Note: This is the second part of a week-long series where Ridiculous Upside contributors give their takes on D-Leaguers that they’d pick for a BIG3 squad. The series began on Monday with Francis Adu giving his squad. To learn more about the BIG3, make sure to read this piece from early May where we broke down the league’s unique rules.
With the first overall pick for my BIG3 squad, Dakota Schmidt will select Celtics prospect and Maine Red Claws forward Guerschon Yabusele. From the moment he landed in Maine, Yabusele just became an immediate fan favorite for anybody whether they were interested in the D-League, Celtics or just fun basketball players. The entertainment surrounding Yabusele was due to him standing as this bulky 6’8, 260 pound player that can make smooth drives to the basket or launch up jumpers from well behind the 3-point line.
Whenever he ws on the court, Yabusele just stood as his extremely hard-working player that was willing to do anything he can to help push his team to victory. That hard work combined his strong frame and offensive versatility would allow Yabusele to a near unstoppable force in BIG3 player. In a league that’s mostly filled with players that retired ballers, having a young 260 pound forward that both work inside the paint and hit the perimeter jumper is something that should give this hypothetical squad an immediate advantage.
To help work with Yabusele in pick-and-rolls, our second pick goes to Santa Cruz Warriors guard Jabari Brown. In a league that’s headlined by Chauncey Billups, Allen Iverson and Mike Bibby, you need a guard that can step up and immediately become your go-to scorer. Brown is probably the best player in the D-l.eague that can just put up buckets in bunches. That status is evident by Brown putting up 22.4 points and 3 assists per game on 52% from the field and 54% from beyond the arc in 5.5 perimeter attempts per game.
Although that jaw-dropping perimeter shooting average definitely seems like an aberration, it still shows that Brown can be deadly from beyond the arc. Those skills would become even more important in BIG3 play due to the league’s implementation of a four-point line. As evident in the clip below, Brown has solid range on his perimeter jumper, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him knock down some four-point shots. Coinciding with that, he’s more than able to drive to the rim.
To finish out our starting lineup, our squad will select OKC Blue guard Alex Caruso. Despite not being a D-League All-Star or former NBA veteran, I picked Caruso primarily due to how he performs on the defensive end. Like we mentioned with the Brown selection, there’s a bevy of former NBA All-Star guards that will look to lead the Big3. While the prior selection helps the squad out on he offensive end, Caruso would be there to be that defensive workhorse that can defend Iverson, Billups or Bibby.
During his rookie season in the D-League, Caruso was probably the biggest reason behind the OKC Blue standing as one of the best defensive squads in the NBADL. Averaging 2.1 steals per game, Caruso is a tenacious on-ball defender that constantly looks to pick the pockets of opposing guards. Coinciding with that, opponents were four points worse per 100 possessions when Caruso was on the court (99 points per 100) compared to when he was on the bench (103.7 points per 100)
In addition to those defensive skills, Caruso is no slouch on the offensive end. As a rookie, Caruso shot 40% from beyond the arc on 3 perimeter attempts per game. Coinciding with that, Caruso averaged 5.2 assists per game while maintaining a 1/7 AST/TO ratio.
To close out our roster, we’ll select Darius Morris and Eric Moreland as our two reserves. Despite starting games on the bench, Morris and Moreland stand as players that could change the course of a game whenever they’re on the court.
For Morris, he just finished out a season for the RGV Vipers where he was one of our finalists for D-League MVP. Averaging 20 points, 6.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds on 45% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc.
As those numbers might tell you, Morris shined due to being a facilitator that can also work as a top-flight scorer. Although he wasn’t much of a perimeter-minded player, Morris still shined due to has solid handles and ability to drive to the rim whenever he desires. On our hypothetical squad, those traits should allow him to be a lead guard that can work alongside Brown or Caruso.
On the other hand, Moreland stands as our big that can come in and just stand out as a rim protector or on the offensive glass. During the prior season, Moreland stood as arguably the finest rim protector in the entire D-League as he blocked 2.7 shots per game. The defense of Moreland pushed opponents to be five points worse when he was on the court (106.7 points per 100) compared to when he was on the sidelines (101.9 points per game. Moreland also shined as an offensive rebounder as he snagged 3.2 offensive boards per game.