NBA

7 Players to Watch for at NBA D-League Showcase Event

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

7 Players to Watch for at NBA D-League Showcase Event

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    Are you tired of watching LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and the rest of the NBA's superstars dominate their opponents? 

    If so, the D-League Showcase is for you!

    Starting on Jan. 5, the D-League's 17 teams will compete in Reno, with all games broadcasted so that fans and NBA teams alike can scout the players who haven't yet made it to the Association. You'll recognize a lot of names, especially if you pay attention to the draft and what goes on in college basketball, but there will also be plenty of players who you really can't identify. 

    All of them will be playing with as much heart as possible, as this is an opportunity to showcase skills and receive a call-up to the NBA.

    Last year, the event helped Jarvis Varnado (Miami Heat), Donald Sloan (New Orleans Pelicans) and Mike James (Dallas Mavericks) earn spots in the big leagues, according to D-League Digest's Gino Pilato, and this season's event will likely do similar things for a different crop of players. 

    You can check out the full schedule here, but let's focus first on the players who you should go out of your way to watch. 

     

    Honorable Mentions: Chris Johnson (Rio Grande Valley Vipers), Terrence Williams (Los Angeles D-Fenders), Chris Wright (Maine Red Claws)

     

    Note: All D-League stats come from Stats.NBADLeague.com.

Dee Bost

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    Otto Kitsinger/Getty Images

    Team: Idaho Stampede

    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 24

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.1 blocks

    NBA Experience: None

     

    If you're looking for a man capable of stuffing the stat sheet from top to bottom, Dee Bost is your guy. 

    Not only is the 24-year-old combo guard leading the D-League in assists per game with a stellar 8.4 (remember, these totals are typically depressed by limited playing time, poor shooting from teammates and a lack of established chemistry), but he's also putting up 16.5 points per contest, and they're coming in a variety of ways. 

    Bost still struggles to control himself, a problem that plagued him throughout his career at Mississippi State. He can outrun most players when he turns on the jets, but he also messes himself up on occasion and still goes through plays far too quickly for his teammates. 

    Regardless, the potential is tantalizing because he's capable of running a pick-and-roll system and has experience carrying lackluster offensive teammates.

    Plus, the shooting stroke will come around eventually. Although he's never been particularly efficient, Bost did spend his senior season for the Bulldogs shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 34.6 percent beyond the arc. If he can get his numbers to creep up closer to those marks, an NBA stint could be in his future. 

DeWayne Dedmon

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    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Team: Santa Cruz Warriors

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks

    NBA Experience: Golden State Warriors (2013)

     

    Just look at that picture. 

    It takes a special kind of athleticism and length to block a shot with the majority of your hand above the square, yet that's exactly what DeWayne Dedmon has done multiple times for the Santa Cruz Warriors while producing a line that looks like something Anthony Davis would average. 

    Dedmon received a quick cup of coffee with the Golden State Warriors at the beginning of the 2013-14 season. He spent only six minutes on the court over four games, scoring a single point and missing his only shot from the field. 

    Maybe he used the lack of success/opportunity as motivation, because he's been terrorizing the D-League ever since getting sent back down. Averaging 15 points and 15 rebounds isn't easy at any level, but Dedmon has met or topped those benchmarks in five of his 10 appearances. 

    The USC product started playing basketball when he was 17 years old, so he still doesn't have much experience at the sport's highest level. Or any level, for that matter.

    It's clear that he's learning the game rather well, and his 7'0" frame and 7'4" wingspan will eventually lead to him receiving more of a pitcher than a cup the next time he gets some coffee. 

Richard Howell

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    Otto Kitsinger/Getty Images

    Team: Idaho Stampede

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks

    NBA Experience: None

     

    Not only is Richard Howell averaging a rather definitive double-double, but he's doing so while shooting 57.5 percent from the field.

    And it gets better. 

    The former N.C. State standout was known as a physical behemoth during his college career, a player who could make up for his lack of height through sheer strength, toughness, tenacity and fundamentals. He played great defense and banged around in the paint well enough to average 12.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game during his final season in Raleigh. 

    But he never developed much of a mid-range jumper, and that's changing as he spends his first season working at the post-collegiate level. 

    Through 14 games, Howell has attempted 38 jumpers inside the three-point arc and outside the paint, making 15 of them for a 39.5 percent clip. That's respectable, and it bodes well for the 23-year-old's future development. 

    If he's going to develop into a poor-man's version of Paul Millsap, he'll have to do so by adding more skill that allows him to spend time away from the basket. So far, so good. 

Pierre Jackson

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    Otto Kitsinger/Getty Images

    Team: Idaho Stampede

    Position: PG

    Age: 22 

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 28.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.1 blocks

    NBA Experience: None

     

    Pierre Jackson can flat-out score the basketball. 

