2009-2010 D-League Preview / Power Rankings (Part Two)

2009-2010 D-League Preview / Power Rankings (Part Two)
Nov 29, 2009, 05:42 pm
With the NBA D-League getting ready to tip-off it’s season on Friday, we offer a quick primer on who is playing in the league this season. Each team capsule includes a projected starting lineup, as well as a look at who might get called up to the NBA and who might get assigned to the D-League from the NBA.

There are still plenty of very good players hanging around on the free agent market, some of whom have their rights owned by D-League teams, and some who will get picked up as the season moves on, so consider this only a preliminary look at the talent available.

For more detailed analysis on the players mentioned, click on the links and read their profiles here on DraftExpress. Teams are sorted by overall power ranking.

*Call Up Candidates are marked with an asterisk.

2009-2010 D-League Preview / Power Rankings Part One

9. Austin Toros

Starting Lineup:

Curtis Jerrells*
Russell Carter/ Lewis Clinch
Alonzo Gee*
Justin Bowen
Dwayne Jones*

The Spurs are high on rookie point guard Curtis Jerrells. Jerrells was with the Spurs for training camp and summer league, and now is starting on their D-League team. Jerrels was a four-year starter at Baylor where he averaged 16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 4.9 apg his senior season. His biggest weaknesses are defense and perimeter shooting, and the D-League will provide a good test for him in both departments.

Alonzo Gee needs to shoot like a small forward if he is going to make the NBA. He had nice numbers at Alabama last year, but at 6’6”, with a great frame and wingspan, he will be well served to show the type of urgency and focus teams expect from a role-player on the defensive end. He has the body and athleticism to play the three, but the 62% he shot from the free-throw line and limited three-point attempts he took last year tell the story.

Dwayne Jones averaged 15.5 pts and 11.9 rebounds for the Toros last year, but has yet to show anything like those numbers in the NBA. Still, he’s a big lively body with good athleticism, which could earn him a call-up just to fill a gap for practices, even if his hands, offensive skill level and basketball IQ leave a lot to be desired.

The Toros are owned by the Spurs who really only have one player who might be assigned – Malik Hairston. He knows this league in and out by now and would be a big addition to the roster. It’s a shame that Ian Mahinmi is no longer eligible to play here, since an assignment would have been beneficial to him, the Spurs and especially the Toros. Their talent level is a bit down this year, but GM Dell Demps will surely be active looking to make them better.

10. Bakersfield Jam

Starting Lineup:

Anthony Goods
Reece Gaines
Jared Newson
Amara Sy*/Justin Hawkins
Robert Swift*

Bakersfield has a pretty strong roster full of experienced players with solid European resumes. That could be either a positive or a negative from what we’ve seen in the past, as veteran players tend to get antsy and lose motivation a lot faster than rookies do. Despite the chemistry concerns, you can’t ignore the talent that the Jam has managed to assemble relative to the competition in the D-League.

Former first round pick Reece Gaines is coming off an average season in Italy and will be the key to how Bakersfield performs. His overall versatility, particularly his perimeter shooting and ability to create his own shot could be major assets, but he’s known as a moody guy who could quickly lose interest in the D-League and start looking for his own numbers if he isn’t kept on track.

Anthony Goods played shooting guard for Stanford, but right now he looks like Bakersfield’s best option at the point unless Reece Gaines gets the nod there. He could emerge as a very valuable asset for this team based off what we saw in college. Jared Newson brings the team big-time athleticism, while Justin Hawkins is a skilled combo forward who can put points up on the board from the perimeter.

Along with Latavious Williams, one of the more interesting story lines in the D-League season involves Bakersfield’s Amara Sy. Sy is a native Frenchman who, at 27 years old, has come to the United States to take a shot at playing in the NBA. Unfortunately, Sy is injured and will miss the first couple of weeks. It will be interesting to see how well he plays and also if he is in it for the long haul here. His athleticism and ability to make big plays on both ends of the floor could be huge for this team.

Along with Sy, everyone will be watching to see how former lottery pick Robert Swift plays. It’s hard to imagine that he is only 23 years old, but he could still have a long career ahead of him if his knees hold up. In his lone preseason game, Swift was only 3-of-13 from the field so he has his work cut out for him in terms of shaking off the rust.

The Jam are affiliated with the Warriors and Clippers and neither team has any players that are likely for assignment. The exception would be if Golden State decides to sign former Erie BayHawk Chris Hunter for the season. Like many teams, depth is an issue here to start off the year.

