Over the last few years, more NBA teams have been selecting players in June’s NBA Draft with the assumption that they’ll spend their rookie season in the D-League. These moves fall under “domestic draft-and-stash” where the players avoid more lucrative overseas deals to spend their entire rookie season with that team’s D-league affiliate.
This trend began in 2014 when the Oklahoma City Thunder picked Josh Huestis with 29th pick and Semaj Christon with the 55th overall pick. Those selections came with the thought that they’d both spend their entire rookie season in the NBA D-League. While the jury is still out on their individual careers will go, it should be considered as a positive that both players are currently in OKC’s rotation.
That move from OKC sent a precedent for the 2015-16 season as five teams (Grizzlies, Thunder, Magic, Mavericks, Cavaliers) all stashed one of their prospects to the D-League. Those prospects included: Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Tyler Harvey, Satnam Singh and Sir’Dominic Porter. Of those players, both Johnson and Singh are still in the D-League while Harrison is now inside the Hornets’ rotation.
One year later, the Boston Celtics finally decided to join those handful of teams in the ongoing “draft-and-stash” phenomenon. The Celtics did that by sending 56th overall pick Abdel Nader to the Maine Red Claws, their D-league affiliate. That seemed to be the obvious move as the Celtics already had a solid core in place that allows them to be a contending Eastern Conference squad. Alongside that, Nader only one season in college where he played more than twenty minutes. It made a lot of sense for the Celtics to stick Nader in Maine to allow him to gain some more experience.
However, not even the most optimistic person would’ve expected Nader to start his D-League career the way he has. In his first three games with the Maine Red Claws, Nader has averaged 27 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game on 55% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc. Although that’s still an extremely small sample size, it might be a sign that Nader could have a dominantseason in the NBA D-League.
As might be apparent from those numbers, Nader is a two-way player that can contribute in a multitude of different ways on the offensive end from on-ball cuts, perimeter jumpers and facilitating. Although he’s solid in all those traits, Nader’s best skill probably comes as an on-ball cutter.
Despite not being the most athletic or strongest player in the D-League, Nader makes up for it through a quick first step and smooth handles. Following that initial first step, Nader can move towards the paint by being able to switch speeds or directions on a dime. Both of those traits are seen in the play below, where he’s able to work through the RGV VIpers defense before putting up a shot over Rockets prospects Chinanu Onuaku.
As a perimeter shooter, Nader has made some huge progress since he first started his college career with Northern Illinois. During his first three seasons at Northern Illinois and Iowa State, Nader wasn’t able to shoot better than 30% from beyond the arc. Luckily, Nader made many strides during his senior season as he pushed his 3-point percentage from 22% as a junior to 37%.
That significant progression seems rather pedestrian compared to how he’s shot during his first three NBADL games. Shooting 47% from beyond the arc, Nader has shined both as an off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot scorer. While many of Nader’s jumpers have been through catch-and-shoots, he’s more than comfortable with shooting his shot after crossing up on a foe. A prime example is seen in the play below.
Nader’s final form of offensive production is his work as a facilitator. Despite standing as a 6’6 wing that can switch between shooting guard and small forward, Scott Morrison and the Maine Red Claws have entrusted Nader to regularly take the ball up the court and lead the offense. So far, Nader has done a terrific job of working as a point forward by averaging 4.3 assists per game with a 1.86 Ast/TO ratio. At this point, Nader does his best work as a drive-and-dish player, evident in the below clip.
Although the season is still very young, Nader has already established himself as arguably the best wing in the NBA D-League. With a mix of versatility and insane efficiency (Nader maintains a 66% TS%), the Red Claws guard stands out as a must-watch player whenever he’s on the court. Those two traits could allow Abdel Nader to have a successful career when he’s able to make his debut with the Boston Celtics.