The NBA D-League season recently came to a close, but there isn't much rest for the weary. Nearly forty of the minor league's most intriguing prospects have continued on to strut their stuff at the Elite Mini-Camp in Chicago this week.
With the talent level rather high and the cream of the crop officially on display, players really have the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Should they impress, all the while essentially playing against other worthy players, it'll say that much more about their respective credibility to the NBA teams with representatives in attendance.
All this considered, how did day one go on Monday? What goes on at the camp? Which players were able to stand out accordingly? RidiculousUpside.com spoke with two of the coaches currently working the sidelines in Chicago for a closer look at the action.
"I thought guys came out and competed. The coaches did a great job of getting them in and out of drills. I think that the shooting drills we did showed a lot of good stuff with the players," Camp Leader Bob MacKinnon said. "Our games were competitive, and each one was very close."
"We're about 39 players and 11 coaches. It's great," Santa Cruz Warriors' assistant coach James Andrisevic added. "This is a really talented group, so it was great to get out there and work with everybody."
As for some of the day's top stand-outs, Coach MacKinnon asserted, "I thought Aaron Craft and Brandon Fields played well. Jarell Eddie was shooting the ball nicely. David Wear played well, and Hasheem Thabeet did some really nice things inside."
Of course, having won a minor league championship with Craft just weeks ago, Coach Andrisevic knows exactly what the point guard and fellow Warriors' teammate Taylor Griffin have to offer.
"Aaron is doing really well. He's one of the best defensive players I've ever seen. He demonstrated that with the Warriors, and has definitely brought that with him [to the camp]," the Santa Cruz assistant shared. "Taylor finished the season strong. He's a guy who can stretch the floor and knock down the three. Both of those guys continued to do the same types of things that made them successful in Santa Cruz."
Andrisevic added that during game competitions, players on the team he coached included Maalik Wayns, Jonathan Simmons, Dar Tucker, Jarvis Threatt, Akil Mitchell, Chris Singleton, Shawn Jones, and two of MacKinnon's suggested standouts, Wear and Thabeet.
Still fresh off hitting the D-League hardwood, players and even coaches alike have been thrust out of comfortable situations into a brand new one where they work with a slew of different individuals and must become acclimated with each other rather quickly in order to succeed. Coach Andrisevic said that the fact that there are so many quality people around makes such a task an enjoyable and easy one.
"The good thing about this situation is that these are talented players who played in the D-League for good coaches. We had a team practice in the morning where we went over some concepts and the terminology," he explained. "We keep it basic and put guys in situations where they can best showcase their abilities. They were able to catch on pretty quickly."
As fate would have it, while this showcase of sorts serves as yet another opportunity for these players to grow, develop, and be seen by others, it also happens to serve a similar purpose for the coaches, too. Collaboration is a key component.
"It's great to coach talented players, but working with these other coaches is really great too. I'm paired with Dean Cooper and Tyrone Ellis," Coach Andrisevic continued. "Coming from different situations and different systems this year, coaching together gives us a chance to share ideas and stuff with one another. It's really been beneficial."
For Coach MacKinnon, the opportunity to be in the gym again and work with such players and coaches is a valuable experience in itself. "I'm a big fan of this league. I think the players in our league make up the second best collection players in the world," he went on to conclude. "This did nothing but solidify my opinion of that, especially after seeing these guys out there [in day one.] If you look at the group we have, I think just about any of these guys could be an eleventh through fifteenth player on any NBA team in the league."
With NBA Summer League approaching and training camp to follow after that, it'll be interesting to see if the big league staffers currently in Chicago feel the same way.