How are players sent to the D-League this season progressing?
Seven weeks into the NBA season, 24 players have been assigned from their parent NBA club to a D-League affiliate. Here follows a cursory look at all of their progress.
All players assigned to the D-League at any point this season have been included, save for Marquis Teague and Ognjen Kuzmic, who never appeared in a game, and Elias Harris and Dewayne Dedmon, both since waived out of the NBA.
Atlanta - Jared Cunningham: After having his third season option declined, and assigned twice to the Bakersfield Jam already, Cunningham is playing for his place in the NBA. On the most cursory of looks, his 17.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 4.7 apg averages look solid. But when considered alongside the 36% shooting and the 4.1 turnovers per game average, they are made to look irrelevant. Cunningham is a weapon in transition, but he is also only a weapon in transition, and he needs significant improves urgently.
Atlanta - John Jenkins: Jenkins spend the one week with the Jam that Cunningham didn't, and averaged 21.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He shot only 22% from three, but was successful at putting the ball on the floor, getting to the basket, and finishing. Albeit in a small sample size, this is an intriguing development for his future.
Atlanta - Dennis Schroeder: In six games on assignment, Schroeder posted 17.0 points, 6.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, shooting 48% on the floor. And for the most part, he looked better than those numbers. Still only 20, Schroeder inevitably made some mistakes, as evidence by the 3.7 turnovers a contest, but he also showed a great handle, good court vision, a mostly high IQ, the ability to split and break down a defense, and some shot making talent of his own. There is a lot to like.
Brooklyn - Tornike Shengelia: Shengelia is in the midst of a sophomore slump, and his performances early thus far this season are worryingly inferior to last season's. The mistake prone but ultimately skilled inside/outside big man remains worryingly mistake prone, and, given some NBA run to start this season on the dysfunctional Nets, looked highly overmatched. However, rejoining the Springfield Armor over the weekend for the third time this season, Shengelia finally showed once again what is to like, putting up 23 points on 13 shots in only 27 minutes, with deft touch and footwork. He remains a worthwhile project.
Brooklyn - Tyshawn Taylor: Looking similarly overmatched in his NBA run thus far this season, save for only a couple of individual plays, Taylor has posted 18 points, 8 assists, 12 turnovers and 30% shooting in his only two DLeague games of the season. If he's not a half court creator, shooter or defender, what is he to be?
Cleveland - Carrick Felix: Felix struggled in his three game stint with the Canton Charge, totaling only 28 points, 16 rebounds and 4 steals in three games, while turning it over 7 times and shooting 40% from the field. The generally higher tempo of the DLeague in theory would help Felix, the transition specialist, yet the lack of structure and cohesiveness the DLeague and its high roster turnover often exhibit is not ideal for a player who relies more on the opportunity and the creation skills of others for his offense and a team concept for his defense.
Cleveland - Sergey Karasev: In his one DLeague game, Karasev looked solid, totaling 16 points and 3 rebounds. It is hard to make much of any one singular performance like that, but for fun, doing exactly that gives him future Mike Miller potential. So that's nice.
Cleveland - Henry Sims: Sims, who would probably be in the DLeague anyway if not by assignment, has averaged 14.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in only 22 minutes per game. His high IQ, versatile, passing and defending game is pleasing to watch and intriguingly rare, yet his mediocre physical tools remain a concern that DLeague time cannot overcome.
Dallas - Ricky Ledo: In 28 minutes per game of eight contests for the Texas Legends, Ledo averages 14.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, shooting 41% from the field and 34% from three. He looks raw however, in amongst some poor shot selection and some defensive lapses is size, athleticism, a knack for getting to the basket, and a catch and shoot jump-shot. Ledo would benefit from a lengthy run with the Legends, and barring injuries, he'll likely get one.
Golden State - Nemanja Nedovic: Nedovic has shot 21% from the field in his first 19 NBA games, yet shot 62% on his way to a 30 point per game average in his only two games with the Santa Cruz Warriors thus far. Those game showed all the potential he has thus far not managed to show in the NBA creating off the dribble, hitting open shots, getting to the basket, creating looks from mid range, flair, excitement, dynamicism, and nice athletic plays defensively and in the full court. The Golden State Warriors have a significant talent here, and surely know it given that he is not helping the NBA club at this moment, it might benefit them to give Nedovic extended run with Santa Cruz.
Houston - Isaiah Canaan: Canaan lead the prodigiously high scoring Rio Grande Valley Vipers, who have averaged 128 points on their way to a 102 record. Canaan records 21.7 of those points per game, alongside 9.2 assists, and is the catalyst to much of this dynamicism, running the pick and roll, collapsing defenses and kicking back out, knifing to the hole to finish, all opened up by the threat of the jump-shot. Being constantly on the attack does lead to some mistakes, but a very acceptable number of them, and Canaan has shone as one of the best players in the DLeague so far. Recalled this week to cover the injured Patrick Beverley, Canaan has an opportunity to make it translate.
