Every year in the NBA draft there are players selected that aren’t quite ready to contribute to NBA teams. The primary reason for the D-League is to turn potential into NBA playing time. Linsanity was truly remarkable and one of the best things to happen to the D-League in its brief 11 year history. It gave the league huge publicity.
It’s true that Jeremy Lin is an outlier; players like him won’t make that type of impact yearly. However the D-League can be a place where teams find valuable role players. With 87 players on opening day rosters, it’s clear there’s that the D-League is producing NBA Players. Whether it’s first rounders (Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley, Dorell Wright), second rounders (Lou Williams, Steve Novak, Ersan Illyasova) or undrafted players (Alonzo Gee, Reggie Williams, Ivan Johnson) the D-League helps players get consistent playing time in the NBA.
Here are a handful of rookies on NBA rosters that are likely to see some D-League time this year:
John Henson (North Carolina) 14th overall, Milwaukee Bucks/Ft. Wayne Mad Ants
Henson is a terrific shotblocker who has a crazy 7’6” wingspan. However, he is rail thin and needs to work on his offensive game. Despite being a lottery pick, he has zero post game, and a poor midrange jumper. A 51% foul shooter, Henson does have surprisingly good ball handling and passing ability for a near 7 footer. The Bucks boast a deep frontcourt with Luc Mbah a Moute, Ersan Illyasova, Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh, Tobias Harris, Joel Pryzbilla and Larry Sanders all worthy of playing time. It’s unlikely for Henson to crack the Bucks’ big rotation; look for Henson in a D-League arena near you!
Fab Melo (Syracuse) 23rd overall, Boston Celtics/Maine Red Claws
Similarly to Henson, the Brazilian import is a great shotblocker but doesn’t have much else to his game. Melo, the former Big East Defensive Player of the Year played in the middle of Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Oppositely, the Celtics play a team defense that every team strives for. It’s like a marionette, they move together on a string. Everyone knew Melo was going to be a long-term project. He lands in a perfect situation; the Celtics entered a hybrid-affiliation with the Red Claws this past summer. Melo can work on his team defense in Maine as well as learn to do something on offense other than dunk the basketball. (Melo didn’t dress for the Celtics opener on Tuesday night)
Miles Plumlee (Duke) 26th overall, Indiana Pacers/ Ft. Wayne Mad Ants
Plumlee is a great athlete who runs the floor and lives on the boards. But in four years at Duke, he had abysmal production (Senior year averaged 6.6 ppg, his highest of his career). Similarly to Henson and Melo, his offensive game is not much more than dunking and putbacks. At last year’s combine, he had the second best vertical of any player posting a remarkable 40.5 inch leap (Only behind Darius Johnson-Odom, 41.5). At 6’11 3/4”, he oozes with potential but needs more of an offensive game to have value. His career defensive rating was 91.64 which is very good(comparatively, Melo had a 93.69 defensive rating). With Ft. Wayne being only roughly two hours from Indianapolis, expect to see Plumlee in a Mad Ants uniform throughout the season. (Plumlee didn’t dress for the Pacers in their opener Wednesday night)
Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State)27th overall, Philadelphia 76ers/Sioux Falls Skyforce
Moultrie spent his first two years of college playing at Texas Western.. I mean UTEP. He is an explosive athlete with a good face up game and great length. What’s not to like? Well, he lacks ball handling skills, like most young big men. He also had poor shot blocking numbers for Mississippi State last season (2.1 block %). This is somewhat alarming to me considering his athletic profile. Additionally, similarly to the Bucks, the 76ers have a loaded front court with Andrew Bynum, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown and perhaps even Dorell Wright getting minutes at the big man spot for coach Doug Collins. Moultrie is supremely talented and may only play a few games for Sioux Falls, but with a healthy frontcourt there might not be any playing time for him in Philadelphia. (Moultrie got a DNP-Coach’s Decision in the opener Wednesday night, even with Andrew Bynum hurt).
Quincy Acy (Baylor) 38th overall, Toronto Raptors/Bakersfield Jam
At only 6’7” Acy lacks ideal size for a big man, just like many D-Leaguers. His passion is evident whenever he steps on the court which is a huge plus. Acy, a renowned dunker has little more to his offensive game. He is a classic forward tweener; not enough ball handling for a 3, but too short for a 4. However, he is a great rebounder and shot blocker for his size. Unfortunately for Acy, the Raptors (like the aforementioned Bucks&76ers) have a logjam at the forward positions with fellow rookie Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray and Linas Kleiza expected to get minutes. (Acy didn’t dress for the Raptors opener Wednesday night)