RealGM's 13-14 D-League Wrap-Up
With another successful NBA Development League season completed, we take a look back on some of the top stories that occurred this year. This season marked a new record in player assignments, at 187, and was second in NBA Call-Ups with 49. It’s clear that this is a league on the rise in terms of importance.
Crowing the Champions
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants dominated through the final stretch of the season to capture its first NBA D-League Championship in the team’s history. Fort Wayne didn’t lose a postseason game, sweeping all three series, and held an 18-2 record in the final two months of play. Tony Mitchell averaged 28.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the finals while Ron Howard, the league’s co-MVP, averaged an additional 23 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
Notable NBA Call-Ups
The entire purpose of the D-League is to develop talent that can contribute in NBA rotations. These were the three most impactful call-ups that occurred this season.
Troy Daniels (Rio Grande Valley Vipers/Houston Rockets): Daniels has been the early “feel good story” in this year’s playoffs after hitting the game-winning three-pointer in game three of the Houston-Portland series. After the VCU product broke the D-League record for made three-pointers before the All-Star break, it was obvious that Daniels had an NBA contract on the horizon. The Rockets saw the potential within its own D-League organization and signed Daniels to a three-year contract with the final two seasons being non-guaranteed. Despite the contract, Daniels still spent most of the season with the Vipers where he averaged five made three-pointers per contest while shooting 40 percent from behind the arc. In Houston’s regular season finale, Daniels scored 22 points while shooting 8-of-16 from the floor and 6-of-11 from deep in addition to five assists. It was a glimpse of what was to come.
Daniels did not play in either of Houston’s first two postseason games as the Rockets lost both contests. He was given 20 minutes of action in game three, scoring nine points on a trio of threes, including the game-winner in overtime. Daniels continued his shooting success on Sunday with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting and a 4-of-5 display from behind the arc. He had another clutch showing, knocking down three consecutive free throws with under 10 seconds left to bring the Rockets within one, although the Rockets couldn’t pull off another overtime win. On Sunday, Daniels had five points on two shot attempts as Houston forced a game six in Portland. Although his shots are becoming harder to find, he’s grown from a back of the roster guy into a pure shooter who has plays ran for him.
James Johnson (Rio Grande Valley Vipers/Memphis Grizzlies): Johnson was a key mid-season addition for the Memphis Grizzlies who was looked upon to replace an injured Tayshaun Prince. The 6-foot-9 combo forward out of Wake Forest ultimately stuck with the team and even started in four games. Johnson averaged 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 18.4 minutes of action but has only seen 10 minutes of action in this year’s playoffs. He scored in double-figures 18 times this year with a season-high of 20 points.
Kendall Marshall (Delaware 87ers/Los Angeles Lakers): The former lottery pick from North Carolina spent the early part of the season in the D-League before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. The depleted squad soon looked upon Marshall to become the starting point guard where he showed that he was more than just a 10-day replacement. He averaged eight points, 8.8 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game this season while shooting 41 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Marshall accumulated 15 double-doubles this year and finished with a 3.18 Assist/Turnover ratio. He clearly has a future in the NBA.
NBA Draft Entrants
Six players from the NBA Development League declared for the 2014 NBA Draft with Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Aquille Carr, P.J. Hairston, Cleveland Melvin, Norvel Pelle, and Elijah Pittman hoping to hear their name called in June. Although most may recognize the 5-foot-6 YouTube sensation Aquille Carr, it’s Antetokounmpo and Hairston who will receive NBA draft considerations.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Giannis, played with the Delaware 87ers this season where he averaged 12 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Like his brother, he’s still raw, but has the physical tools to potentially become a late selection. The 6-foot-7, 21-year-old will need to improve on the offensive end but has the length and athleticism to contribute as a defender off the bench.
The top draft prospect from the D-League this year will be former North Carolina shooting guard P.J. Hairston. He averaged 21.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Texas Legends while shooting 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc. Hairston had six games where he scored 30 or more points and his 6-foot-6, bulky frame gives him a chance to contribute immediately. He’s a good perimeter shooter who can score in bunches. If NBA teams aren’t worried about his fallout at North Carolina, Hairston should be a mid-first round pick who will be able to contribute immediately off an NBA bench.