Houston - Robert Covington: Often set up by Canaan, Covington is pouring in 16.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per game, some nice numbers across the board. However, Covington is shooting only 41% from the field and 33% from three, while very rarely getting to the line. His faceup power forward game projects nicely in the new NBA, but without being a standout defensively, the jump-shot needs to be of at least the next level up. Nevertheless, Covington is productive, fluid and fairly polished.
L.A. Lakers - Ryan Kelly: Kelly is second in the DLeague with a 25.2 points per game scoring average, continuing his unlikely but now confirmed development as a confident, versatile scorer. He has done so while attempting 9.4 free throws a game, hitting them at 92%, but shooting only 42% from the field and 25% from three. He is averaging 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, but grabs only 7.6 rebounds in 39.7 minutes per game. Is Kelly a perimeter based forward with some interior offense but perimeter defensive issues, or is he an inside player with an occasional jump-shot but a huge rebounding disadvantage? Whichever he is, he is much improved and very productive.
New York - Chris Smith: Smith averaged 11.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 25 minutes per game for the Erie BayHawks in his first stint, shooting 50% from the field and 36% from three. Shame on anyone who bought the "not even DLeague calibre" hyperbole. He has however been used as a point guard, something that he just isn't, despite his height Smith is a scorer, both a driver and a shooter, not a creator, and the 07 BayHawks record in his time there is partly to do with this. To make it in the NBA on merit alone, Smith will have to up that three point percentage, or improve his playmaking and pick and roll games to at least the level of Shelvin Mack.
Oklahoma City - Andre Roberson: In his three games on assignment, Roberson averaged 17.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals. His physical tools, energy and athleticism make things happen, as his D-League stint demonstrate. However, foul prone on defense and without a consistent offensive weapon to call his own, Roberson will no doubt be back to further these aspects of his game.
Sacramento - Ray McCallum: In his three game assignment, McCallum averaged 22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, shooting 46% from three. Of all the small score-first guards out there, McCallum is one of the highest IQ, but without the explosive jump-shot or the consistent ability to either get to the basket or hit the big man on pick-and-roll actions, further stints to the DLeague could follow.
Sacramento - Hamady NDiaye: N'Diaye's one game with the Reno Bighorns resulted in 7 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks. He is still prone to moments of awkwardness and confusion offensively, and even on the glass, but his shot blocking instincts are rivaled by few. However, turning 27 next month, he shouldn't be on the cusp of the DLeague like this any more.
San Antonio - Aron Baynes: All of one month older than N'Diaye, Baynes showed in his two games on assignment with the Austin Toros how much he has improved as a professional. He averaged 28 points, 9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks per game, a defensive presence despite not having the ideal physical tools for the job, and an inside/outside offensive player. However, it has yet to translate to the NBA. Without the speed, maybe he is destined to be a casper.
San Antonio - Nando de Colo: de Colo probably did not leave Europe's highest echelons in expectation of spending extended time in the DLeague, but, after losing minutes to the superior Patrick Mills, he has had no choice. Assigned twice thus far this season, de Colo has totaled 92 points, 23 assists and 13 steals in his three games for the Toros, but has struggled at the higher levels. His ability to get to the basket is fine in the DLeague, but he hasn't the speed to make it translate to the NBA, where defenses are infinitely more coordinated while he has not developed jump-shot range and has struggled defensively. At this point, de Colo is not projecting as an NBA player, and while he should be in the prime of his career, he is instead in a pronounced limbo. Unhappy with his situation, it would be no surprise if de Colo were to leave the NBA this summer.
San Antonio - Malcolm Thomas: After averaging 33.5 points and 15.5 rebounds in the first two games of the DLeague season for the L.A. DFenders, Thomas was called up to the Spurs and assigned back to the Toros, for whom he averaged a further 20.3ppg/10.3rpg. He has averaged 3.4 blocks and 59% three point shooting between the two stints, posting almost perfect statlines along the way. All being well, Thomas should never played in the DLeague again. He's outgrown it.
Utah - Ian Clark: In his three games DLeague career before being recalled this week, Clark tried to do too much. Needing and wanting to prove he is more than just a shooter, Clark's floor games were slightly wild, pressing affairs, as evidenced by his 39% shooting. Nonetheless, he kept the turnovers down, and showed himself to yield the potential of the man whose place in the NBA he is trying to dislodge, John Lucas III.
Utah - Rudy Gobert: Also recalled this week, Gobert's DLeague career is off to a great start. Averaging 14 points, 13 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game, Gobert simply is not raw as advertised. Notwithstanding his slightly awkward start to his NBA career, Gobert is showing in the DLeague that such a combination of size, agility and touch rarely fails he still needs to get tougher, work on his positioning, cut down on his clumsiness and further hone his skills, but Gobert can play.
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