Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be doing the countdown for the Top-15 D-League Prospect rankings going into the 2014-2015 season. Of course, this list is going to fluctuate constantly. With guys getting called up and demoted down on a regular basis, players may be in the Top-15 one week, and then may disappear altogether the following week. So, the Top-15 D-League Prospect rankings are something one should keep close attention to, as it will be a weekly update, especially as the D-League season begins.
I will be listing some honorable mentions tomorrow, and then either over the weekend or on Monday, I'll be starting with No. 15 on the prospect countdown. I formulate my rankings on a variety of things, from the NBA D-League's official "Prospect Watch" to Ridiculous Upside's "Prospect Pyramid". However, in order to really gauge the word "prospect", I am modifying my criteria for the rankings in comparison to some of the other D-League rankings out there on the Web.
The big one is the "years pro" cap I put on potential "prospects". From my experience covering Minor League baseball, there is a difference between someone that is a "prospect" and someone that is just a "minor league player" (or 4A players as they call it in baseball). A guy may be dominant in the D-League, but if he has been around professional basketball for a long time, then dominating less-competitive talent is not as impressive in comparison to a first-year professional dominating the D-League. So, I take that more into consideration, and a younger guy with slightly lower numbers than a veteran will get the benefit of the doubt in my rankings.
Also, I am eliminating players who have played more than 5 years professionally from the rankings (so six and up). Anybody who has been playing that long professionally should have found a spot in the league at this point, so I don't think there's any upside to them playing in the D-League. They may be dominating and putting up numbers, but they should have at that point found a niche on a NBA roster if they were that good. It's kind of like the "Age 26" rule in minor league baseball: at age 26, a player is what he is. The same holds true for basketball prospects in my mind. At year six, they most likely are what they are as a player, and if they are in the D-League, their career upside is probably the D-League, International ball or a couple of 10-day contracts here and there.
So, eliminated are guys like Craig Smith, Sundiata Gaines, Shawne Williams, Ike Diogu and Dominic Mcguire. I think it's safe to say those guys are in the D-League not because they need a little more seasoning or more playing time, but they're just outside the bubble in terms of being a regular NBA player. Even if they do make it to the league, there just isn't a lot of upside left for those guys, who have been playing professional ball for a long time.
That is the main criteria for the rankings: younger guys will get more consideration than older players (upside over straight performance) and players with six or more years of professional experience are eliminated from the rankings.
Honorable mentions will be listed tomorrow. Let the countdown begin!