The Sioux Falls Skyforce are off to the best start in D-League history at 18-4. As they keep racking up the victories, the possibility of a 40 win season gets higher and higher. Forty wins would be a D-League record, two wins more than the Los Angeles D-Fenders' 2010-2011 record of 38-12. A season long winning percentage of .800 is an incredible clip, but the Skyforce's current rate of .818 makes it a distinct possibility.
While it's likely the Skyforce will slow down at some point this season, they're winning in a sustainable way, with defense. Sioux Falls is blowing away the league with their defensive prowess, currently allowing just 95 points per 100 opponent possessions. The second ranked team in defensive rating, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, gives up an average of 99 points. To put that in perspective, the Mad Ants aren't four points better defensively than the next seven teams on the list.
Sioux Falls doesn't slouch on the offensive end either, they're 10th in the league averaging 102.3 points per game and 2nd when it comes to field goal percentage at 47.6%. In fact, the Skyforce are as complete a team there is in the D-League this season. The Miami Heat affiliate ranks in the top ten in just about every major statistical category including rebounds per game, three-point percentage, and assists per game.
Even with a top winning percentage and their statistics so far this season, maintaining their great start won't be easy for the Skyforce. Changes happen quickly and inevitably in the D-League and none more so than player departures. Sioux Falls was witness to this as forward Jarnell Stokes was recalled by the Miami Heat over the weekend. Stokes has been a workhorse in 14 games with the Skyforce this season, averaging nearly a double-double with 20.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He's routinely turned in dominant performances like his 28 point, 15 rebound game against Fort Wayne last week.
There's no doubt the departure of a player like Stokes is going to impact the way Sioux Falls plays, but don't expect a huge drop off. The Skyforce are deep on their bench with seven players appearing in nineteen or more games and scoring at least five points per contest. Look for DeAndre Liggins and Keith Benson to pick up on the boards where Stokes left off.
A team like Sioux Falls isn't built around a single player like Stokes. It's reliant on spreading the ball on offense and a consistent defense. With the constant player movement in the D-League, teams can't be dependent on an individual and expect to win. Stokes is a great player who may be back in Sioux Falls soon (he's been recalled by Miami four times this season), but whether he's there or not, look for the Skyforce to continue their winning ways and reach for 40 wins.