Friday, February 1, 2013

D-League Decoded: Welcome to the Small Show

The Texas Legends pursuing Allen Iverson was one of the biggest D-League stories of the week. (

Hello readers of Beats, Dimes and Drives. My name is Dakota Schmidt and I'm addicted to basketball. Sure, most of you are also addicted to the sport since you're reading this site, but I'm a little different. You see while most people like the Heat, Thunder or Clippers, I personally like watching the Bucks, Bobcats and the NBA D-League. If you don't know, the D-League is the NBA's minor league where players develop and teams feature creative names like the Mad Ants, Red Claws, Skyforce and of course the Bighorns. Yes, the D-League has been around for more than 10 years, but this is quite possibly the greatest season yet with better teams and a vastly improved pool of players. With that said, the D-League is still kind of a hidden commodity so I'm going to take you on a little tour of the best stories from the past week in the NBADL.

1. Rumors that the Texas Legends would be going after Allen Iverson
Around Monday morning, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Texas Legends were going after former NBA MVP point guard Allen Iverson, who hasn't played in the United States since his '09-'10 stint with the 76ers. The 37-year-old declined the invite from the Legends after stating on his Twitter account that he thinks that the D-League is a great opportunity for players, but he wanted to complete his "legacy" in the NBA.

I do understand that Iverson would want to go straight into the NBA because he was one of the most popular players in the first half of the 2000's. With that said, it's 2013 and teams aren't really looking forward to acquiring a player in his late 30's when they really don't know how he could still produce after not playing in the league for three seasons.

Iverson's refusal to join the Legends leaves the door wide open for former D-League MVP Justin Dentman, who was acquired last week from the Austin Toros. Dentman may be familiar to NBA fans because he had separate stints last season with the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs, but he has really made his mark in the D-League, where he helped lead the Toros to a title last season. Dentman is perhaps one of the top scoring guards in the league with a solid mid-range shot and a quick first step that helps him drive to the basket.

2. Toko Shengelia's Monster Night
The young Brooklyn Nets prospect straight out of the country Georgia has seen very limited minutes in his rookie year, which has allowed him to have two separate stints with the Springfield Armor. Springfield has one of the worst records in the D-League, but they were the center of the universe this past weekend simply because of the play of the 6'10" Shengelia. In Friday's game against the Maine Red Claws, Shengelia possibly had the best performance by any player in the D-League this season when he put up a 39 points and 18 rebounds.

While Maine did have a good crop of forwards (Chris Wright, Micah Downs and Fab Melo), Shengelia basically chewed them up and spit them out by being a fiend on the boards and working his mid-range shot to perfection. It's unclear how many times Shengelia will be assigned back to the Armor this season, but it is clear that it will most definitely be must-watch action if he is reassigned.

3. Royce White to the D-League?
The long-winded controversy between first-round pick Royce White and the Houston Rockets appears to be over as White is scheduled to debut with Houston's affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, on Feb. 11. The Rockets have been one of the best teams when it comes to using their D-League counterpart after sending players like Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Patrick Beverly to the team so far this season. The main issue between White and the Rockets front office has been White's fear of anything involving flight, which is odd because the D-League flies commercial airlines rather than the private airlines of the NBA.

I've stated my personal opinions about White on my Twitter account, but I think his stint with Rio Grande Valley will prove how important his future as a basketball player really is. Royce's skills are undeniable and he should have a good career in the NBA, but there will always be questions about if he's going to be focused more on his battle with anxiety than with his play on the court.

4. Potential D-League PGs that could replace Rajon Rondo
This past Sunday it was reported that Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo would miss the rest of the season because of a torn ACL, which only hurts a team that's already fighting to stay in the playoffs. Boston does have a wide variety of combo guards like Avery Bradley, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, but none of those guys are really a pure PG.

The D-League has a wide variety of point guards that official D-League blogger Kevin Scheitrum wrote a piece about earlier this week. The first player that stands out at me has to be Delonte West because he's an NBA veteran who has also played multiple seasons under Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. While he's had a troubled career, West is still a talented player and is definitely worth at least a 10-day contract.

While the rest of the D-League PGs don't have the experience of West, there are still a wide variety of players Boston can choose from. For example, Courtney Fortson of the Los Angeles D-Fenders the  No. 1 D-League prospect is the type of high energy player the Celtics could use to energize their squad. Fortson is improving both as a scorer (19.1 PPG) and as a distributer (6.5 APG) while also pulling down 5.3 RPG, which is outstanding when you look at the fact that he's 5'11".

Some other notable PG's in the D-League include Donald Sloan, Andre Barrett, Sean Singletary and Ben Uzoh. Both Sloan and Singletary have experience playing in the NBA and are similar players because they're solid distrubters and are solid shooters. Barrett has been around both the NBA and the D-League since the early days of the league and he's probably the best passer in all of the NBADL. Like Rondo, Andre is never going to be the best shooter around, but he is notching 11.3 assists per game while playing with the Celtics-affiliated Maine Red Claws. That is key, as Barrett would be able to make the smooth transition between leagues because Boston and Maine run similar systems. Last but not least, former Nets guard Ben Uzoh has been one of the top prospects in the league all season long simply because he can do anything on the court from leading an offense to being one of the best rebounders in the league for a guy his size (6'3", 205 lbs.).

5. Rise of DaJuan Summers
Former Pistons/Hornets forward DaJuan Summers has been of the more pleasant surprises in the D-League so far with the Red Claws. Now of course people know about his talent since his college days with Georgetown, but he's really exploded as the third forward on that Red Claws team. The team was going into the season expecting things out of Micah Downs and Chris Wright, and they have definitely produced in their roles but Summers has been the standout player since being signed in early December. Recently DaJuan had a career night against the Springfield Armor where he put up 34 points and 10 rebounds but only to get out-shined by Toko Shengelia who had that outstanding game I previously talked about.

DaJuan might not be the best player you've ever seen play but he's really worth taking the time out of your schedule to take a look at him like a lot of the other talent in the D-League.

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