Entering his sophomore season as an NBA pro this past fall, it made sense why Jarnell Stokes began to dominate D-League competition as an assignee player with the Skyforce, after being acquired by affiliated HEAT. He is truly a man among boys, especially when compared to those in the minor league, and it showed. Stokes easily had his way against opposing defenses early on.
Skillful big men are rare to come by in the D-League, mostly in part because they are almost as rare to come by at the next level as well. As such, Stokes had a clear advantage over less talented and/or smaller players attempting to play his position. There's no doubt that, at 6'9" and 260 pounds, he certainly has an NBA body. Lucky for him, Stokes knows how to use such physicality to his advantage. He has a very special post-up game and can score with ease. He has an uncanny ability to create and score with his back to the basket, while also cashing in on high percentage looks.
His success on assignment with Sioux Falls came at the expense of minimal playing time and subsequent appearances for the HEAT. Miami cut Stokes midway through the year. While that was unfortunate for him, the Skyforce were able to scoop him up as a full-time minor leaguer. Playing out the rest of the season in Sioux Falls, Stokes used the opportunity to prove exactly why he shouldn't be staying there that much longer.
His dominance has only continued all year long, perhaps even more so, now punctuated by some added hunger and a chance to really showcase his talents for NBA decision-makers. Currently attempting to steer the Skyforce towards a minor league championship, the big man averaged 20.6 points on a league-leading 67% from the field, to go along with 9.3 rebounds per game during the regular season. Though he only appeared in 28 total games, Sioux Falls amassed a 24-4 record, good for a 86% winning percentage, during such a stretch. He's left his fingerprints over each and every victory.
It's hard to argue that anyone is more deserving of the league's top honor, and because of this, Stokes has earned himself RidiculousUpside.com's Most Valuable Player award for the 2015-16 campaign.
Runner-up for RU's MVP award: Josh Magette, Los Angeles D-Fenders
It's hard to say that anyone rivals the kind of impact Stokes had for Sioux Falls, but it might surprise some to realize that Magette's play for Los Angeles comes relatively close.
Though unlike Stokes, Magette is yet to have graced an NBA hardwood, he still stood tall for one of the D-League's better teams. The D-Fenders logged 27 victories, good enough for a playoff spot and second place in their division. They have Magette, who stands at just 6'1" and 160 pounds, largely in part to thank. One of the most unselfish players and a coach's complete dream, he proved to be one of the savviest floor generals in all of the D-League. There's no doubt he was a big key in making NBA alums like Vander Blue, Ryan Gomes, and various others look so good throughout the year. He made things look easy, even going on to lead the D-League in both assists (9.2) and steals (2.1) through 45 games.
Second runner-up for RU's MVP award: Erick Green, Reno Bighorns
Green spearheaded the Bighorns' impressive high-octane offense through forty games this season. He earned himself a midseason NBA call-up, but even upon returning to Reno, only continued to put on display the skills necessary to prove he deserves to stick around longer in The Association.
The guard averaged 25.7 points on an awing combination of 51% from the field, 44% from deep, and 85% from the charity stripe. He also logged 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest.
Last season's winner: Tim Frazier, Maine Red Claws