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Would Ricky Ledo Benefit From Another Season In The NBA D-League?

Ricky Ledo was, essentially, drafted right out of high school, and for that reason he spent the majority of his rookie season as a pro in the D-League. But after 39 games with the Texas Legends, is Ledo ready to make an impact in the NBA, or would he be better suited spending his sophomore campaign in the D-League again?

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Ledo entered the 2013 NBA Draft as a man unknown. After a decorated high school career, which saw ESPN rank him as the 21st top prospect heading into college, Ledo was ruled academically ineligible, forcing him to sit out his entire freshman year at Providence College. However, instead of sticking around for another year to help boost his draft stock, he declared for the draft without having played a single minute of college basketball, and wound up falling to the second round where the Milwaukee Bucks grabbed him with the 43rd overall pick.

Ledo's rights were quickly traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and then, finally, to the Dallas Mavericks, with whom he agreed to a four-year, $3.32 million deal, meaning Ledo signed an NBA contract without having played organised basketball for over a year.

For that reason, Ledo spent the majority of his rookie season in the D-League with the Texas Legends, the Mavericks' direct affiliate. While the end result wasn't bad (he averaged 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 39 games), he had his ups and downs. In the first three months of the season, he failed to shoot over 40 percent, yet in the final 12 games, he proved what he's capable of bringing to the table, scoring 15.0 points per contest on efficient shooting numbers (47.2 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from three).

Therefore, given his late bloom, is Ledo ready to make the jump to the NBA, or would he be better suited spending another season with the Texas Legends in the D-League?

Attacking The Basket

Ledo's biggest strength is his ability to break a defense down and get to the basket. With the Legends, 62.04 percent of his total shot attempts came in the painted area, and he wasn't a bad finisher when he got there (21-for-32 on driving layups). He's very comfortable with the ball in his hands and he has a tight handle for a two-guard. He changes his speed well in half court sets to keep defenses guessing, and while he isn't particularly quick -- he wont blow by his defender play after play -- he's crafty and knows how to get his shot off, using spin moves and hop-steps to create space.

Most importantly, though, he tends to take what the defense gives him instead of forcing the issue, and he's capable of finishing tough shots around the rim.

However, Ledo struggles to finish over height, and the root of the problem is that he isn't very explosive. Although he has good size for a shooting guard (6-foot-6) he's not someone who will finish over a defender or power his way through one. Prior to the draft, his max vertical measured in at 33.5-inches -- one of the worst amongst that class' shooting guards -- and it greatly inhibits his ability to make shots in traffic.

Note: Ledo only shot 43-for-103 on layup shots, which are different from the driving layup shots mentioned above.

He tends to show the team's opposing big the ball by holding it out in front of him, making it easy to block, or try to change his layup midair to avoid getting swatted. Either way, the end result isn't always positive. For someone who drives as much as he does, it's also concerning that Ledo didn't attempt many free throws -- only 2.9 per game, making them at a 71.4 percent clip. He doesn't have a great touch in the paint, either, leading to him missing a lot of gimmes, particularly when he tries to float the ball over a defender instead of laying it in.

Another issue is that he can be predictable offensively. He's not a high volume shooter from beyond the arc and it's clear that he wants to get into the paint. As a result, he sometimes forces the issue by trying to barrel his way through a defender or putting on a move full speed that throws him off balance.

Shooting

Ledo's jump shot was all over the place during his tenure with the Legends. He shot only 29.7 percent in the 26 games he played between December and February, and ended up shooting a below-average 32.8 percent on the season. However, his struggles from 3-point range can, to some degree, be explained.

  1. Adjustment. After missing an entire season's worth of competitive basketball, he could've simply needed time to shake some rust off. As the season wore on, Ledo looked a lot more comfortable with his jump shot, which is a promising sign. (Also, having to jump from high school to the pros is hard enough; throw in a longer 3-point line and it's even more complicated.)
  2. Shot selection. Even if he's a better 3-point shooter than he showed in his time with the Legends, he settled for too many tough shots, especially in the pick-and-roll.
  3. He's not used to playing off the ball. When Ledo had the ball in his hands, he was a lot more effective. However, when he was forced to play more off the ball, he looked uncomfortable. It wasn't rare to see him float around the perimeter for a heavy amount of minutes, leading to only a handful of shot attempts by the game's end.

