With the calendar officially turned to 2017, teams across the NBA will be looking for any move that could help them gain momentum as we near the All-Star Break and eventually the 2nd half of the season. While most of these teams will try to improve through trades, some of the squads will be looking to the D-League to help fill out their rotations, whether they look to make a playoff push or to just find a potential “diamond in the rough”.
That process will become even easier over the next few days as NBA squads can start signing D-League prospects to 10-contracts on January 5th. Leading up to that date and beyond, Ridiculous Upside will be starting a series called “So... Your NBA Team Is Looking For A...” where we’ll give a position-by-position look at some of the D-League prospects that your team may pick over the next few months. To start this series, we’ll take a look at D-League point guards.
Scoring Point Guards
Since returning from his NBA stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Yogi Ferrell has helped push Long Island to be one of the hottest teams in the NBA D-League. When Ferrell first returned to the D-league on December 10th, the Nets stood at the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 2-11. Since then, they’ve won four of their last four of their last seven games to the point where they stand at 6-14. While the team has a long way to go until they can be in playoff contention, it’s no lie to say that Ferrell has a lot to do with their return to relative respectability.
Since that return, Ferrell has shined by putting up 22.3 points, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 51% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc. That efficiency as a shooter has allowed Ferrell to maintain a phenomenal 67% True Shooting Percentage. Those numbers has allowed Ferrell to stand above Chasson Randle and Quinn Cook as the hottest point guard in the D-League.
As those stats can obviously tell you, Ferrell stands as a player that can just shine in a variety of different ways on the offensive end. That’s clearly seen in the clip below where Ferrell lights up the Delaware 87ers with a 34 point performance on 9-15 from the field and 6-8 from beyond the arc.
From the instant that the team decided to keep Sasha Vujacic over Randle during training camp, Knicks fans all over Twitter have been clamoring for his return to New York. That clamoring has escalated tremendously over the last few weeks as Randle has elevated into becoming one of the hottest players in the entire D-League. Over the last 10 games, Randle has impressed by putting up 22.8 points and 3.4 assists on 46% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc on 7.4 perimeter attempts per game. That efficiency has allowed Randle to maintain an impressive 61.9% True Shooting Percentage during that time.
After a rough start to the season where he was extremely inefficient, this recent stretch has allowed Randle to return to being the player that he’s been since his time with Stanford. Since that time, Randle has thrived as a perimeter shooter no matter if he’s playing against Pac-12 or European competition. The same can be said about his time in the D-League, as he’s established himself as arguably the best perimeter weapon in the NBADL. Coinciding with that great perimeter jumper, Randle also shines as a standout on-ball cutter, which you can see in the play below.
After spending the prior three seasons working as a role player for three separate squads (Celtics, 76ers and Suns), Pressey has gone to the D-League looking for yet another shot at the NBA. Through the first months of the D-League season, Pressey has seemingly closed on on that goal as he’s shined as a pretty versatile offensive weapon. With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Pressey has shined by averaging 20.8 points, 5.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game on 41% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc.
Pressey’s perimeter improvement might be the biggest part of his stint in the D-League, as this is the first season that he’s shot better than 34% from 3 since his sophomore season at Missouri. That improved perimeter jumper might be the thing that can push Pressey back to the NBA as that skill coincides with his knack as a facilitator and on-ball defender.
Facilitating Point Guards:
The journey of Josh Magette is arguably the greatest example of how important than the NBA D-League can be. Prior to his D-League arrival, Magette stood as this unknown 6’1 point guard that only played one season of Division-II basketball with Alabama-Huntsville. Although he thrived in that lone season, by putting up 12.7 points and 8.9 assists per game on 49% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc, Magette was not even close to being a blimp on any team’s radar.
Despite that unknown status, the Los Angeles D-Fenders took a chance on Magette before the 2013-14 NBADL season and hasn’t looked back since. Over that time, Magette has transitioned from being unknown to arguably the best facilitating guard the D-League has ever seen. Magette plays the point guard position like someone playing a game of Operation where he constantly works to find these little gaps where he could dish the ball. That mindset has worked tremendously, as he’s currently averaging 9.6 assists per game with an incredible 3.71 AST/TO ratio.
Prior to catching on with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Julyan Stone has been all over the map since he left UTEP in 2011. Over the last six years, Stone has played with two separate NBA teams, Toronto and Denver, while also applying his craft in Italy and Turkey. Through that time, Stone’s appeal came from him being a big 6’6 point guard that shined as a versatile defender and pretty stable facilitator.
The same things can be said about current stint in the D-League with the Mad Ants, as he’s stood out as a consistent double-double threat. That label is backed up by Stone averaging 10 points, 8.5 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game on 42% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.
