2007-2008 DraftExpress D-League Awards

2007-2008 DraftExpress D-League Awards
May 03, 2008, 09:34 pm
The four DraftExpress writers who followed the D-League this season voted on year end awards in many different categories. The following article contains the results as well as some commentary on how the awards were won.

2008 DraftExpress D-League MVP:

Randy Livingston, Idaho Stampede

In a unanimous selection among our panelists, Livingston brings home the MVP award. His value to the Idaho Stampede through their championship run went far beyond the numbers, but the point guard made his presence felt in the statistical categories as well. Leading the league at 10.5 assists per game, he was the only player in the league to hit double-digits in the category this season. The minor league veteran also averaged 16.5 points per game while providing both timely scoring and assists for his team during crunch time. On the offensive end, Livingston was probably the most vocal player in the D-League and constantly directed his teammates on making the proper reads and cuts in the offense. In the D-League Finals, it became very obvious how much control the veteran had in the Stampede offense. A mic’ed up Bryan Gates called the plays for the sideline and more often than not, the play call was ‘15’, a side screen and role that gave Livingston the chance to distribute the ball to his numerous teammates.

Defensive Player of the Year

Stephane Lasme, Los Angeles D-Fenders

The Los Angeles D-Fenders played better interior defense than any other team in the D-League for most of the season, and a huge reason for this was the play of rookie power forward Stephane Lasme. In a league devoid of dominant big men, Lasme anchored the D-Fenders front line with a combination of man to man defense mixed with elite shot-blocking ability. The rookie was originally drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but cut after only appearing in one game. He was rewarded late in the season when the Miami Heat called him up, and played very well in his NBA playing time. Though undersized for an NBA power-forward, Lasme has long arms and a very quick vertical leap as well as above average quickness laterally. The D-Fenders clearly could have used him in the playoffs, where they fell short against the eventual champions from Boise.

The other player receiving a vote from our panel was one of the more under-recognized players in the D-League this season. Justin Cage was shockingly cut by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at the very beginning of the season, but quickly found a home with the Colorado 14ers. He quickly became part of one of the deepest rotations in the league, thanks to a great set of tools and high intensity level on the defensive end. Cage stands at a legit 6’6” with very long arms and a strong build. In addition, his lateral quickness helps him guard quicker players, and he’s not afraid of bodying up to physically defend bigger players. Cage will have to improve his three point shooting to make the NBA, but his efficient style offensively combined with tough defense will give him some looks this summer.

Co-Rookies of the Year

Blake Ahearn, Dakota Wizards and Mike Taylor, Idaho Stampede

Our two rookies of the year both have very unique stories, but both deserve the award for their play this season. Guard Blake Ahearn was drafted in the mid-rounds of the D-League draft by the Dakota Wizards and spent much of the first half of the season coming off the bench. We will get to more of his story later on in the article, but his shooting stroke earned him a call-up to the Miami Heat late in the season.

Mike Taylor joined the D-League after off the court troubles at Iowa State. An absolute freak physically, the rookie can easily be described as the quickest player with the ball in the league. His ability to get to the rim at will lead to many easy scoring chances, and he showed the ability to set up his teammates in transition as well. Though his shooting was streaky during the season, his three point jumper showed up in a big way during game three of the D-League finals. Taylor finished the game with 27 points, and knocked down seven of his ten long range jumpers. Another interesting wrinkle exists to Taylor’s story that makes him a truly unique D-League story. Since he was kicked off the Iowa State basketball team after the NBA draft in 2007, he is still eligible to be drafted (and he wasn’t eligible for an NBA call-up). We will have a more in-depth story about the situation in the coming weeks leading up to the draft.

Sleeper of the Year

Blake Ahearn, Dakota Wizards

An obvious choice for sleeper of the year, Ahearn had a great debut in his first D-League season. But rewind back to November, and it was an entirely different story for the guard on the night of the D-League draft. Though he gained notoriety as the NCAA’s all-time leading free throw shooter in college, there were many criticisms that led to Ahearn dropping to the last pick of the fourth round on draft night. Many thought he was too undersized to play shooting guard and without the proper skill-set and athletic ability to play point. He quickly proved the doubters wrong, first playing more of a shooting specialist role off the bench, and eventually taking over as the full time point guard with the departure of Maurice Baker and Dontell Jefferson to Europe. Ahearn led the D-League in scoring for the month of February, and had four games with 35 or more points this season including a season high 45 points on just 17 attempts from the field. The rookie was rewarded with a call-up to the Miami Heat. Though he still must continue to develop his point skills, Ahearn has the type of game that could last for a long time in the right NBA situation.

Coach of the Year

Bryan Gates, Idaho Stampede

In unanimous fashion, Coach Gates was voted the top coach in the D-League this season by our panel. In addition to coaching his team to a championship, we must also look at the great job he did acquiring players and assembling his roster this season, a feat even more impressive when you considered his first round pick Jamaal Tatum never played a minute due to injury. Gates clearly has an eye for talent, as noticed with some of his acquisitions over the past couple seasons including Mike Taylor and Lance Allred. Despite losing a lot of talent due to call-ups, he managed to keep his rotation deep. Both in terms of player personnel and strategizing, Gates stood out for the entire season, setting a league record for wins and grabbing the championship trophy to cap it off.

Sixth Men of the Year

Blake Ahearn, Mike Taylor

Tying for another award, both Taylor and Ahearn provided a huge impact off the bench for most of the season. Ahearn’s shooting stroke and versatility aided the Dakota Wizards in winning their division, and Taylor’s explosive scoring off the bench was vital for the Idaho Stampede all season.

Assignee of the Year

Ian Mahinmi, Austin Toros

When talking to NBA scouts about big men in the D-League with NBA futures, the first name mentioned by everyone was San Antonio Spurs rookie Ian Mahinmi, who spent nearly the entire season up the road in Austin. Physically, the rookie from France has every tool you look for in an NBA center prospect, including a well built frame, long wing-span, and explosive vertical leap. Combine this with Mahinmi’s surprisingly versatile offensive repertoire, and you have the tools for a future contributor in the NBA. The big man had a reputation for quick foul trouble over in France, and the D-League experience was quite beneficial for him in this regard. He was allowed to play through his foul trouble and still develop, and it became less of an issue as the season progress. Mahinmi still has another year of D-League eligibility, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend more time with the Toros next season.

All League Teams

All First Team

Randy Livingston, Idaho Stampede
Ian Mahinmi, Austin Tors
Kasib Powell, Sioux Falls Skyforce
Lance Allred, Idaho Stampede
Rod Benson, Dakota Wizards
Elton Brown, Colorado 14ers
Andre Barrett, Austin Toros

All Second Team

Blake Ahearn , Dakota Wizards
Morris Almond, Utah Flash
Sean Banks, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Carlos Powell, Dakota Wizards
Keith Langford, Austin Toros

All Third Team

Desmon Farmer, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Eddie Gill, Colorado 14ers
Cory Violette, Idaho Stampede
Nick Fazekas, Tulsa 66ers
Kaniel Dickens, Colorado 14ers

Honorable Mention

Earl Calloway, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Billy Thomas, Colorado 14ers
Marcus Campbell, Anaheim Arsenal
Mike Hall, Tulsa 66ers
Coby Karl, Los Angeles D-Fenders

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