As the D-League becomes more and more prevalent (and subsequently crucial) in the way NBA teams go about developing their respective prospects, The Association is seeing an increasingly high number of its quality contributors emerge after spending some time in the minor league.
Hard work pays off, and so does the due diligence by NBA teams who are willing to provide their younger players with more opportunities to hit the hardwood and strut their stuff in the D-League before fully coming into their own and making an impact on the bigger and brighter stage.
As a result, multiple minor league alumni have been named to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend this season. The game will feature an USA vs. The World theme.
Among those selected to participate is Shabazz Muhammad, who turned a short but sweet stint with the Iowa Energy last season into a launching pad for proving he has what it takes to play a steady role for the Minnesota Timberwolves. While on assignment last season, he certainly turned heads, averaging 24.5 points and 9.8 rebounds through four games. Since coming into his own this season with Minnesota, the forward has found success, subsequently logging 13.7 points on 48% from the field in 35 contests.
Before rotation minutes came his way with the Utah Jazz this season, Rudy Gobert proved he had plenty of potential in a rather dominant stint with the Bakersfield Jam just last year. In eight games, he averaged 13.9 points (on a staggering 74% from the field), 11.4 rebounds, and 3 blocks through 8 games. While such success hasn't fully translated on the NBA level just yet, the opportunity he was granted in the D-League last season still gave way to him going on to carve out a steady role off the bench.
Not to be denied, Dennis Schroder has also be selected to play in the contest. He's been able to prove his worth for the ever impressive contending Atlanta Hawks this season, but originally turned heads during a six-game stint with the Bakersfield Jam last season. He averaged 17 points and 6.7 assists in the D-League. Having appeared in 49 games all last season long for Atlanta last year, the point guard has already appeared in 44 before the All-Star break this season, averaging 8.3 points and 3.3 assists all the while.