Our journey around the NBA D-League continues as we take a look at the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Vipers residein Hidalgo, Texas, which sits on the edge of the Mexico/Texas border, making them the southernmost professional team in all of the United States. This Valley Vipers team could be sitting on the edge of the D-League Finals picture this season despite finishing below .500 last season. Why do I have the Vipers slated as being so good after being so mediocre last season?
Well there are two reasons for that:
Reason #1: They currently have a roster that’s balanced with scorers like Demetri McCamey and Jeff Adrien and young front court players with potential like Reeves Nelson and Tim Ohlbrecht.
Reason #2: The Rockets currently have the youngest roster in the league. They have seven available to send to the Vipers including Terrence Jones, Scott Machado (already with Vipers), Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas (with Vipers), Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith, and Royce White.
After passing Wednesday night’s roster deadline, we now have a clear picture of what the Vipers roster will look like this season, and it’s clear that the Vipers have a pretty standout back-court especially with Scott Machado currently on the roster. Machado went undrafted in June’s draft but received a contract with Houston after having a great performance in the Summer League. With Iona, Machado nearly averaged a double-double with 13.3 PPG and 9.9 APG which was one of the top assist rates of the 2012 draft class. In addition to Machado, the Vipers feature another solid PG in former Illinois star Demetri McCamey. Before struggling in the Turkish league last year, Demetri was a stud in college by averaging 14.6 PPG, 6.1 APG and was really efficient with a 20.5 PER in his senior season.
While the PG situation looks pretty clear with McCamey and Machado (as long as he’s on assignment), the SG position looks a bit more fishy. There’s going to be three players competing for playing time including former Arizona Wildcat Kyle Fogg, Toure’ Murry, and Glen Rice Jr., who is the son of former NBA All-Star sharpshooter Glen Rice. All of these players are rookies in the D-League so they all have something to prove, but I would give a slight edge to Toure’ Murry because he was one of the leaders of a Wichita State team last year that landed a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile Kyle Fogg was a decent sharpshooter for Arizona while Glenn Rice Jr. showed a lot of potential with Georgia Tech before he was kicked off the team last season after being charged with a shooting incident in an Atlanta nightclub. Rio Grande Valley will be giving Rice a change to redeem himself but will have to work harder than he has ever had if he wants that starting gig with Rio Grande.
The Vipers front court is a bit of a question mark, but we do know that Jeff Adrien will be the star of not only this front court but the rest of the team. Before having stints with the Rockets and multiple European teams, Adrien had an outstanding year with the Vipers where he averaged a double-double with 19.9 PPG and 12.2 RPG. While Adrien is looked at to be the star of the team, rookie Chris Johnson will be looking to acquire any type of playing time behind the stud Adrien. Johnson was a decent spot-up shooter at Dayton and like Adrien was a decent rebounder for someone who’s not exceptionally tall.
Just like new teammate Glen Rice Jr, Reeves Nelson is coming to Rio Grande Valley as a talented but troubled player who was kicked off of his college team. Nelson was kicked out of UCLA after repeated bad behavior. Before being banished from the team, he was an All-Pac-10 selection when he put up 14.0 PPG and 9 RPG in his sophomore season. It would appear that Nelson has a clear path to being the starting PF for this team but the Rockets have a plethora of young PF’s that could make their way down to the D-League this season.
Going back to Motiejunas, he’s been compared to Andrea Bargnani as a big who’s not that great of a rebounder and likes to play around the perimeter. Donatas’ rebounding numbers did increase last year while playing in the Euro League but his reported attitude problem and inability to do the “dirty work” will be something that coach Nick Nurse will be working on while Motiejunas is down in Rio Grande Valley.
Wrapping up the look at the Vipers depth chart we take a look at the center position, which is currently held by the duo of DeVon Hardin and Tim Ohlbrecht. DeVon Hardin has been the definition of a “world-traveler” since playing with Tulsa in the 2009-10 seasons by making stops in places like Israel, Turkey, Belarus, Qatar and China. While Hardin really didn’t produce when he was with Tulsa, you would think that the RGV front-office sees something good out of him after drafting him in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. Meanwhile Tim Ohlbrecht will more than likely be trapped on the Vipers bench because he really didn’t do anything in his career in Europe that stood out at me.
Overall this Vipers team is really different than any other D-League team because their NBA affiliate is so young that players could be called up and sent down very frequently. With that said, I can see them being one of the best teams because they could get a lot of NBA talent mixed with the standard D-Leaguers.