On day three of the 2016 NBA D-League Showcase on Friday, players really seemed to heat up as the minor league event reached its hump day. With plenty of teams playing in their second game of the Showcase (and in the case of the Reno Bighorns and Santa Cruz Warriors, their firsts), some of the most promising young guns appeared to be getting into a special rhythm.
With that in mind, day three seemed to be the most competitive and rather spirited day of gameplay thus far. Here's a look at some of the top performers from Friday. Needless to say, there was no shortage of players who stepped up to the plate.
Keifer Sykes, Austin Spurs
Hitting the hardwood and playing like a rather masterful floor general, Sykes proves it's only a matter of time until he makes it to the NBA; that is, as long as stays the course and doesn't go overseas. He's a very smart player who can easily control the tempo of a game and make his teammates look really good. Though Austin lost a heartbreaking buzzer-beater game to the BayHawks, Sykes added with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and boasted a plus/minus of +3 despite the defeat. He only had 1 actual assist, but there's no doubt the "hockey assist" was Sykes' friend. He knows how to move the ball and help his team spread the floor. The guard also shot 6 of 7 from the charity stripe. Having been thrust into this new starting role, Sykes has done a phenomenal job leading this squad.
Darington Hobson, Santa Cruz Warriors
Another player who shined despite a team loss, Hobson almost single-handedly carried Santa Cruz back late in the fourth quarter during one of the team's worst overall performances this season. They fell behind big early, but Hobson showed a lot of heart and persistence as he seemed to make big plays again and again. The forward did it all, tallying a near triple-double with 24 points, 18 points, and 8 assists. The maturity Hobson has shown over the last calendar year as a professional player is really remarkable. He's emerging as a leader, and a smart one at that. His ability to leave his fingerprints all over a game should endear him to plenty of NBA teams looking for versatility in the form of a ten day contract signee.
Erick Green, Reno Bighorns
Another loss, but another huge performance here. Like Hobson, Green was another player who seemingly carried his team (almost) to victory all by himself. The guard tallied what could arguably be submitted as the Showcase's best performance. Hobson, Sean Kilpatrick, and Raphiael Putney should watch out. Green was downright unstoppoable offensively, pouring in 37 points in a rather efficient manner. He attacked the basket, went to the charity stripe, beat his defenders off the dribble, and knocked down six daggers from downtown. It was a special performance. He beat the defense in different ways over and over. When the Knicks seemed to figure out something about his success, he would simply just cash in by doing something else.
Darion Atkins, Westchester Knicks
Atkins' versatile effort, unlike his aforementioned counterparts here, actually led his team to a victory. Atkins' consistency this season has really been something NBA teams should be keeping an eye on. Some scouts say he's undersized to compete with other NBA bigs. Others want to continue monitoring his progress as a first-year pro before taking the chance. Nevertheless, Atkins' overall play and on-the-court grit suggests he deserves to be hitting a big league hardwood sooner rather than later. As the Knicks continued their surprisingly successful season, Atkins, in part, continued stating his early case for a Defensive Player of the Year award. The forward added 15 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocked shots, and 2 steals. Perhaps most remarkably, he was a +23, despite just an one point victory for Westchester. It's difficult to keep him off the court. As he soars, so do the Knicks. Defense aside, he knows how to move the ball after drawing in double-teams. Atkins is an intelligent youngster.
Devin Ebanks, Grand Rapids Drive
Ebanks' strong performance in leading the Drive to victory was merely further proof that Friday was a day that saw the league's top swingmen shine brightly. The well known NBA vet was a difficult player to stop on the offensive end, leading his team with 25 points on 9 of 16 from the field. He added 6 rebounds as well, but pouring in the points was clearly his speciality on this day. Ebanks was very active and took charge relatively early on. He got to the free throw line nicely and connected on four long balls. There's no doubt he can score the basketball; now it's time to wonder if that will be enough to keep NBA interest, despite a checkered past.