Note: The following piece is the continuation of our series where we give our finalists for a specific D-League award. Go to the following link to read this prior piece on our picks for NBA D-League MVP finalists.
Alex Poythress - Fort Wayne Mad Ants
18.5 pts, 7.1 rebs, 1.4 blks per game on 53% from the field
In a similar way to NBADL MVP candidate Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress entered the D-League as an overlooked prospect due to his less than stellar stint at the University of Kentucky. During his four years with the Wildcats, Poythress mainly stood as a rotation player as he averaged 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds on 55% from the field in only 22 minutes per game.
Poythress’ struggles at Kentucky pushed the 6’7 forward to make to the NBADL while many of his teammates embarked on an NBA career. While most players might feel dejected by having to the NBADL, Poythress took that opportunity with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants to prove what each individual NBA team missed back during last year’s draft.
From the jump, Poythress stood as the go-to scorer on a Mad Ants squad that’s featured former NBA players Travis Leslie, Julyan Stone, and more recently Tyler Hansbrough. That status is shown by him averaging a team-high 18.5 points on 53% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc in 1.7 attempts per game.
Outside of those solid numbers, the Mad Ants are simply much better when Poythress is actually playing. Per 100 possessions, the Mad Ants average 106 points when he’s on the sidelines compared to 112.4 when Poythress is playing on the court. That kind of impact combined with his terrific base stats basically forces Poythress to stand as one of the elite D-League rookies.
Trahson Burrell - Long Island Nets
12.1 pts, 6.7 rebs, 3.3 asts on 49% from field & 36% from beyond the arc
Despite the lackluster play of the Long Island Nets, Trahson Burrell has stood as arguably the most versatile player in the entire NBADL. Just last week, we posted a piece discussing Burrell’s versatile game. During that article, we examined Burrell’s success as a facilitator and on-ball cutter while also examining his improvement as a perimeter shooter.
Jameel Warney - Texas Legends
16.9 pts, 8.1 rebs, 1.2 blks on 57% from the field
If there’s anyone in the NBADL that’s been the MVP during the 2nd half of the season, it’s probably Legends forward Jameel Warney. Prior to the All-Star break, Warney stood as a pretty solid front-court threat with the Legends that worked alongside Quincy Acy and Mavs prospect AJ Hammons. However, Warney suddenly erupted once came back from getting his jersey retired at Stony Brook.
During the 2nd half of the season, Warney has averaged a near double-double with 22.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1 block per game on 63% from the field. Those averages has pushed Warney to stand as arguably the best front-court player in the D-League during that time span.
Warney’s progression during the second half of the season has a lot to do with how he’s truly become comfortable as a pick-and-roll. While he’s slightly undersized at 6’7, Warney makes up for it by combing mobilityand a strong 260 pound frame. His mobility pushes Warney to stand as someone that can just work his way to the rim whenever he desires. Meanwhile, Warney’s husky build has allowed him to just bully inside the paint, whether he’s working inside the low-post or on the offensive glass.
Jalen Jones & Abdel Nader - Maine Red Claws
Jones - 21.1 pts, 8.9 rebs, 2.2 asts on 44% from field & 35% from 3
Nader - 21.5 pts, 6.2 rebs, 3.9 asts on 45% from field & 35% from 3
Similar to our MVP article, both Jalen Jones and Abdel Nader are tied for potential Rookie of the Year candidates. To prevent the monotony of repeating the same words as in our prior week’s piece, just go here to read why I believe that it’s nearly impossible to decipher whether Jones and Nader as the leader of the Maine Red Claws.
Shawn Long - Delaware 87ers
20.2 pts, 11.5 rebs, 1.3 blks on 54% from the field
Before Jameel Warney was able to light it up with the Texas Legends, Shawn Long stood as arguably the top front-court player in the entire NBA D-League. Prior to getting called up by the Philadelphia 76ers, Long just wrecked shop as a member of the Delaware 87ers. During his 39 games with the team, Long averaged 20.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game on 54% from the field.
While Warney stands as a bruising forward that can just bully people with his frame, Long stood as more of a finesse player. Standing at 6’9 and 255 pounds ,Long just shined as the finest pick-and-roll big in the D-League as he could put in jaw-dropping alley-oops whenever he ran to the rim. Alongside that, Long stood as a player that can also shine as a post-up or mid-range weapon.