It's difficult to make much money while playing in the D-League. That goes without saying. Playing minor league ball is often used as a platform for ultimately breaking into The Association. But for those that fail to catch on with an NBA team right away, the D-League is instead used as a resume piece of sorts in order to garner consideration for a more lucrative contract overseas instead.
Of course, there is an increasingly popular third option. As a players such as P.J. Hairston and Glen Rice Jr. have proven in recent years, the D-League can also serve as a landing spot for those hoping to strut their stuff in the interim prior to earning NBA Draft eligibility in the months to follow.
Norvel Pelle was one of multiple Delaware 87ers' prospects hoping to do so just last season. And while such a strategy paid off for Thanasis Antetokounmpo, others like Pelle and Aquille Carr were only marginally utilized.
Though he appeared in only 35 contests for Delaware, Pelle averaged steady and efficient numbers, with 5.5 points (on 51% from the field), 3.1 rebounds, and an all the more impressive 1.4 blocks in just 13.1 minutes per game.
Standing tall at 6'10," the 22 year old towered over most others hitting the hardwood at the minor league level. After all, should a talented big man be eligible for an NBA call-up, they don't usually remain in the D-League very long. Impressive skill-sets are difficult to come by in players with that type of size and stature.
Last season, the proof was in the pudding for Pelle, despite limited playing time and respective appearances. His per 36 minutes numbers ranked impressively at 15.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks. His per 48 minutes numbers obviously reflected a similar trend, with respective marks of 20.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and an eye-popping 5.1 blocks per contest.
Of course, it's difficult to assert whether or not Pelle would have been able to play with that level of consistency over the course of an entire contest. He should still be considered a bit of a raw prospect. Even so, he's only continued to state his case this season while excelling with the Dacin Tigers of Taiwan. The former 87er has averaged 15 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, and to boot, has shot nearly 50% from the field through 29 games.
Even as a D-League rookie, Pelle represented one of the more talented (and clearly efficient) defensive players in the league. Still, his offensive instincts left a bit more to be desired. He wasn't aggressive enough, as that same level of assertiveness one would expect from a player of this size clearly wasn't present. Obviously still a youngster attempting to find his way playing professional basketball for the first time, perhaps some added confidence was all that was necessary.
In any event, Pelle has slowly but surely begun to develop that in Taiwan, as evidenced by his statistical progression. What's more, the fact that he's been able to maintain stability with an international team thus far is also indicative of a higher maturity level.
In the early goings of his stint with Delaware, it became increasingly clear that Pelle was already beginning to carve out a clear-cut niche in the D-League. He was an impressive shot-blocker, could rebound the ball, as well as serve as an intimidating defensive presence down in the low post. He could do all of the dirty work.
As his awareness on the offensive end continues to develop, Pelle will be adding some nice versatility to his game. By the time he returns home, he may be ready for another stateside look, perhaps from an NBA team during Summer League. Exploring potential diamonds in the rough is what the Las Vegas and Orlando sessions are all about, and there's no doubt Pelle could go on to pay dividends for a team without much to lose and a summer roster spot to fill.