Throughout the entirety of this NBA D-League season, the Atlantic Division has been a hotly contested race with the Maine Red Claws, Westchester Knicks and Delaware 87ers all jockeying for position atop the leaderboard. As the season rolled into 2016, it seemed as if the Red Claws had lost an edge.
The team lost four consecutive games by an average of nine points, a streak which was punctuated by a loss to the Canton Charge in which they managed to must up just 83 points. Things had to turn around, lest the Red Claws would be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
As the schedule turned over to February, the team managed to do just that. Winners of eight out of their ten games throughout the month, the Red Claws have put themselves at the top of the Atlantic once again with a record of 22-15 and it appears as if they will enter the playoffs with a full head of steam.
Struggles on the offensive end fueled their slump in the middle of February, but it has been that offense that has carried the team through this unstoppable stretch. Averaging 122.6 points per game during February, opposing teams have been completely incapable of slowing them down on that end.
Scoring 122 points per game naturally takes a team effort, but it has been the play of forward Coty Clarke and guard Corey Walden that has propelled them up the conference standings. Both rookies in the D-League, Clarke and Walden have managed to make their presence felt each night that they stepped on the floor.
Heading into February, they had posted respectable numbers:
Through the month of February however, their respective games reached levels that they had not approached at any point in the months prior.
Not only does this bode well for the rest of the season for the Red Claws, but the abilities that each of these two have displayed over the past ten games showcases to teams both in the NBA and internationally the type of players that they can be when they're firing on all cylinders.
Clarke has shown that he's capable of getting to the rim and finishing consistently, while also being able to shine if he's asked to play on the perimeter. Standing 6'7, he's more naturally apt to work as a small forward, but he's also able to play the four if the team goes small and needs someone to stretch out the defense.
Walden has been known primarily for his work on the defensive end, so this offensive outburst is an even better development than it seems. He's shooting twice the amount of three-pointers that he was through the early portion of the season and if he can show a consistent ability to hit from deep, he's going to rocket up call-up boards for teams around the league.
Though players like Omari Johnson, Levi Randolph and Malcolm Miller played a large role, and the returning Tim Frazier should help them reach even further heights than they did throughout February, Coty Clarke and Corey Walden showed what the NBA D-League is all about: development.