Just two games into the D-League season, James Michael McAdoo is already garnering consideration as one of the most likely early NBA call-up candidates. Stuffing the stat-sheet at an eye-popping rate, the forward has averaged 22 points (on 54% from the field), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2.5 steals through the Santa Cruz Warriors' 1-1 start.
Needless to say, he's been outright dominant.
Having spent NBA training camp this past fall with Golden State, and after turning up on mock drafts for the past couple of years now, McAdoo is certainly somewhat of a well-known commodity already. His time to break into The Association could be sooner, rather than later.
Dealing with the departure of a quality player to the NBA is nothing new for Santa Cruz. Many of the team's key players have moved on to greener pastures midseason rather quickly, due to the great development system in place out in Surf City.
After advancing to the D-League Finals in each of the last two seasons, the team has proven to be successful, all the while making rapid fire adjustments amid the various challenges the minor league can thrust a respective squad's way.
"The good thing about the D-League is that success comes in many different forms," head coach Casey Hill told RidiculousUpside.com recently. "It can be in developing a player and getting them a call-up or a good deal. It could be seeing a player flourish in an area in which he otherwise hasn't. Obviously, winning games is the ultimate goal. If we can capture all shades, then that's the ultimate success."
He continued, "I think we accomplished some of that last year, getting the number of call-ups we had, and then watching other guys take over to fill the voids. They took advantage of those opportunities I think the chemistry we had in the locker room had a big impact on those guys taking advantage of those opportunities. That's what we're focused on this year. There's a familiarity and camaraderie that's difficult to ignore."
Last season, some of those very call-ups included Dewayne Dedmon, Hilton Armstrong, and Seth Curry. Dedmon (currently) remains with the Orlando Magic, Hilton Armstrong has ventured to Turkey after finishing up last season with Golden State, and Curry was traded to the Erie BayHawks after spending NBA camp with the affiliated Magic.
"Obviously, we're going to be different. We won't be as dominant inside as we've been in years past. But I don't think that'll be a shortcoming for us," Coach Hill said as he discussed his early impressions of this season's team. "I think we'll focus on the other strengths that we have. We have a lot of length, athleticism, and strength."
With a new campaign already underway, McAdoo is clearly impressing early on, and could be first in a long line of positive departures.
But as he looks around for some constants across his roster, Coach Hill knows exactly who to turn to.
"I lean on Mo Baker all the time. He's been the guy I've been with the longest out of all these people," the coach said of the D-League vet who's now in his eighth season. "He and I are the last remaining Dakotans. He understands me and what I want to accomplish with this group."
With affiliate players from Golden State and past NBA players such as Elliot Williams and Carrick Felix currently hitting the hardwood for Santa Cruz, it's understandable why it may otherwise be difficult for the other players on the roster to stand out. That said, Coach Hill takes comfort in the fact that another returning player happens to be someone he can depend on.
"Mychel Thompson's another guy," he added. "My expectations of Mychel have been met. I don't lean on him much, but I could if I had to. He's done a great job of understanding my routine and my coaching style, in a way that I need him to. He leads by example in a sense, so he's been very good."
There are so many moving parts on D-League teams from season to season, so each new year is considered a fresh start for the squads. While it's difficult to develop continuity, Santa Cruz does happen to boast five returning players. What's more, Coach Hill and assistant James Andrisevic spent some time during training camp with Golden State, and are each coming off respective NBA Summer League stints working with the big league staff.
With all of that in mind, coupled with the team's past success, it's not out of the question for those around the league (and perhaps even Coach Hill himself) to expect the Warriors to compete for a third straight trip to the D-League Finals, let alone, a championship victory.
"There's always going to be that pressure. I don't think you're a very good coach if you're not putting pressure on yourself," he said.