All in all, though, Ledo showed off the ability to knock down outside shots when he gets going. He hit three or more 3-pointers in six games with the Legends and knocked down a total of 44 in 39 games. If he's able to convert threes at a respectable rate, it will open up his driving game dramatically.

Note: Ledo failed to score in double figures 12 times with the Legends, and in those games, he shot 4-for-33 from three. It's no secret that being able to space the floor is integral for his development. Ledo didn't take many midrange shots with the Legends, either, with only 44 of his 469 attempts coming from there.

Assists

Although Ledo is, primarily, a scorer, he spent a lot of time as the team's point guard and did a good job of distributing the ball. (In fact, heading into the draft, some scouts projected him as a point guard instead of a shooting guard.) Ledo only averaged 2.9 assists on the season but he had a handful of games in which he handed out six or more assists; evidence that he can command an offense. He flirted with a triple double twice, too, falling one assist shy against the Vipers and two shy against the Toros.

Ledo has two things working for him as a playmaker: His size, which helps when it comes to passing out of the pick-and-roll, and his ability to seamlessly get into the paint. He's also a smart player who knows where to put the ball. And although he lacks explosiveness, he has good control of his body, which allows him to absorb some contact, contort his body, and dish off a pass midair.

Turnovers are an issue, though. Ledo still makes passes that you wouldn't expect from a pro, be it forcing one over the top of two defenders or saving the ball from going out of bounds by throwing it towards his own basket. It's like he knows what the right play is, but fails to read the defense and adjust accordingly. He also gets caught up in the air too often, forcing him to make a tough pass or float it over defenders, and tries to make a play out of nothing; all of which culminating in a poor assist-to-turnover ratio (1.34).

Defense

As is the case with most young players, Ledo has a lot of work to do on the defensive end. He only averaged 0.9 steals and 0.2 blocks per game with the Legends, marks that ranked him near the bottom of the league.

Effort is the biggest question mark with him, though. He sometimes doesn't look engaged at that end of the floor, evident by him simply standing up straight instead of getting down low in a defensive stance. To add to that, he doesn't always close out well on shooters, he falls asleep and gets caught ball watching, and he's not particularly quick moving laterally, leading to offensive players taking him off the dribble too easily. He sometimes struggles to contest outside shots, too, as a result of not being a great leaper.

Overall

It's important to remember that Ledo basically came right out of high school, and for the most part that was evident in how he performed with the Legends. There were some games when he wasn't a factor at all, like when he scored only two points on 1-for-4 shooting and committed four turnovers in 22 minutes against the Tulsa 66ers. But there were other times when he had his fingerprints all over the game, such as when he put up 22 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and only two turnovers in a win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

For that reason, Ledo isn't quite ready to make an impact in the NBA. Yet the good news is that time is on the side of both the Mavericks and Ledo. After a busy offseason, which saw them add Chandler Parsons, Al-Farouq Aminu, Richard Jefferson and Jameer Nelson to their backcourt, the Mavericks can afford to let Ledo develop more in the D-League. After all, his game still needs some refining, which is to be expected given his unique situation, and they aren't relying on him to give them an extra spark off the bench right now.

Nevertheless, Ledo certainly has the skills to be an impactful player in the future. He's got great size for a shooting guard and his ability to create his own shot, get into the paint, and find the open man sets him apart from most two-guards in his class. The biggest hurdles in front of him are improving his jump shot and becoming more consistent overall, both of which should be correctable.

What it all boils down to is Ledo flaunted off his potential in his rookie year. Now it's time to put it all together over the course of an entire season, and the D-League gives him the best platform to make that possible.

All stats gathered from the D-League's official website and Draft Express.