Saturday, June 21, 2014

D-League Top-15 Prospect List: Honorable Mentions

Ron Howard (left) and Frank Gaines are two heralded D-League prospects who just missed the initial Top-15 cut

Before we start going into profiles of the Top-15 prospects, it is important to look at some D-League players who missed the cut due to a variety of reasons. D-League basketball (much like Minor League baseball) is really used for two reasons: 1.) to help develop talent in preparation for the highest level of play or 2.) house guys who aren't quite good enough to make the NBA. While early on in the D-League's existence it was used more for the latter, the D-League has developed as a league to where it's no longer seen as a "death sentence" as almost 33% of D-League players last season saw some kind of call up to the NBA.

Of course, as a "prospect" blog of sorts, the big question is who should NBA fans paying attention to in the D-League? Who is showing promise? And who is on the cusp of being that D-League star that shines in the NBA? (Jeremy Lin, Danny Green, Patty Mills and Gerald Green are all recent examples). Well, that is what the Top-15 list is for: to serve as a ranking of who in MLH's mind is on the cusp of making a NBA roster and possibly breaking out with the right opportunity and situations.

That being said, with 18 teams starting in the 2014-2015 season (the Westchester Knicks will join the fold in November 2014), coming up with the best, most promising 15 players on the prospect list isn't easy. A lot of considerations have to be taken to see who is a "true prospect" and who is just holding a spot down between the D-League and another league internationally. So, here are a list of some guys who just missed the cut.

The NBA Draft Eligible Prospects

  • PJ Hairston, G, Texas Legends
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo, G/F, Delaware 87ers
  • Aquille Carr, G, Delaware 87ers
  • Cleveland Melvin, F, Erie Bayhawks
  • Norvel Pelle, F, Delaware 87ers
  • Elijah Pittman, F, Delaware 87ers

Because these guys are eligible for the draft, the six above did not make it into the ratings. To be honest, if I could consider them, I would have, since they are all very promising players. That being said, with the draft less than a week away, I wanted to see how the draft and summer league panned out first before I put them into consideration. Some of these guys may be in the NBA by next Fall (most likely Hairston, a potential first round pick, and Antetokounmpo, a late first, early second-round pick), while some may opt to go overseas. So, while these are good players, their draft-eligible status keeps me from considering them into the Top-15 as of this moment.

The "Too Old" Guys
  • Shawne Williams, F, Los Angeles D-Fenders
  • Ike Diogu, F, Bakersfield Jam
  • Craig Smith, F, Sioux Falls Skyforce
  • Sundiata Gaines, G, Reno Bighorns
  • Dominic McGuire, F, Tulsa 66ers
  • Mustafa Shakur, G, Tulsa 66ers
  • Ron Howard, G, Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Some of these players are on the cusp of making a roster in the NBA, but they pass the "over 5 years a professional" limit. And, a lot of these guys don't have much upside left as some have had a decent amount of time in the NBA already, and would most likely be an end of the bench guy if called up (Williams, Diogu and Smith being the prime examples). That isn't to say I don't like some of these players, and they should definitely be kept an eye on. But they're too far in their professional basketball careers to be considered true "prospects".

Guys who just missed the cut
  • Shane Edwards, F, Canton Charge
  • Frank Gaines, G, Maine Red Claws
  • Dequan Jones, F, Reno Bighorns
  • CJ Williams, G, Los Angeles D-Fenders
  • Trey McKinney Jones, F, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Mario Little, G, Tulsa 66ers
  • Scott Suggs, G, Erie BayHawks

For these guys, it was hard to omit some of them, as some of them listed did earn call-ups at some point in the year. These guys were left off the Top-15 cut for a variety of reasons. Some are still raw and developing their game (Little, Edwards). Some have put up great numbers, but I need to see more time to make a more sound judgment on them (Gaines, Williams, McKinney Jones).  And some underwhelmed in college or early on, have turned it on a bit, but still have some more development to go before they can be considered "true" prospects (Suggs, Jones). All these guys are definitely capable and on the radar of making the Top-15 in the future, especially once the D-League starts.

So those are the honorable mentions. Check out the Top-15 page for updates to the list over the course of the summer and D-League season. Also, the official D-League Prospect Watch is a good place to see what players are considered the D-League's Top-30 prospects, though their rankings differ from MLH (they don't put the age stipulation like I do).

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