On Saturday night, Tim Ohlbrecht won his second NBA D-League championship in as many seasons.
Ironically enough, no one team in the minor league has complete back-to-back championship victories. There's no dynasty being created here. Instead, Ohlbrecht stands tall as the only player that was on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers' roster last year, and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants' one this season as well.
Last year, Ohlbrecht made the most of his first stateside professional campaign while strutting his stuff for RGV. NBA executives around the league were impressed by the big man's versatility, because frankly, he could do a little bit of everything. In addition to being a seven-footer with a touch of finesse on the offensive end, the German National Team member is a pestering defensive force inside who likes to use his long arms and physicality to grab rebounds and potentially swap/swipe the ball out of an opposing player's hands.
Though he boasted plenty of potential, Ohlbrecht was still a raw international prospect who could have used a bit more time to develop. After signing the big man to a multi-year deal midseason (seemingly securing him for themselves while they watched him develop), the NBA-affiliated Rockets assigned him back to the Vipers for much of the year anyway, allowing him to help the Vipers win a title as they patiently waited, and enjoyed what they saw, in the meantime.
By the time the summer of 2013 rolled around, a championship push had begun in Houston, and as such, open roster spots were needed. As fate would have it, Ohlbrecht lost his, and after being subsequently picked up, then released by the 76ers soon after, the 25 year old was left to reflect and explore his options for the season to come.
After some of reflection, Ohlbrecht opted to return to the Vipers (they still owned his D-League rights) full-time. Despite initially coming off the bench for RGV, the big man eventually stepped back into the starting role in which he belonged. Whether Ohlbrecht needed time to adjust to new coach Nevada Smith's run and gun offense (or vice versa), he was eventually able to prove himself versatile enough to give the team valuable minutes, even as a big man.
As Ohlbrecht began to get into his groove again, the Mad Ants found themselves without a center following the overseas departure of D-League vet Brian Butch. Offering the Vipers a future draft pick in this year's coming D-League Draft, Fort Wayne was able to net themselves a quality center in the former Rocket via a trade.
After joining the Mad Ants, Ohlbrecht came off the bench in all thirteen of the contests he appeared in. That said, he played comparable minutes and filled a similar role. One of the most offensively efficient centers in all of the minor league, the young gun puts the ball in the basket at quite the impressive clip, consistently over 60% from the field. And of course, he can rebound the ball and act as a bruiser inside, competing with the best of them.
Ohlbrecht doesn't represent the ideal fit in neither RGV's favored system, nor that of Fort Wayne's for the matter. Having said that, the types of things he can do on the court makes him extra valuable, and warranted each coaching staff to work harder to incorporate him, ensuring he was featured on offense enough to get respectable looks. In both cases, such efforts went on to benefit each team tremendously.
Thus, perhaps it could be argued that Ohlbrecht has represented the "special sauce" of sorts in each respective squad's championship victory. Could his 11 point, 8 rebound effort off the bench for Fort Wayne in their game two victory over the Warriors have been the big man's last game in the D-League for a while?
Following a cup of coffee in the NBA, more time to develop, proven versatility, and now two championship rings to call his own, there are hopefully bigger and better things ahead for Ohlbrecht. He could prove to be a valuable commodity for an international team, or perhaps better yet, find a role in the NBA sooner rather than later. It's safe to say he's done enough to warrant further consideration at this point.
After all, versatile and talented big men are difficult to come by in the NBA. While Ohlbrecht's available, perhaps it's better to snatch him up now and take a chance, before someone else does.