Thursday, June 26, 2014

D-League Draft Prospect Preview: A Roundup of All the Draft-Eligible D-League Prospects

Here it is. The NBA Draft. After waiting anxiously since the end of the NBA season, NBA fans are looking forward to see who is going to be the next NBA star like LeBron, Durant and Carmelo and who is going to be the next NBA bust like Darko, Oden or Thabeet. It's an exciting time where the draft can help boost a team's chances of a championship, or help get a GM fired.

This NBA Draft, there are an unprecedented six eligible players who participated in the D-League this past season. It will be interesting to see after this draft if going to the D-League prior to entering the draft will start to be a trend for college and high school players not just around the country, but around the world as well. This very draft could be exhibit A in the D-League's growth and continued growth since its inception in 2001.

So, let's take some quick looks at the prospects eligible for this upcoming NBA Draft.

PJ Hairston, 6'5, 229 pounds, North Carolina, 21 years old

D-League Profile: 21.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 45.3 FG%, 35.8 FG%, 10.0% PIE (Player Impact Estimate) (Texas Legends)

Scouting Report (via DraftExpress)

Best Case Scenario: Lottery pick. Worst Case Scenario: Second round pick.

MLH Quick Take:

Hairston is the most polished and heralded prospect coming out of the D-League in this year's draft. After a sophomore campaign where he averaged 14.7 ppg for UNC, Hairston was ruled ineligible for the 2013-14 season due to multiple transgressions which ranged from marijuana use to having possession of a car that was rented out to a convicted felon. Despite his checkered history at UNC, Hairston is a talented wing player that uses his strength well on the drive and can shoot well from anywhere on the floor. Hairston still has to prove that he can improve on defense, but without a doubt, Hairston is a lottery-caliber prospect who could surprise a lot of people in tonight's NBA draft.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo, 6'6, 205 pounds, Greece, 21 years old

D-League Profile: 12 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 46.9 FG%, 7.9% PIE (Delaware 87ers)

Scouting Report (via DraftExpress)

Best Case Scenario: Late first-round pick. Worst case scenario: Late second-round pick.

MLH Quick Take:

The older brother of Milwaukee's Giannis, Thanasis is an athletic wing player that works hard on both end of the court and should be a late first round, second round pick in this upcoming NBA draft. While he doesn't have the height or athleticism of Giannis, Thanasis impressed some people with his motor and improvement over the course of the D-League season with the Delaware 87ers. Any team that picks up Thanasis knows that they will be getting a project of sorts, as many of his offensive skills need a lot of work. It would not be surprising to see Thanasis back in the D-League next season even if he is drafted. But, while his upside isn't as great as his older brother in Milwaukee, his work ethic and defensive ability is already NBA-ready, and he could end up developing into a Luc Richard Mbah Moute type of player down the road.

Cleveland Melvin, 6'8, 215 pounds, DePaul, 23 years old

D-League Profile: 11.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 54.4 FG% 9.6% PIE (Erie Bayhawks)

Scouting Report (via MLH)

Best Case Scenario: Second round pick. Worst case scenario: Undrafted.

MLH Quick Take:

A 6'8 wing player with inside-outside scoring ability, Melvin is an interesting player that will be eligible for the NBA Draft. Though he was suspended in January from the DePaul team, he had a pretty good career with the Blue Demons as he was one of the school's all-time leading scorers. In the D-League, Melvin showed a lot of maturity and polish as a player, excelling off pick and rolls and cutting to the basket for easy assisted buckets. Melvin showed a lot of improvement in his outside shot from his freshman year, going from an undersized center who primarily stayed around the hoop his freshman year to one that could hit the mid-range with regularity and occasional three by the end of his D-League campaign. Melvin still has to work on his physicality, rebounding and defense, but there are a lot bigger risks in this draft than Melvin, and it'll be interesting to see if a NBA squad will use one of their selections on him.

Norvel Pelle, 6'10, 207 pounds, Price High School, 21 years old

D-League Profile: 5.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 51.3 FG%, 5.5 % PIE (Delaware 87ers)

Scouting Report (via MLH)

Best Case Scenario: Early Second round pick. Worst Case Scenario: Undrafted

MLH Quick Take:

The long but troubled post prospect will be enticing to many NBA squads. With a 7'2.5 wingspan, and good shot blocking ability, it is easy to see a team take a second-round flier on the D-League prospect. He can wow people with his defense in the post, and he runs the floor well and is able to make the come from behind block with ease. At the same time, most of Pelle's game is a work in progress. His offensive game and footwork still need major work, and his court awareness still needs development as well. Whether he is drafted or not, Pelle would be better served with another year in the D-League to become a more polished player, especially since he had a long layoff between high school and his stint in Delaware. But, I like Pelle and the tools he brings to the table. Don't be surprised to see his name called tonight in the second round.

Elijah Pittman, 6'9, 219 pounds, Marshall, 22 years old

D-League Profile: 10 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.1 apg, 48.4 FG%, 5.8 PIE (Delaware 87ers)

Scouting Report (via MLH)

Best Case Scenario: Late second round pick. Worst Case Scenario: Undrafted

MLH Quick Take:

An athletic forward who has the ability to play on the wing or in the post, Pittman's game really isn't the issue. At Marshall, he was on his way to having a career year 8 games into the season, as he was averaging 20.5 ppg and 4.4 rpg for the Thundering Herd. However, off-the-court issues eventually led to his ouster from Marshall and the college level, and he ended up playing for Delaware during the stretch run. Pittman brings a big frame and a strong ability to score with the ball in his hands. He had improved his 3-point percentage to 38.2 percent his senior season at Marshall, so it is obvious that he can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders. Defensively he is prone to lapses, and he doesn't rebound as well as you would expect for someone his size, but he definitely held his own in the short, late-season stint with players who had been playing for an entire season. Pittman's profile is very similar to Melvin's, but he isn't quite as polished or heralded as Melvin entering this draft, so that's a strike against him. That being said, Pittman is on the cusp of being a great player. It's just more likely we'll see that jump and development in the D-League next season rather than the NBA.

Aquille Carr, 5'6, 148 pounds, Princeton Day Academy, 20 years old

D-League profile: 10.7 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 39.8 FG%, 7.6 % PIE (Delaware 87ers)

Scouting Report (via MLH)

Best Case Scenario: Late second round pick. Worst Case Scenario: Undrafted.

MLH Quick Take:

A legend in Baltimore high school, AAU and streetball circles, Carr is one of the most fascinating players eligible from the D-League. At 5'6, he is diminutive in stature, but he has excellent athleticism and quickness for a player his size. Furthermore, he shows a strong ability to score against bigger defenders, using his quickness to drive past defenders to the bucket or pull up for easy jumpers. Carr showed some improvement in the D-League with his jump shot from his time in high school and AAU, and he also showed some promise with his pick-pocket ability on defense when it came to steals. That being said, the main issues with Carr stem with size and maturity. History doesn't bode well for guys his height (Nate Robinson is the only notable case as of late) and his off the court issues have hurt him since his high school days (from not qualifying academically at Seton Hall to being released by the 87ers for not showing "professional commitment"). Carr has tremendous potential, and he certainly is enjoyable to watch. But his career outlook at this point seems more destined for the AND1 MixTape Tour rather than the NBA, unless he is able to shore up the maturity and off-the-court issues that have haunted him throughout his short career.

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