Few NBA Development League players were as impressive than Jarnell Stokes was in this past season. Stokes finished the season as the NBADL MVP and helped pushed the Skyforce to a D-League title. That success was due to Stokes averaging 20.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals-per-game for the Sioux Falsl Skyforce. He looked like a man amongst boys the entire season but more importantly, a player deserving of a NBA roster spot.
Prior to that, Stokes started the season on the Memphis Grizzlies roster. However he was shortly dealt to the Miami Heat in a deal that sent Mario Chalmers to Miami. Soon after that he was assigned to the Skyforce, Miami's D-League affiliate, where he had a bunch of success. At the trade deadline he received a reminder that the NBA is a business, as he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans to help clear cap space for the eventual arrival of Joe Johnson but was cut soon after.
"I had a couple overseas offers," he told the Argus Leader. "I had a Puerto Rican offer that kind of sparked my interest. But I knew from the get-go that if I wasn't playing in the NBA, I wanted to finish out what I had done (in Sioux Falls)."
That drive and commitment to Sioux Falls and the work he had put in during the D-League season was evident by his his all-around work. With the opportunity to become a go-to player with the Skyforce, Stokes showed a fully-fletched out game with the additions of mid-range and perimeter jumpers .
The Skyforce allowed him to not only showcase his rebounding but also that s jumper and athleticism. He was the focal point of the offense, at times, and was effective. He shot an efficient 66.5 percent from the floor to go with an impressive 44.4 percent from deep this season. Stokes was able to carry that efficiency into the off-season. At the Relativity Sports Pro Day, he looked like the best player in the gym.
He looked extremely focused and determined to prove to everyone he is ready to make an impact in the NBA next season. He was most impressive in three-point shooting drills and driving the lane from the perimeter. He has greatly improved his mechanics since entering the league in 2014 and it shows with his great stroke from deep in the drills.
As the NBA is transitioning to more fast-paced and perimeter-oriented game, his skill set will be valuable. If he can continue to develop that three-pointer to complement his athleticism, he might become a real threat in the future. He's very physical and aggressive but also under control while driving the lane. NBA teams will love that he can be the focal point with his scoring or contribute other ways such as rebounding.
The next step for Stokes is Summer League, where he will undoubtedly shine as one of the best players participating. Success there could lead to him potentially getting a multi-year deal with a solid NBA team. If he keeps working as hard as he has, there's a chance that he could make a Hassan Whiteside-like impact wherever he lands. That potential success will allow Stokes to be looked at as an ambassador and asset for the D-League as they collect more successful alumni.