The close affiliation between the Phoenix Suns and Bakersfield Jam is one of the most intimate in all of the D-League. The NBA club uses its affiliate to develop their players and nurture other up and coming talents, as well as coaches.
But as the likes of Archie Goodwin, Jerel McNeal, and TJ Warren hit the hardwood and get their respective reps in the minor league, it can sometimes be difficult for other players to stand out among them while proving they deserve playing time, too.
Luckily for him, there's plenty of uniqueness surrounding Casey Prather's game to help in that regard. The swingman is an athletic freak. Quite an impressive leaper, the high-flying Prather uses his respective abilities to aid him on both ends of the court. Offensively, he's able to throw down thunderous dunks. On defense, he beats opposing scorers to the basket and aims to effect their shot.
There are only a select few athletes around the D-League who can only even challenge Prather's prowess. Still, athleticism isn't everything. A prospect needs to also display a bit of poise in their game in order to prove they have sound fundamentals.
As he plays for the D-League Select Team this week in Las Vegas, there are things he's trying to prove to NBA executives.
"I want to show my heart and competitiveness. I've really been working on my shot," Prather told RidiculousUpside.com. "I want to improve that, and I feel like it's been consistent as of late. I'm not a one way player."
And while a free agent like Prather is hoping to catch on with any NBA team, it can't be denied that the special attention he received from the Suns as an affiliate player has helped him develop even more.
"Being around the Phoenix Suns definitely helped me a lot. Being around them, I was able to get a list of things to work on. They helped me recognize my strengths," he said. "They were always in contact with my head coach (Nate Bjorkgren), and he was able to relay feedback to me."
Players with Prather's abilities could likely earn themselves a more lucrative contract overseas. Still, he completely saw the value in remaining stateside and playing for the Jam.
"I was able to play against NBA professionals every night," the former Florida Gator (who played for new Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan) added. "Playing in the D-League was definitely a beneficial decision."
All while strutting his stuff in Las Vegas this week, Prather has been playing a special supporting role for the D-League Select Team. He's had some some eye-popping blocks and steals that have turned heads. His defense against other Summer League teams' already existent NBA players has been stellar. Prather also logged 13 and 7 rebounds in Monday's win over the Hawks.
"My athleticism definitely helps me on both ends of the floor," he pointed out. "Every time I get beat on defense, I can swoop in and make up for it with my athleticism. It's an advantage for me."
Though Prather wants to prove himself as a well-rounded player this week, it can't be denied that he's among the D-League's best dunkers. If given the opportunity to fly, he believes he could win the contest.
"I'm probably going to do it next year. I was supposed to do it last season, but I hurt my groin," he revealed. "If I come back to the D-League, I'll do it."
Still just 24 years old, Prather is on the younger side when it comes to players on the Select Team. With some great experience under his belt, he'd make for an intriguing prospect to develop.