NBA AM: D-League Impacting The NBA Draft?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The 2013 NBA Development League Showcase was held this weekend in Reno, Nevada and there was a unanimous consensus that the talent level was as high as it has ever been. There was a representative from every NBA team as four games were played each day over a four-day period, featuring the entire league.
There were several NBA players down on assignment, most notably Oklahoma City Thunder rookies Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones, along with Denver Nuggets forward Quincy Miller and Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones.
All of those players could be playing college basketball this year as they had eligibility remaining, but ultimately decided to make the jump to the NBA and become professionals.
While they haven’t been able to crack their respective team’s rotation, they are playing extensive minutes in the D-League against a level of competition that they all said was higher than what they were facing last year in the NCAA.
That begs the question, what is better for a player’s development, playing in the D-League or in the NCAA?
College basketball has always been the recommended route. The NBA took young prospects’ opportunity to go to the league straight out of high school away years ago, basically forcing them to at least go to college for at least one year.
There are some other options, such as going overseas like Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings did or just going straight to the D-League. Both keep them draft eligible, but the vast majority of players have stuck with the traditional path of playing college basketball.
That could be changing, though, with how much the D-League is growing. There’s no argument any more over whether or not it is the second-best league in the United States. More and more NBA teams are buying their own D-League teams, which is quickly turning the league into a true farm system like Major League Baseball has with their minor leagues. It is without a doubt, as it is filled with players who were dominant at the collegiate level and some guys who have even played in the NBA previously. Some leagues overseas could make the argument that they are better, but in the U.S. it does not get any better other than in the NBA.
Like all decisions, there are pros and cons to either playing college basketball or going to the D-League. In college, you are playing primarily against your peers and are typically featured with lots of playing time. However, there are obligations that come with being a student-athlete that take away from a prospect’s time to work on his game. They’re also required to abide by the strict NCAA rules. With one slip up, their eligibility could be gone for good.
In the D-League, they can exclusively focus on basketball while competing against a higher level of competition in a system that is similar to the team’s NBA affiliate. On the downside, you miss out on the college experience and are forced into adulthood quicker than you would otherwise. The pay and travel time in the D-League are not exactly ideal either, but student-athletes can only receive scholarships and spend a lot of time on the road as well.
Ultimately, every individual is unique. They should do what they want, because it’s a decision that will change their life forever. They only have one chance to be a student-athlete, meanwhile the D-League option will always be there.
However, a close eye should be kept on guys like Lamb, Jones and Miller. They could end up being better long-term for the time they are spending in the D-League than they would have been if they stuck with college basketball. That could influence underclassmen like Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Baylor’s Isaiah Austin, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and other underclassmen who would get drafted based off their potential despite not being NBA ready.
No longer is there a fear of going to the NBA before you’re ready and having to sit on the bench until you are. The D-League has made that a thing of the past, which could have a major impact on how long prospects stay in college in years to come.
Other Thoughts From The Showcase: The hot topic at the Development League’s Showcase was call-ups and who could be next. With so much NBA personnel in attendance, there was also some chatter about the big league. Here’s what we took away:
- There are still too many hurdles to clear to think that the reported Kings’ move to Seattle from Sacramento is a guarantee. The March 1 relocation deadline is something to keep in mind on this topic. The process very well could get drawn out until then because of the Maloof’s hesitancy to sell and Sacramento investors’ desire to keep the team.
- The long-term goal of the D-League is to have as many NBA-owned teams as possible. With the success that teams like the Houston Rockets have had with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, many other teams are starting to see the benefit of having your own team. It’s also extremely valuable for developing coaches and front office personnel, not just players.
- Top call-up eligible point guards from the showcase: TaJuan Porter (Rio Grande), Courtney Fortson (Los Angeles), Andrew Goudelock (Rio Grande), Sean Singletary (Texas), Shelvin Mack (Maine), Xavier Silas (Maine), Ben Uzoh (Springfield), Jerel McNeal (Bakersfield), Jorge Gutierrez (Canton), Stefhon Hannah (Santa Cruz), Chris Wright (Iowa).
- Top call-up eligible wings from the showcase: Chris Johnson (Rio Grande), Chris Roberts (Texas), Tony Mitchell (Fort Wayne), Damion James (Bakersfield), Renaldo Major (Bakersfield), Shan Foster (Bakersfield), Marcus Landry (Reno), Carleton Scott (Springfield), Christian Polk (Springfield), Travis Leslie (Santa Cruz), Darington Hobson (Santa Cruz), Justin Harper (Erie), Mike Singletary (Erie), D.J. Kennedy (Erie), Terrel Harris (Rio Grande), Micah Downs (Maine), DaJuan Summers (Maine), Hollis Thompson (Tulsa), Andy Rautins (Tulsa), Morris Almond (Iowa), Elijah Millsap (Los Angeles), Paul Harris (Iowa), Demetris Nichols (Sioux Falls), Dar Tucker (Reno), Ramon Moore (Springfield), Anthony Richardson (Fort Wayne), Justin Dentmon (Austin).
- Top call-up eligible big men from the showcase: Tim Ohlbrecht (Rio Grande), Hassan Whiteside (Rio Grande), Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), Willie Reed (Springfield), James Mays (Springfield), Taylor Griffin (Santa Cruz), Chris Wright (Maine), Chris Johnson (Santa Cruz), Mickell Gladness (Santa Cruz), Tyler Wilkerson (Austin), Rick Jackson (Austin), Michael Eric (Canton), Solomon Alabi (Idaho), Sean Williams (Texas), Melvin Ely (Texas), Brian Butch (Bakersfield), Keith Benson (Erie).
Up Close With Will Barton: Will Barton of the Portland Trail Blazers is another young player who declared early and is now in the D-League on assignment. HOOPSWORLD caught up with him during the showcase to talk about his time in the league, playing for the Trail Blazers and more in this video interview.< /br> < /br>