11. Erie BayHawks

Starting Lineup:

Donell Taylor*/Cedric Jackson
Jackie Manuel/ Martin Zeno
Ivan Harris
Alade Aminu*
John Bryant*

Erie has one of the better frontcourts in the D-League, at least on paper. They seem to have a nice mix of scoring and role-players, although there is no true point guard to be found on this roster.

In their lone preseason game, Erie’s leading scorers were Oliver Lafayette and Rodrick Wilmont. The two combined for 37 points on 8-for-15 shooting. So naturally, they were both promptly cut.

Donell Taylor was surprisingly picked 2nd overall by Erie in the D-League draft, and he will likely be asked to carry a significant amount of offensive responsibility. Taylor is an athletic slasher who can create for himself and others, but has been unable to garner much success in Europe due to his inability to make perimeter shots and a potentially questionable attitude off the court. Still, he’s an extremely talented guy who could be extremely productive in this setting, particularly if he takes things seriously.

Alade Aminu might be the top overall prospect in the D-League, especially from a long-term perspective. The team went out and acquired him via trade, and may be able to develop him into a dominant Courtney Sims type presence as the season moves on. Aminu has NBA size, length and athleticism, even if he needs to add some bulk to his frame. He shows nice potential facing the basket and is a very intelligent guy off the court reportedly. He’s definitely a name to keep in mind.

Alongside Aminu we find the top rebounder in college basketball last season, Santa Clara’s John Bryant. Certainly not the quickest or most skilled big man you’ll find, Bryant could still have a major impact in this league as a sheer hustler and inside presence with his terrific hands and timing. It will be very interesting to see how outstanding his college production at the WCC level translates to this far more athletic setting.

Combo forward Ivan Harris had a surprisingly excellent rookie season in the D-League, and is now back for more of the same. He was known as mostly a 3-point shooter at Ohio State but showed some flashes of being able to do more for Erie last year. Martin Zeno and Jackie Manuel are both scrappy lockdown defenders on the wing with limited offensive skills.

Erie’s two NBA affiliates are the Toronto Raptors and the Cavaliers. While Toronto doesn’t have any likely assignees, Cleveland has a few – Danny Green, Darnell Jackson, Coby Karl and Jawad Williams. This team lacks a significant amount of size on the interior and perimeter shooting on the wing. Any scraps the Cavs can send them would surely be greatly appreciated.

12. Idaho Stampede

Starting Lineup:

Sundiata Gaines*
Mike Gansey
Roberto Bergersen
Anthony Tolliver*
Jeff Graves

Idaho will be down this year after making the playoffs the past three seasons. Idaho replaced their head coach Bryan Gates, who is now with the Sacramento Kings, with Bob MacKinnon, who won the D-League championship in Colorado last year.

Things will likely start and end with the play of Sundiata Gaines, a 2nd year point guard out of Georgia who lit up the Italian league in his rookie season and is now hoping to earn a call-up to the NBA. Gaines is a tough and very heady scoring point guard with average physical tools. He must improve the consistency of his perimeter shot and show that he can effectively run a team from the point guard position.

The extremely intelligent but somewhat physically limited Anthony Tolliver will get plenty of opportunities to score points and prove he belongs in the NBA. He’s one of the best perimeter shooters you’ll find in the D-League, particularly from the power forward position.

Idaho could see some key assigned players from Portland as they have an abundance of eligible players who aren’t seeing too many minutes with the Blazers – Dante Cunningham, Jerryd Bayless, Patrick Mills and Jeff Pendergraph.

13. Albuquerque Thunderbirds

Starting Lineup:

Keith McLeod
Antoine Agudio
Carlos Powell*/ Yaroslav Korolev
Kevin Pittsnogle
Cory Underwood

Carlos Powell was the first pick in this year’s D-League draft and could be one of the first players called up to the NBA. He was the last player cut from the Phoenix Suns’ training camp this year after spending last year in Korea. He’s a phenomenal scorer who can create his own shot at will at this level and is liable to drop 25+ points on any given night. NBA teams will want to see him make shots from beyond the arc at a consistent rate and show better dedication to the defensive side of the ball if he’s to earn a call-up this season.

