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Who to Watch in the 2017 NBADL Elite Mini Camp

Contributor Francis Adu writes about some of the top prospects that will be competing in this year’s NBADL Elite Mini Camp.

Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The 8th Annual NBADL Elite Mini-Camp in Chicago sparks off May 8th and May 9th as a tremendous appetizer for the quickly following NBA Draft Combine. The NBADL Elite Mini-Camp acts as a version of the Draft Combine for many of the most spectacular D-League players looking for another venue to display their athleticism and individual skills to NBA scouts via drills, measurement tests, and scrimmages. The two-day event has often served as a major influence on NBA scouts when later inviting the camp participants to future Summer Leagues and training camps. Here are a few D-League starlets to keep an eye out for at the Elite Mini-Camp.

Chris Obekpa has the best chance to drop jaws at the Elite measurement tests with his astounding 7’5” wingspan. It is this smothering wingspan that allows the Santa Cruz Warrior to be the most intimidating and dominant rim protector in perhaps NBADL history, despite having a 6’8”, 230 lb. frame. The 23 year old Obekpa was able to finish 6th in the entire NBADL in total blocked shots (69) in 2016-17, despite only averaging 15 minutes per game for Santa Cruz and missing 19 games on top of that. Obekpa’s mobility, vertical leaping, and wingspan combine into a weapon that can single handedly make an opposing offense erase any interior actions from its game plan.

Jameel Warney left his alma mater of Stony Brook University as a secret darling of NCAA statistical models and kept up that math love in his rookie NBADL season for the Texas Legends in 2016-17. Within his rookie year, Warney averaged 17.3 points, 8 rebounds (3.3 offensive), 1 steal and 1 block per game with a 60% True Shooting Percentage.

He will likely butter his bread in the scrimmages of the Elite camp as Warney does not have any outlier skills or athletic traits to pop out at scouts with. However, he does have fantastic intelligence on the court (also showcased with his excellent prose skills) which allows him to utilize the talents he does have efficiently. He makes his home in the low post where he has impressive touch and reliably finds a way to either score, draw a foul, or make a correct pass to his fellow teammates.

Darius Morris has tasted NBA rotations before, most notably as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers for 2 seasons. Morris established a reputation as a creative passer with fantastic size for the point guard position who perhaps ran offenses too inefficiently to earn many NBA minutes. However, he may have silenced some of those criticisms after impressing in his first full D-League season as a Rio Grande Viper.

Druing this past season, Morris attacked the rim aggressively with more consistency than he has ever shown in the NBA and improved his free throw shooting by leaps and bounds to take advantage of the new aggressive nature. He became a key leader in the Vipers’ top-ranked offense that would prove effective all the way to the 2017 NBADL Finals before losing to Raptors 905.

Morris will now hope his new status as a reliable 20 points per game scorer will make headway with any NBA scouts still skeptical of his offensive prowess. Morris may be considered a veteran already but at still only 26 years old, Morris may yet to have shown spectators the peak of his talent.

Devondrick Walker: waltzes into the Elite Mini-Camp with a 2016-17 NBADL Most Improved Player award under his armpits. The 6’5” wing from Northwestern Oklahoma State University became one of the NBADL’s most prominent sharpshooters after struggling the previous couple of seasons to find a role as a professional. The 24 year old Walker saw quantum leaps in his three point shooting (41% on 5.6 perimeter attempts per game) to guide him to a career high 12.0 points per game. Even a December trade from the Westchester Knicks to the Delaware 87ers didn’t show any significant change in Walker’s production, evidence of the legitimacy of his shooting improvement.

Walker now hopes to follow the footsteps of former NBADL sharpshooters like Seth Curry or Troy Daniels in representing a valuable bench option for NBA teams. Replicating his regular season form in the shooting drills and scrimmages at the Elite Mini-Camp should nearly guarantee Walker a place on a Summer League squad this offseason.

Jalen Jones had the most acclaimed NBADL season of the Elite camp participants as he earned All-NBADL 3rd Team Honors for the Maine Red Claws. Jones’s rookie season had him producing 21 points per game and nabbing 9 rebounds per game to fulfill the interior presence duties of the Red Claws’ three-headed monster of All-NBAD: rookies that also include wings Abdel Nader and Marcus Georges-Hunt.

Jones has excelled in the small-ball four role most NBA teams are anxious to fill. Jones’s underrated strength and ability to score both on the perimeter (35% on 5.7 attempts per game) and inside established Jones as a nightmare to cover for almost all NBADL defenses. Now, the former Aggie hopes to prove to NBA scouts in Chicago at the Elite Mini-Camp he can be a similar matchup nightmare as a forward in the NBA.

Alfonzo McKinnie notably went from a tryout signee for the Windy City Bulls to a NBADL All-Star in less than six months. Now, McKinnie will hope his fortune will be obtained again in Chicago as he will showcase his phenomenal motor and athleticism at the Elite Mini-Camp. The 2017 D-League Slam Dunk Contest participant, McKinnie acts as another NBADL player who could potentially fill the small-ball four role in the NBA if given the opportunity.

The difference between McKinnie and most other small-ball forwards is McKinnie holds his own superbly on the defensive glass despite the frequent weight disadvantage that he has against most opponents. within this mini camp, McKinnie will need to show that he’s improved as perimeter shooter where he only shot 31% from beyond the arc. Coinciding with that, McKinnie will need to have his athleticism translate more consistently on the defensive end as a rim protector. If he can do that, then sky’s might be the limit for the Windy City Bulls alum.