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Cole Shelton: The D-Leaguers I’d Pick For My BIG3 Team

Continuing on with our week-long series, contributor Cole Shelton gives his take on the D-Leaguers that he’d pick for a hypothetical BIG3 squad.

Note: This is the third 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. On Tuesday, Dakota Schmidt continued the series by discussing his own team. 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 my team's first pick, Cole Shelton will select Raptors 905 guard Brady Heslip. Due to his league’s introduction of a four-point line, the selection of Heslip seems like an obvious choice due to how solid he was as a shooter. Last season with the 905, Heslip led the D-League with a league-high 182 perimeter jumpers. Coinciding with that, Heslip shot 42% from beyond the arc on 9 perimeter attempts per game.

It isn’t just three ball shooting either, Heslip showed the ability to be shoot mid-range jumpers with ease, and it showed by him shooting 44.5% from the field. Heslip can also run the offense and be an average facilitator at best, but when his shot is on, he stood as one of the more unstoppable weapons in the entire league.

Following Heslip, I decided to stick with shooting and add Grand Rapids wing Kevin Murphy. Similar to Heslip, Murphy will immediately help with the shooting aspect of the team, and nail some four point shots. Last season, Murphy shined as one of the best sharp-shooters in the league as he shot 41% from beyond the arc on 7.6 perimeter attempts per game.

With Murphy and Heslip you will now have the D-League version of the Splash Bros (Curry and Thompson) that can just nail perimeter jumpers whenever they desire. That duo becomes even more appealing due to the implementation of a four-point shot. Heslip can now run the offense while Murphy can be an off- ball shooter, something he did best this past season.

After the selection of Murphy, we’ll select Celtics prospect Abdel Nader, who spent the prior season with the Maine Red Claws. As a D-League rookie, Nader was named as Rookie of the Yer while also pushing the Red Claws to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Last season, the 6’8 Nader spent a lot of his time working as the team’s main facilitator. The addition of Nader gives me the flexibility to have either him or Heslip work point guard. Having Nader working as the main facilitator would leave Murphy and Heslip working off-ball as deadly perimeter shooters. Nader’s incredible versatility is evident by how he averaged 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting 44.6% from the field and 34.7% from three. Nader can pretty much do everything which will help out my hypothetical team tremendously.

To close out our five man roster, OKC Blue’s Dakari Johnson and NBADL MVP and LA D-Fenders guard Vander Blue will be our two reserves.

Starting with Johnson, the team currently lacks a rim protector and size as Murphy and Heslip are smaller guards, and Nader has size but plays the point. A need was obviously there for a big and Dakari Johnson fits the bill perfectly.

Last season in OKC, the 7-foot Johnson was arguably the best big in the D-League as he averaged 18.5 points, 7.9 rebounds (3.1 offensive boards), 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks. Adding those stats and that size to my squad will be huge. Johnson can be a stud on the defensive end as he can be there to take some of the defensive responsibilities from Murphy and Heslip.

The final player on our roster the reigning D-League MVP Vander Blue. The 6’4” guard was an absolute workhorse for the D-Fenders last season, as he averaged 24.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 34.8 minutes per game on 43.4% from the field during his MVP season. On the squad, Blue would add some needed offensive versatility as he shines more as a mid-range shooter and on-ball cutter while Heslip and Murphy are more perimeter-minded.

While it may seem weird to have the D-League MVP starting games on the bench, I believe he could shine as a player that can help push this hypothetical team to great heights.