The NBA season has started and has already seen the twists and turns that you’d expect in an action flick. But it’s time to put the antics of those superstar players to the side to discuss the world of the NBA Developmental League. The likes of Byron Mullins and Alonzo Gee who both had extended time in the D-League in the past are currently having good seasons so far with their respective NBA teams and have proved how the D-League can help a player progress. There are hundreds of players currently in the D-League that are hungry that they could get to the level of Alonzo, Byron or other multiple former D-League players currently in the NBA.
Now even though they all dream of going to the NBA, those players still compete as a team to become the D-League champs like the Austin Toros last year. Players come and go in the D-League, but there’s still a championship to be won and one of these teams competing for the gold are the Idaho Stampede. The Stampede have struggled to even reach the playoffs since winning the title in 2007-08, but they hope that this is the year that they can make it back to the D-League playoffs and put excitement back in the CenturyLink Arena.
Idaho hopes former Magic and Richmond forward Justin Harper can be that player that can help lead this squad back to the playoffs. I’ve previously talked about Harper in my draft preview article. Harper plays in the same mold as Channing Frye. Harper never really had the opportunity to succeed with the Magic, but he was an all-around player at Richmond with his ability to score from the perimeter and the post and rebound.
Harper is going to have to lead this front court because they currently don’t have a big man that could pair up with him to rebound and block shots. The only player you could really call a center on this team would be 6’11” rookie Garrett Green who was a role player with San Diego State last year (6.0 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 19 MPG). The likes of Paul Carter, who was a solid player for Idaho last year, could help the front court, but they’ll have to be hoping one of the other players step up or the Blazers send down Joel Freeland or Victor Clavor (more of a SF than a PF) to help the Stampede produce in the front court.
The Stampede is led by the returning Coby Karl who has played European ball for the past two seasons but was an absolute stud with Idaho in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. Karl will bring a veteran’s touch to a backcourt that’s filled with inexperienced players (minus journeyman D-Leaguer Darren Cooper). Another returning Stampede shooting guard is former Beavers guard Seth Tarver who’s been a solid role player for the past two seasons.
Tarver is a good scorer (.507 FG% last year), but he’ll most likely be the sixth man thanks to the return of Karl. Point guard will be a question mark for this team but I can see former TCU Horned Frog Hank Thorns, who’s a 5’9″ spitfire who was a solid player in his senior season last year (13.5 PPG, 4.0 APG, 1.0 SPG) taking the starting gig because he’s really the only PG. Thorns will have a challenging matchup basically every single night as the D-League site recently looked at in their top-10 D-league PG list. Thorns could become the starting PG for the season, but Nolan Smith could possibly be called down to the D-League if he continues to rot away on the Blazers bench.
It’s hard to really predict how a D-League team will finish because different players get called up and down so frequently. That said, I believe that the Stampede are going to be a team that are built around Karl and Harper but will be still be on the outside looking in once the 2013 D-League playoffs start.