Stone’s status as the top assist man in the D-League is through how he can just see the court better than most D-League guards. That incredible court vision is probably due to the combination of his size and experience as he shows so much confidence with every pass that he makes. Most of the time, Stone does his passing while working off the dribble as he does a nice job of passing the rock through the gaps of the opposing teams defense. The clip below from the NBA D-League’s YouTube page shows off some of Stone’s finest passes.
Honestly, it might’ve a bit unfair to put Weber in this category as he’s solid at pretty much anything on the court (that isn’t perimeter shooting). From his tenacious on-ball defense, knack as a cutter to his facilitating, Weber’s versatility has allowed him to arguably be the D-League’s best prospect. However, Weber will remain on here as he does stand as one of the league’s best facilitators.
A lot of Weber’s success as a facilitator comes through how incredibly unselfish he is as the Skyforce’s main ball-handler. On every possession, Weber looks around the court in attempt to find someone that he could dish it to. That unselfish nature has allowed Weber to average an impressive 6.8 assists per game. While on-ball cutting or defense might be a more vocal part of Weber’s all-around game, you’d be silly to look past his facilitating.
Balanced Point Guards:
If you’ve paid any attention to the D-League over the last year-and-a-half, you probably know that Quinn Cook has arguably been the most consistent guard in the entire league. That consistent play started from the moment that he first put on a Canton Charge jersey during the prior 2015-16 season. During that debut season, Cook immediately took charge of the Canton squad as he led the team in scoring (19.6 points per game) and assists (5.7 assists per game). Those contributions helped push Cook to being named as the D-League Rookie of the Year.
During the following season, Cook has made some pretty significant improvements since that stellar rookie season. In his first 17 games of the 2016-17 season, Cook has impressed by putting up 25.1 points, 4.6 boards and 5.8 assists per game on 46% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. As might be apparent from those stats, Cook has really grasped onto that role as the Charge’s #1 scoring option. He’s done that by being a versatile offensive player that can score in a variety of different ways which include: taking the opposition off the dribble for cuts, hitting mid-range jumpers or just nailing spot-up 3’s.
At this point, Cook’s main methods of attack are through on-ball cuts and mid-range jumpers. Both of those methods are made possible through Cook’s phenomenal handles which allow him to break down any defender in the NBA D-League. That asset ultimately allows Cook to create separation for mid-range jumpers or create a lane to cut towards the rim. Those skills are seen in the video below where Cook put up a career-high 49 points against the Legends.
Out of the ten names in this article, McCallum probably stands as the most familiar player to any NBA fan. That’s due to him having a significant role with the Sacramento Kings just two years ago. Following that stint, McCallum got lost in the shuffle with the Spurs and Grizzlies before temporarily falling off the NBA radar.
Looking for a second chance, McCallum has made his way to the D-League where he stands next to Briante Weber as arguably the best prospect in the league. That acclaim is due to McCallum averaging 19.3 points, 7.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game on 45% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc. Back in early-December, we wrote a thorough piece on McCallum’s success in the D-League, below is a snippet as to why he stands as one of the elite NBADL prospects.
From the moment that he went undrafted in 2011, Lucas has always seemed to be on the verge of making the NBA. Unfortunately, he’s only played a total of five minutes in the NBA since leaving Michigan State. Over the course of that time, he’s switched off between numerous D-League stints and playing in Turkey and Greece with various European teams.
Six years into his professional career, Lucas might be as close to a stint in the NBA as he’s ever been. With both the Iowa Energy and Erie Bayhawks, Lucas has impressed by putting up 15.5 points and 5 assists on 40% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Over the course of this season, Lucas has thrived as one of the more lethal guards in the NBA D-League by being able to move around a defender with a quick first step, show his athleticism around the rim or spotting up to take a perimeter jumper. Coinciding with that, Lucas has continued to show a knack for being able to facilitate in drive-and-dish situations.
Last but certainly not least is Xavier Munford who has stood alongside the likes of Cook, Magette and Lucas as the best point guards in the D-League over the last few seasons. Whether it’s with the Bakersfield Jam or his current run with the Greensboro Swarm, Munford has shined as a pretty stable two-way threat that can kill the opposition through his facilitating or scoring prowess. As a scorer, Munfrod does the majority of his work off-the-dribble by utilizing a quick first step and great athleticism that allows him to score despite his small 6’2 frame.
Coinciding with that knack as an on-ball cutter, Munford has continued to show an ability as a facilitator. During his current stint with the Swarm, Munford has averaged a respectable 5.1 assists per game. That’s made possible through his ability to cut through the teeth of the defense and dish it off to a cutting big or wing stationed on the perimeter. Some of his best moves are displayed below from a late-November game against the OKC Blue.