 over the first two games and Suggs has averaged 13.5 points and three assists in 27.5 minutes in the early going. Eight players are averaging 15 minutes or more for Chalon so Suggs has had to pick his spots shooting 8-15 field goals (2-5 from three). Certainly, 7.5 shots per game is much less than we might expect from a starting shooting guard however the international game is different and players must adapt.

Trent Lockett - Braunschweig (German BBL)

Lockett played with the Reno Bighorns last year and appeared in 46 games. This summer he played with the D-League Select team in Las Vegas before heading over to the land of bratwurst and sauerkraut.

Lockett is the starting shooting guard for Braunschweig who has started their season 1-1. Lockett plays on an All-American starting five in the German BBL with two notables being center Kyle Visser (Wake Forest) and Tim Abromitis (Notre Dame). Those three are the only players averaging 10 or more points per game so far and Lockett comes in at 17 points a night on 40 percent shooting, but the most notable thing for me is he's averaging four free throw attempts per game; which shows he's being aggressive.

Trent is the best shooter on this team, so his role will be to knock down open looks and on occasion create for himself. If he wants to make the transition into an NBA shooting guard, the latter of those skills will be the one that needs the most work.

*All stats listed in this article were sourced from Eurobasket