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2016-17 NBADL Team Preview: Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Editor Dakota Schmidt continues Ridiculous Upside’s 2016-17 NBADL season preview by taking a look at the Fort Wayne Mad Ants

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Opening Day Starting Five

Point Guard: Chris Fowler

Shooting Guard: Travis Leslie

Small Forward: Trey McKinney-Jones

Power Forward: Ben Bentil

Center: Adam Woodbury

How Did They Do Last Year?

For the first time since the 2011-12 season, the Mad Ants finished below .500 as they ended the 2015-16 campaign with a 20-30 record. Those struggles were due to the team’s offensive struggles, as they averaged 101.8 points per game, 18th highest average in the entire D-League. Although C.J,Fair did have a solid offensive weapon, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on 48% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Aside from him, the Mad Ants didn’t have much in the way of consistent scoring threats, even though Rakeem Christmas and Shayne Whittington both had solid seasons in the team’s front-court.

How Will They Do This Year?

Will probably do a whole lot better than last year as the team will feature a pretty deep crop of players. The Mad Ants features a pretty stable eight man rotation that could feature some of the best players in the entire NBA D-League. That’s especially evident in the team’s front-court as they feature a very solid quartet in Alex Poythress, Ben Bentil, Adam Woodbury and Christian Watford. Poythress and Bentil are probably at the center of that, as both players head to the D-League after solid college careers.

Poythress is a strong 6’7 forward that’s always a threat to lay down a vicious alley-oop. Meanwhile, Bentil is a 6’9 forward that might stand as one of the more versatile offensive weapons in the entire NBA D-League. Back in May, we wrote a more thorough piece about him.

Transitioning over to Mad Ants backcourt which is headlined by two NBADL veterans: Trey McKinney-Jones and Travis Leslie. Back in 2013-14 and 2014-15, McKinney-Jones stood as arguably one of the best guards in the entire NBADL as he could score in a variety of different ways. This video below shows what McKinney-Jones is capable of as an offensive threat.

One player to keep your eyes on is current Mad Ants guard Chris Fowler, who enters the NBA D-League after a great career at Central Michigan. Throughout his college career, Fowler stood as a pretty tremendous facilitator, averaging 5.7 assists per game with a stable 2.1 Ast/TO ratio.

Who Is Most Likely Called Up?

Despite there being a solid crop of players on the Mad Ants roster, I’ll have to give the edge to Ben Bentil. As previously mentioned, Bentil is a very versatile player that can contribute in a plethora of different ways on the offensive end. Back in that same mid-May piece, I wrote the following on why Bentil is such an intriguing player.

Most Likely Assignee?

From our view, there’s two Pacers prospects that should spend some time with the Mad Ants: Georges Niang and Rakeem Christmas. Christmas is no stranger to the Mad Ants, as he played 48 games with the team during the 2015-16 season. During that time, Christmas averaged 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 47% from the field for the Mad Ants. At this point in the young season, it looks like Christmas should be heading back to Fort Wayne. That’s due to him only playing one game where he only played 7 minutes.

On the other hand, former Iowa State forward Georges Niang is another Pacer player that seems likely to be heading to the NBA D-League. That’s due to the pacers putting Niang in the back of the team’s rotation, as he trails both Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen at power forward.

Will Travis Leslie Make It Back To The D-League All-Star Game?

One of the biggest stories about the upcoming D-League season is the return of 2013 NBADL All-Star game MVP Travis Leslie. Back in the 2012-13 season, Leslie stood as one of the finest players in the entire D-League during his stint with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Averaging 15.4 points, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 49% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc, Leslie stood as a player that be solid on both ends of the court.

Three years later, Leslie returns to the D-League after a successful stint in Europe where he played in France, Germany and Lithuania. Based on those overseas numbers, Leslie continued to display himself as an excellent two-way threat. The odds are on Leslie to continue being a well-rounded player as he makes his D-League return. If he’s able to accomplish that, then we should be seeing Leslie as a D-League All-Star.