The common rule of thumb when judging draft picks is that you should wait two or three years before making any concrete judgements. With the high rate of roster turnover on a year-to-year basis in the NBA D-League, waiting that amount of time to make judgements just isn't possible.
As we just recently passed the halfway point in the season and with the All-Star Game right around the corner, it's a great time to look back at the 2015 NBA D-League Draft and determine a few of the players that are performing well beyond where they were selected.
Walter Lemon Jr. - Fort Wayne Mad Ants - 2nd Round (38th Overall)
Though he was the last pick of the second round, the Mad Ants made their first pick of the draft count with their selection of Lemon. As a team they rank towards the back of the pack in points per game, but they'd be hurting even worse if it weren't for the efforts of this dynamic guard. He's shown the ability to step out and hit the three-ball, but he's also comfortable attacking the rim despite his wiry frame.
He's currently third on the team in scoring and effective field goal percentage, while also placing first in assist percentage. Though he started the season coming off of the bench, Lemon has worked his way into the starting lineup and has excelled since then. With the difficulties that they've been having offensively, Lemon has been the perfect fit for what Fort Wayne has needed this year.
Joel Wright - Iowa Energy - 3rd Round (45th Overall)
Much like the Mad Ants, the Energy have had trouble getting the ball through the hoop this year. They rank 15th in points per game, but have managed to hang around largely due to the efforts of Wright offensively. Selected seven picks behind Lemon, Wright doesn't fit the mold that the NBA is moving towards in terms of small forwards. He's not someone that will stretch the floor, but he is relentless in attacking the rim and finishing through contact.
In addition to his contributions scoring, Wright has been creating for others as well, ranking third on the team in assists. Beyond that, he's also second on the team in rebounding which is made even more impressive by the fact that he plays with a glass eater like Alex Stepheson. Overall he's been one of the top wings in the entire D-League this season and has easily outmatched most of the players taken before him.
Verdell Jones - Santa Cruz Warriors - 3rd Round (57th Overall)
After tearing his ACL during his senior year at Indiana University, Jones' prospects of ever reaching the NBA seemed slim. Following his rehab, however, he went on to spend a few years playing professionally in Japan until Casey Hill (a former coach in Japan and now the head coach of the Warriors) selected him at the back end of the third round of this year's draft. The confidence that he showed in him was warranted, as Jones has proven to be a steadying presence throughout the year.
While bigger names like Elliot Williams, Aaron Craft, Ronnie Brewer and Juwan Staten have all received more of the spotlight, Jones has been able to step up and perform in any way that Hill has requested. Starting just over a third of the games that he's played in, Jones has ranked in the top five of most of the major offensive categories for the team. The odds were stacked against him, but his performance this season has likely carved out a spot for him moving into next year if he's open to it.
Jeremy Williams - Idaho Stampede - 5th Round (78th Overall)
After playing in Finland, France and Canada over the past four seasons, the Stampede look like geniuses because of their fifth round selection. Only two players that were selected after Williams in the draft are playing in the D-League, which makes his contributions even more impressive. So far he has been able to start over half of the games that he's played in and during those games he's provided adequate floor spacing, creative passing out of the high post and aggressive defense.
He currently ranks 4th in Net Rating amongst players on the Stampede and is also their second best shooter in terms of three-point percentage. Just 30 games into this season, Idaho has already won more games than they did all of last year and that's due in no small part to the production of Williams. He's been the definition of a diamond in the rough and head coach Dean Cooper has done a terrific job of utilizing his talents.