The NBA D-League rosters are like middle school relationships, they always seem to be changing and evolving on a daily basis. This early D-League season has been no different as there have already been eight Gatorade Call-Ups involving six different players, and we may have another soon (Earl Clark to Lakers) according to reports. While we tend to focus on call-ups, acquisitions of players are just as important to the ever-changing fabric of a D-League roster.
Two recent examples have been Jerrelle Benimon and Willie Reed. Benimon was picked up out of the player pool and activated by the Idaho Stampede and the team has seen an immediate return on their investment. Before the signing the Stampede were 0-2 and since the signing they have won two straight and improved to 2-2 in the early going. Benimon has been a key contributor in his first two games averaging 19 points and 13.5 rebounds.
Reed played with the Brooklyn Nets this past summer but was waived after training camp. After checking his options Reed signed to play with Hapeol Eilat in Israel, however after appearing in only one game for them, he decided to make his way back to the states and the NBA D-League. He was placed on the Grand Rapids Drive who were struggling at 0-3 to start their season. Since his addition the Drive are 2-0 and have moved to 2-3 on the year. Reed has come off the bench in both games but is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds while making a ridiculous 81.5 percent of his shots so far.
So, that brings us to these newest additions. The situations are all different of course, but the teams can expect similar results as they have brought in players with extensive NBA experience who are hungry to get that next shot in The Association.
Former NBA players Dahntay Jones (Mad Ants), Nolan Smith (87ers) and Jordan Hamilton (Energy) joined @nbadleague. Any team can call them up.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) November 27, 2014
Jordan Hamilton is joining the Iowa Energy who have been stellar in the early going, posting a 3-0 record. It is yet to be seen if Hamilton will immediately crack the starting lineup, but I would assume that he will come in as a reserve to start and then maybe work his way into being a starter. Iowa already has Patrick Christopher and Damien Wilkins (D-League Performer of the Week) who have been very impressive at shooting guard and small forward; both positions we can expect to see Hamilton playing. The Energy play tomorrow against Reed and the Grand Rapids Drive, so we will get a good view of what Hamilton's role will be.
Dahntay Jones has 589 games on NBA experience and he will bring an aura of confidence and work ethic to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants locker room. The Mad Ants have struggled early going 1-3 so Jones has some work cut out for him. Jones isn't going to wow you on the box score, but his tenacity on defense is something that could become contagious in Fort Wayne. The Mad Ants have a bit of a different situation because there are 13 NBA teams that can assign players to their team. For example, tonight they will play the Delaware 87ers and not only will they have Jones, but they will also have Adreian Payne, John Jenkins (both from Atlanta Hawks) and Glen Rice Jr. (Wizards) so the battle for minutes will be intense.
Hearing Nolan Smith was picked up off waivers by the Delaware 87ers.— D-League Digest (@DLeagueDigest) November 25, 2014
Nolan Smith has joined the Delaware 87ers who are 2-1 so far this year. The 87ers had a very real need at the point guard position and it's likely that Smith will join the starting unit very quickly. Smith was a first round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, but never really caught on an the NBA level. He last played in the D-League during the 2012-13 season for the Stampede and in two games he averaged 22.5 points, 5.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds. Smith brings a unique scoring ability at the lead guard position, but also brings lock down defense that will pester and annoy the opposition.
This is the way of the D-League -- it's a revolving door and recently more and more talent is becoming available in the player pool and via free agent signings, so the competition for playing time will ramp up. Those players at the end of D-League benches will have to prove their worth even more as this influx of talent does not look to be slowing. NBA Call-Ups are rapidly increasing (at this time last season there had only been three call-ups) and it looks like last year's record of 49 will certainly be broken.
Elder statesman like Jones will look to impress and get acclimated to their team's system so that when 10-day contracts come around (January 5th) they will get a look by an NBA front office. Hamilton is only 24-years-old but still has plenty to prove along with 26-year-old Nolan Smith. The time is now and they are certainly going to take advantage of their spotlight in the D-League.