D-League Digest

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D-League Digest’s 2011 D-League All-Star Starters

Voting is still open for the 2011 D-League All-Star game, but with 11 of the league’s 16 teams at or beyond the midway point in their schedules, I decided to cast my vote publicly for the All-Star starters from each conference. Keep in mind, this is the opinion of one man. Official All-Star selections will be announced in the next week or two. (Last year’s teams were announced Feb. 2).

East Conference

Center: Chris Johnson, Dakota Wizards
Johnson earned a call-up to the Portland Trailblazers for his strong play anchoring the Wizards’ front line. As per Steve Weinman’s recently released rebound rate stats, Johnson ranked fourth in the league in defensive rebound percentage. He’s also second in the league with 3.07 blocks per game. Offensively, he’s averaged 17.2 points per game on 51 percent shooting.

Power Forward: Ivan Johnson, Erie BayHawks
Johnson has been on a tear lately for the BayHawks. He scored a D-League season-high 46 in a win over Maine on Jan. 14 and 39 in a win over Fort Wayne on Saturday. He’s averaging 30.2 points per game on 61.1 percent shooting over the past five games while leading Erie to the second best mark in the East.

Small Forward: Othyus Jeffers, Iowa Energy
I know he’s listed as a guard on the official ballot, but Jeffers, who earned a call-up to the NBA last season, has played plenty of minutes as a small forward for the Energy this season. His shooting percentages have dropped off a bit this season. However, at 21.1 points per game, he’s been the leading scorer for the East’s best team. He’s also the team’s second leading rebounder, trailing only Courtney Sims. Impressively, he’s also tied for Sims for the league lead in double-doubles with 14.

Shooting Guard: Chris Lofton, Iowa Energy
This spot could just as easily have gone to Lofton’s Energy teammate Kyle Weaver, but Weaver is out six weeks with an injury, so Lofton gets the nod. He’s undersized as a two-guard, but playing in the backcourt beside D-League veteran point guard Curtis Stinson has freed Lofton to do what he does best: shoot the ball. The former Tennessee Volunteer has made more 3s than anyone in the D-League this season, and he’s third in 3-point percentage, converting at 44.4 percent from long range.

Point Guard: Walker Russell, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Russell has been the most consistent player for a Mad Ants team that has fallen off significantly, losing seven straight after a 12-7 start. He leads the East in assists/minute and is ninth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, while also scoring more than 16 points a game. He’s also eighth in the league in steals with nearly two per game.

Toughest Omissions: Courtney Sims, Curtis Stinson

West Conference

Center: Sean Williams, Texas Legends
Williams has been a force defensively, averaging a league-best 3.35 blocks per game. He’s also third in the league in field goal percentage, converting nearly 60 percent of his attempts. He has started all 23 games for the Legends this season, averaging a near double-double of 15.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

Power Forward: Jeff Adrien, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Adrien has played in fewer games than anyone else I named as an All-Star starter, but his production was just too hard to ignore. Pardon the snub, Joe Alexander, a worthy All-Star candidate in his own right, but the Adrien-led Vipers have yet to lose since he was acquired via trade from Erie. In fact, Adrien hasn’t lost a game since before Christmas, having won 13 in a row with Erie and RGV. He’s recorded a double-double in eight of the last nine games, and he is second in the league in rebound percentage.

Small Forward: Patrick Ewing Jr., Reno Bighorns
The Bighorns’ two most impressive players this year likely won’t be All-Stars. Point guard Aaron Miles suffered a knee injury after a great start to the season, and assigned guard Jeremy Lin has played in just 11 games. But Ewing Jr. has been a consistent, impressive player for Reno in his own right. He’s started 25 games and averaged 15.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.65 steals, and 1.23 blocks per game (ranking top-three on the team in each category).

Shooting Guard: Trey Johnson, Bakersfield Jam
News broke today that Johnson was called up to the NBA by the Toronto Raptors. It was well-deserved recognition for Johnson, the leading scorer in the D-League this season at 25.8 points per game. He’s also averaged better than 4 assists and 4 rebounds per game for the Jam this season.

Point Guard: Mustafa Shakur, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Shakur also recently earned a call-up to the NBA. He showed up in an oversized jersey in his debut with the Washington Wizards. Prior to the call-up, Shakur put up impressive numbers in helping the Rio Grande Valley Vipers move from a .500 team to the second best record in the West.

Toughest Omissions: Joe Alexander, all eligible Tulsa 66ers (I realize it’s unusual for the team with the best record in the league, a 12-game winning streak and two of the league’s five call-ups not to have an All-Star starter)

Who do you think deserves recognition as a 2011 D-League All-Star? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.

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