Over the course of the last four seasons, since they won the D-League title in 2012-13, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers have been one of the biggest hotbeds for the best NBADL prospects. Over the course of that time, the club has hosted Andrew Goudelock, Chris Johnson, Jordan Hamilton, James Johnson, Troy Daniels and Toure Murray that have all been called-up to the NBA after playing with the Valley Vipers. Even when you look past those call-ups, the team has hosted some of the best D-Leaguers.
One of those terrific D-League and Valley Vipers alumni would be Raphiael Putney. After graduating from UMass in 2014, Putney has played in many different locations alongside his two-year stint with the Valley Vipers. Playing in Saudi Arabia, Australia, Malaysia and Venezula, Putney has been one of the most well-traveled players in basketball. Those hours of travel and playing basketball with complete strangers turned Putney into the player that we saw during the 2015-16 season.
That was a breakout season for Putney, as the 6'9 forward averaged 17.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game on 44% shooting and 36% from beyond the arc. As would be evident from those stats, Putney stood as arguably the best two-way players in the D-League as he was a huge threat on both ends. Offensively, he stood as someone that was both a threat to shoot the perimeter jumper and explode to the rim for a massive dunk.
Putney's explosiveness also helped him on the defensive end, as Putney had the 2nd highest block total in the entire D-League, as he only trailed Jordan Bachynski (2.4 blocks per game). A lot of those blocks came through his work as a help defender, as Putney regularly came out of nowhere to use his explosiveness to block a shot.
Those skills have translated to NBA Summer League, as Putney's been looking great playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his first three games, Putney has averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 17.5 minutes per game. That play was especially evident in a Monday evening game against the Timberwolves, as Putney exploded for 19 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks on 7-12 from the field and 5-7 from beyond the arc. While it's doubtful that he'll be able to redo that performance in Summer League, it's an explosive example of what we've been seeing during his time with the Vipers.
While he was deserving of a call-up when he stood as a D-League All-Star, perhaps this Summer League performance should finally give Putney an opportunity to sign on with an NBA team. Even if that's similar to the partially-guaranteed deal that the Heat recently gave Rodney McGruder, it'll be an absolute steal. That's due to Raphiael Putney combining tremendous all-around versatility with just having a great devotion to the game of basketball.