Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Developmental Education 2.25.08

Developmental Education. Where I tell you all sorts of things about the D-League you never thought to ask. Mostly because you don't care. But I aim to change all that! Yes I do! I'm going to change your widdle minds! Yes I am! I'm going to make you respect B-quality talent because it's still better than Jason Collins and 80% of the Heat roster, yes it is!

Anyway, here's a few random thoughts on the D-League.

You know how the Spurs will randomly have these guys pop up and you ask yourself, "Where in the holy hell did they find this guy?" ? We have the next generation. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Ian Mahinmi, a repeat callup by the Spurs after being selected in the 1st round back in 2005 by the Spurs. They let him simmer in Europe for a while, then brought him over. He suffered an injury in the summer league which set him back.

And now he's killing the D-League. KILL-ING.

And that's not an amazing feat.

But having gotten a chance to watch him live this week? I can tell you he's going to be a valuable role player at worst for the Spurs in the next few years. At 6'11'', 230 he's physically imposing. You throw in his hustle, footwork, and defensive acumen and he's quite the talent. You've got a 6'11'' center that can shoot, score, rebound, block shots (7 blocked shots in his last game. I don't care if he's playing elementary school kids, that's a lot). You don't think the Suns, or the Celtics, or the Mavericks could use that?

He's light on his feet, has a back to the basket game and can work the break. If he works out a jumpshot he's going to be downright scary.

If you were wondering, it's prounounced "Yawn Maheenmee." I'd get used to saying it, if I were you.
The Austin Toros can now beat the New York Knicks. I'm not kidding. I am, in no way, joking when I say that. And it's got nothing to do with me living in Austin. It's not like I'm attached to the Toros. They're here, I'm here, we fit. I'm telling you. The Austin Toros are going to be the best team in the history of the D-League. Which isn't saying much. But still. They're going to legitimately be able to beat about three teams in the NBA. And not in the "any given night" way. They can take New York. They can take Memphis. And they can take Seattle. Here's why.

The Toros are currently 21-11. They play in arguably the most loaded division. They've had three callups this season. But they also feature a ridiculous amount of talent. Former Arizona stud Marcus Williams comes off the bench. Former Nugget DerMarr Johnson rolls for them. And, oh yeah, they've got KU alum Keith Langford averaging 34 points and 6 assists for them. Which is fun.

So they've got good forwards, good depth, one of the best NBA assignment players in Ian Mahinmi, and the #1 player on Draft Express' D-League Call-Up Candidates board. So how could they get better?

They just got #2 on that list.

Andre Barrett, 26 years old, 5'9'', 170 lbs. Not too intimidating right? This guy's been around. And he's freakishly quick. I saw him at the D-League All-Star game and there was no question who was the fastest guy out there. He was lightning quick. Barrett's really flourishing with more playing time. The biggest thing is he's started to work on his passing skills more, and his assists are up considerably. His last sting in the league last year with the Bulls didn't work out, but that doesn't mean he's not going to kill it in Austin. He's averaging 19 and 9, and that was on a team with less talent than the Toros. This is great news for the Toros' players, since they'll all look better as they're steamrolling folks. They need to improve on their road record with 10 of their last 17 on the road, but unless there's a flurry of call-ups in the next few days (which is possible), the Toros are gonna smoke the remaining D-League.
Now it's time for this week's "What You're Looking For." Here I'll give you a player to fill that raw spot on the roster.

Scoring Guard: Blake Ahearn- Dakota Wizards: Since moving into the starting lineup, he's been averaging over 25 points a game. I saw him up close and personal this week, and he's really developing into the total package. He told me after the game that he's been working on becoming more of a combo guard, since recognizes he doesn't have the size for a true 2-guard in the NBA. He showed a lot of versatility in Austin, though. He's running the offense, making smart decisions, and getting his teammates involved when they're in position. In particular, he's extremely talented in the break. He's got good court vision and some nice agility in the lane. He's also stroking it from the outside, hitting 6 three pointers the other night versus Iowa. He needs to continue improving his passing and maintain his rising assist to turnover ratio, but if your team is looking for a roster spot with a shooter, you can do way worse than Ahearn.

Lean, Mean, Inside Machine: Elton Brown- Colorado 14ers: Brown was this close to making the Lakers club in training camp, but just missed it. It's easy to see why. 6'9''. 250. Points. Rebounding. Blocks. Defense. Hustle. The fact that this guy hasn't been picked up yet is both a testament to NBA scouts' ability to pick out the little things that make them professionals, and an absolute travesty. In the D-League, he's posting career numbers, pulling in 21 and 12 with 1 block a game. He's got the body, he's got the work ethic, he's got the numbers. If your team is looking for a competent big man with experience who's not ancient? Roll the dice on him. He and Barrett were the two players at the D-League All-Star game that stuck out the most in terms of hustle.

Versatile Swingman: Carlos Powell- Dakota Wizards: At 6'7'', a smaller frame than Brown, but he's got a lot of the same attributes in terms of hustle, with a nice reliable offensive set and the ability to create for his teammates.

SIZE! I JUST WANT SIZE!: Lance Allred, Idaho Stampede: 6'11'', 250lbs. 16 points, 10 rebounds a game. Big frame. Solid game from the elbows. 81% from the line. Not the meanest guy you'll meet, but can do the job in a pinch. At 27, has been around enough to know some tricks. Draft Express LOVED him at the Showcase. Maybe the most "NBA-Ready guy who's not on assignment.
Player To Watch: DeQuan Cook. Let the slice and dice begin.

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