The 2016 NBA D-League Showcase kicked off on Wednesday, giving some of the minor league's most impressive players to begin strutting their stuff in hopes of catching the attention of NBA scouts who arrived in Santa Cruz, hoping to find a diamond or two in the rough.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top performers after the first day of competition.
Sean Kilpatrick, Delaware 87ers
Though his team let a victory slip away from them late in the fourth against the OKC Blue, Delaware's Kilpatrick stood tall as the best player from day one's action. He tallied 35 points on 12 of 25 from the field to go with 7 rebounds. This time last year, the guard was days away from getting traded from the Warriors while still struggling to come into his own as a pro. Since joining Delaware, he's done a full 180 over the last calendar year to ascend up as one of the league's best overall players. A smart offensive player, Kilpatrick knows when to slash to the basket, or fade away for jumpers. He's very aggressive and often has a good read on his defender.
Brandon Ashley, Texas Legends
Ashley helped Texas secure an early victory over the Westchester Knicks by stuffing the stat-sheet all game long. He tallied 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, 1 steal, and even shot 6 of 11 from the field. Count in his positive plus/minus, and Ashley had himself a very nice game. This should open up a lot of eyes that will be focused on him the rest of the week. Can he prove to be consistent enough? At 6'8 and 228 pounds, Ashley is still young, with great mobility, instincts, and a decent wingspan. He's someone to watch because he's a versatile talent a team can develop for one or two seasons into the future.
Tu Holloway, Texas Legends
Whereas Ashley's contributions were spread across the board, Legends' teammate Holloway put together one of the most efficient offensive performers. He led his team with 24 points, doing so in impressive fashion as he knocked down five daggers from deep in the process. Texas moved the ball especially well, and Holloway was a big part of that with 7 assists. He made sure to get his teammates involved, which kept the opposing Knicks' defense on their toes, even as they looked to close out against the Legends' top offensive option. After spending a season overseas last year, Holloway has looked strong in the campaign's preliminary months.
Nick Minnerath, Canton Charge
If a team is looking for someone to space the floor and provide some efficient scoring off the bench, they should probably focus in on Minnerath. The sharpshooting forward is a huge threat from all over the perimeter, and especially downtown as well. At 6'9" and 215 pounds, the former Cavaliers' training camp participant is an overseas competition veteran. At 26, he understands his role quite well and has seemingly gone through some of the necessary maturing phases. If an NBA team wants to gamble on him, he could very well be the second-coming of Steve Novak, who went on to flourish "later" in his professional career after making it rain in the D-League. Minnerath added 24 points off the bench in Canton's victory, and is shooting 45% from deep this season.
Rick Jackson, Delaware 87ers
Like Minnerath, Jackson put together a nice performance for himself off his team's bench. Despite Delaware's loss, Jackson boasted a positive plus/minus and shot an efficient 7 of 9 from the field in just 22 minutes of play. It's clear he's somewhat of a go to guy for his team, as they look for other complementary options around Kilpatrick. But Jackson didn't just score the basketball. He tallied a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with his 15 points. Jackson was strong defensively, and could provide an NBA team with a physical presence off the bench and in practice to help push his teammates if given an opportunity.
On the outside looking in: Jimmer Fredette, Westchester Knicks
There's no doubt the likes of Ashley, Minnerath, and Jackson shined because they proved to be versatile, or have a strong handle on what their respective niche would be in the NBA. After spending plenty of time in the NBA to this point, perhaps the jury is still out on Fredette. After adding 24 points in his team's loss on Wednesday, there's no doubt this talented guard can score the basketball. And although his turnover numbers are higher than desired, he makes an effort to move the ball and the turnovers may only be a result of how very often the ball is actually in his hands. He wouldn't be expected to do the same things in the NBA. He's been strong this season, but consistency isn't the only key for him. He needs to continue proving he can do other things, as a way of asserting he can make an unique impact on the NBA level.