The backcourt features two combo guards who played together last year and seemingly complement each other fairly well. The primary ball-handler, Keith McLeod has significant NBA experience and was always known for his slashing ability and defensive prowess. His age might be catching up with him at this point, though, as his efficiency numbers were pretty poor last season. Antoine Agudio is a guy we’ve always liked, and he’s not only an efficient scorer and a very mistake-free guy, but he’s also one of the better shooters you’ll find in the D-League.

Yaroslav Korolev needs to show something this season or he is going to be part of the talk as the worst lottery pick of all time. After teaching middle school for the past year, . Kevin Pittsnogle has decided to make a comeback and probably won’t be in the best shape in the world. He certainly wasn’t before he retired. Cory Underwood might be the team’s best big man, which isn’t saying much.

Albuquerque could use some serious interior help, but neither of their two affiliates (Dallas and New Orleans) have any players that figure to be assigned. The front office will have to work some magic on the trade front or as new players become available.

14. Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Starting Lineup:

Brandon Cotton
Kyle McAlarney
Ron Howard
Ryan Ayers
Rob Kurz*

The Mad Ants took a big hit when the Golden State Warriors called up center Chris Hunter last week. This created a big hole in their frontcourt and will likely force them to play small and very perimeter oriented.

Point guard duties will likely be split between sharp-shooting Notre Dame product Kyle McAlarney and former top high school recruit Brandon Cotton, who earned a spot via local tryouts. The two have complementary skill-sets and might even be able to play together in the same backcourt.

Without Hunter, the best chance for a call-up is Rob Kurz who, ironically, played for the Warriors last season. Kurz is an outstanding shooter and solid rebounder who plays with intensity and is extremely intelligent. He garnered more playing time in the NBA last year than likely any other player in the D-League.

The Mad Ants have three NBA affiliates and all of them could send a player to Fort Wayne. The Pistons could send DaJuan Summers or Austin Daye, though Daye isn’t very likely. While the Pacers could send A.J. Price and the Bucks could send Roko Ukic. Based on what we’re seeing from their roster so far, they could use all the help they can get.

15. Sioux Falls Skyforce

Starting Lineup:

David Bailey/Leemire Goldwire
Michael Joiner
Reggie Williams/ Keith Brumbaugh
Joe Krabbenhoft/Raymond Sikes
Greg Stiemsma*

Sioux Falls seems to be pretty down compared to years past, as they don’t have any serious call-up candidates, but don’t have much in the ways of returning talent either. Their frontcourt lacks any kind of depth and it appears that this team will struggle to score on a consistent basis, meaning they will have to play great defense.

Two-time NCAA scoring champion Reggie Williams is back after a year playing in France. Not the greatest athlete around, Williams will need to show improvement on defense and more range on his shot if he is to make the NBA. Highly experienced but tiny David Bailey will likely carry much of the shot-creating and ultimately scoring duties for the team. He’s an experienced guy who knows how to get the job done at this level. Wisconsin Badger fans will be delighted to see that Joe Krabbenhoft and Greg Stiemsma are reunited once again. Their team will need them to score consistently—typically not their forte--if they are to have any chance at winning games.

Stiemsma might be interesting for some teams to look at due to the very that he's a very long and mobile big man who can block shots and run the floor, even if he's very raw offensively.

Sioux Falls is unlikely to see any assigned players this year as they are affiliated with the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. Miami could only send Michael Beasley or Mario Chalmers, but they are both starting for the Heat. Wayne Ellington and Nathan Jawai would be the two most likely players to come from the Timberwolves, but they are both getting 13+ minutes per game.

16. Springfield Armor

Starting Lineup:

JamesOn Curry*/Craig Austrie
Adam Harrington
Perrin Johnson
Dante Milligan
Kentrell Gransberry

The expansion Armor are led by former Celtic Dee Brown who has his work cut out for him this season. None of their players participated in an NBA Training Camp this year or were on a Summer League roster. JamesOn Curry should get plenty of opportunities to fill up the box score for Springfield and will probably put up some huge scoring lines, but his off-court issues may hurt him from getting a good look from the NBA. He was cut very quickly from the team he played for in France last season.

Adam Harrington is one of the league’s best shooters and brings plenty of experience to the table as well. Him and Curry will carry much of the scoring load. Kentrell Gransberry was a terrific performer in the Big East a few years back for South Florida, but conditioning issues have limited him from having much success at the pro level just yet. Brown will need to get something out of him as he has very little talent in the frontcourt.

The Armor could desperately use an assignment from one of its three NBA affiliates with the possible players including Marcus Landry and Jordan Hill from the Knicks.

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