    After averaging 19.8 points per game during his final season at Baylor, he's upped his game and is now posting a gaudy 28.6 points during the average contest. Manny Harris is the only player even close to his league-leading total, and Jackson is one of only nine players topping the vaunted 20-point barrier. 

    At one point, Jackson dropped 49 points (49!!!!) while leading his Idaho Stampede to an eighth consecutive victory. 

    However, it's not all rosy for the 22-year-old point guard, and here's where we let RidiculousUpside.com's Scott Rafferty take it away:

    But here's an unfortunate reminder: The Pelicans hold Jackson's rights, so no other NBA team can call him up unless they trade for him. Therefore, the likelihood that we'll see Jackson in the NBA anytime soon is pretty slim, which is sad. But for all us D-League lovers, let's enjoy it before he becomes the next Nate Robinson on the big stage.

    From his high jumps before releasing the ball to his knack for penetrating into the teeth of a defense off the pick-and-roll. From his physical play to his diminutive stature. From his speed to his out-of-control nature. 

    The Nate Robinson comparison works in a lot of ways, and Jackson won't remain stuck in the D-League forever. Catch him now while he's absolutely dominant. 

    Plus, as three of the first four players featured all come from the Stampede, you can probably tell that it's worth tuning in to some of their games. 

Kevin Jones

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    David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    Team: Canton Charge

    Position: PF

    Age: 24

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks

    NBA Experience: Cleveland Cavaliers (2012-13)

     

    You probably don't remember Kevin Jones from his brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but if you're a college basketball fan, you should certainly recall the four years he spent with the West Virginia Mountaineers. 

    Jones consistently improved throughout his time under Bob Huggins, and he topped out during his senior season, averaging 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field. According to Sports-Reference, the power forward led the Big East in field-goal percentage, offensive rebounds per game, total rebounds per game and points per game en route to being made a consensus All-American. 

    Now that he's taken his talents to the D-League, the same skills are popping up, just not quite as frequently. 

    A solid post defender with great hands, Jones can make an impact on both ends of the court, though he's not a dominant defensive rebounder. He can knock down mid-range jumpers, but a lack of speed and high-caliber footwork makes him avoid going to work in the paint as often as teams would like. 

    If he keeps playing like this while receiving a bit more national attention, there's no way his type of offense can remain mired in the D-League. 

Myck Kabongo

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    Shane Bevel/Getty Images

    Team: Austin Toros

    Position: PG

    Age: 21

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 10.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.0 blocks

    NBA Experience: None

     

    Remember when Myck Kabongo was viewed as a potential lottery pick?

    That was before his freshman season at Texas, where he spent an underwhelming two seasons before going undrafted in 2013. DraftExpress' mock draft history is ugly for the Canadian floor general, as it shows him entering into an unchecked free-fall ever since he was projected to go at No. 9 in 2011. 

    Kabongo just never developed much of a jumper during his time with the Longhorns, but that's changing now that he's playing with the Austin Toros.

    Forget about the per-game numbers. It's a nice well-rounded line, but those aren't as important as the shooting percentages.

    The 21-year-old point guard is shooting 47.6 percent from the field, far better than the 41.8 percent he shot during his injury-shortened sophomore season under Rick Barnes. More impressively, he's upped his three-point shooting to 55.6 percent, and that's coming on 1.3 attempts per game.

    At Texas, Kabongo shot 31.6 percent as a freshman then regressed to 29.6 percent as a second-year player.

    He still looks off open teammates far too often and doesn't shoot with as much of a green light as he should, but at least the mechanics and results are both coming around.  

Arinze Onuaku

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    David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    Team: Canton Charge

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 26

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.1 blocks

    NBA Experience: New Orleans Pelicans (2013)

     

    Arinze Onuaku has been a man amongst boys during his time in the D-League. 

    The Syracuse product is averaging a solid 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and he's doing so while shooting a scorching 65.4 percent from the field. Even though opponents know he's only going to make an impact from right around the basket, they can't stop the big man from establishing deep post position and then finishing the play. 

    Of his 104 attempts during the 2013-14 season, 101 of them have come right at the hoop. 

    A D-League All-Star last year, Onuaku began the current campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans, playing three games before he was sent back down. In those 25 minutes, he failed to establish himself in the scoring column, going one of four from the field, but he was a great rebounder and surprisingly adept passer. 

    Onuaku should eventually receive another chance, especially if he continues to outmuscle everyone that goes up against him. 

    As Erie BayHawks head coach Gene Cross told CantonRep.com's Josh Weir after Onuaku recorded 29 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, "I think he needs to be in the NBA right now."

    It's hard to disagree. 

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