5 Takeaways from NBA D-League Showcase Event
The 2014 D-League Showcase has come and gone, but the lasting impressions on the NBA are noteworthy.
To the casual fan, D-League competition is synonymous with sub-par basketball. There's a reason the top stars have never experienced the showcase, and quite frankly, the Development League is short on the rivalries and narratives that pique people's interests.
The truth is, though, watching NBA players compete on a regular basis has spoiled our perspective. The D-League offers a number of entertaining prospects year in and year out, and while not all of them will advance to the highest level, those who do will earn a shot to succeed.
If you're not a fan of the D-League, that's fine; it's not for everybody. But remember, every NBA player started somewhere, and the Showcase is an example of what guys can do when they're itching for a shot in The Association.
If you missed out on this past week's competition, fear not—we have got you covered. There are a handful of players worth highlighting, so take note as we recap a few of the key storylines.
- Pierre Jackson, G
- Devin Ebanks, F
- Dewayne Dedmon, C
- Jarvis Varnado, F
- Manny Harris, G
Consider the D-League Showcase a five-day job interview, and consider the following players the top applicants.
Top 5 Prospects:
If history has taught us anything, it's that not everybody on this list will find stardom. Not everyone can go on to become Linsanity, and even those who make the leap to the next level don't always find immediate success.
All that said, keep an eye on the names above. They're worth following at this stage in their careers—that way you can brag to your friends when you know everything about the league's unknown up-and-comers.
Pierre Jackson Is a Stud
Pierre Jackson has shown the NBA that size simply doesn't matter.
At 5'10", 176 pounds, the 22-year-old is a scoring machine who can light it up from deep and get his teammates involved. He was drafted 42nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013, and after being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, he found himself as a member of the Idaho Stampede.
The argument that detractors default to is this: D-League competition doesn't mean anything. His points-per-game average is impressive (30.0), but why would we trust him against next-level defenders?
The NBA game is going to be far different when he arrives, but you must also consider that he is head and shoulders above the rest of his competition. He may not have the physical attributes that traditionally lead to success, but he's been phenomenal against the players he's faced.
Jackson has proven he's on a different level, and he'll get his chance to show what he can do soon enough. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Pelicans have granted permission for teams around the league to seek a trade involving the prospect.
At this point, it appears as if Jackson will be on an NBA roster before the trade deadline, and this is one storyline you'd be remiss not to follow.
Say what you want about the D-League—there's NBA talent to be discovered, and luckily for Devin Ebanks, he's looking like the first major call-up following the competition.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, the 24-year-old is the "early favorite" to make his way up to the big leagues. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports shed more light on the situation when he announced Ebanks would specifically meet with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ebanks, who has three years of experience with the Los Angeles Lakers, may be the one people are talking about, but it's important to note that he's not the only player with good things coming his way.
Pierre Jackson, as we've already discussed, has a chance to make his mark at the next level. Dewayne Dedmon is a freak of an athlete at 7'0" tall, and even though he's already seen the D-League multiple times, his recent showing indicates his best days have yet to come.
Jarvis Varnado is another name worth noting, as he's been a double-double machine as well as a ferocious shot-blocker.
D-League statistics rarely translate to the NBA, but these players made a good impression to all scouts who were in attendance.
Basketball Is Basketball—It Comes with Highlights
The D-League Showcase is just that: It's a chance for prospective NBA talents to display what they can do in a highly scouted, five-day event.
Throughout the week, we saw highlights galore. If you weren't lucky enough to sit down and watch these players compete for a shot at the next level, here are a few examples of what you missed.
- Shabazz Muhammad's alley-oop finish (shown above)
- Hilton Armstrong's big-time poster
- Devin Ebanks' 22 first-half points
- Tony Mitchell's monster slam
- 0.9 seconds a month and a half in the making
Along with highlights is a YouTube channel full of testimonials, courtesy of the D-League and the players who participate. Specifically, there's Reggie Williams, who says that the Development League is the "best move" if you want to make The Association.
It's true that the Development League is one step away from the promised land, and that everybody has the same goal in mind. The Showcase was the perfect example of players striving for greatness, and any basketball fan can appreciate that.
One Notable Absence
This one, like the selection of Anthony Bennett with the first-overall pick, is on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wondered aloud early in the D-League Showcase why Bennett wasn't there. Simply put, there is no good answer to his question.
Through 29 games, the former UNLV Rebel is averaging 2.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.2 assists. He's posting a PER of just 0.99, and he's already being considered the worst No. 1 pick in 20 years by ESPN's Chard Ford, via The Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade.
With Bennett playing just 10.7 minutes per game, the Cavaliers wouldn't have missed out on much if he'd moved down. We saw players such as Shabazz Muhammad and Rudy Gobert find success despite already having NBA experience, and chances are—although nothing is guaranteed—Bennett would have fallen into the same category.
At 20 years old, there's still time for Bennett to grow and mature as a player. The youngster told Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal that he can return to his UNLV form, and if that's the case, Cavs fans will have something to look forward to.
"I just have to get back to the player I was in college," Bennett said. "I was playing with a smile on my face. It was fun, carefree, running up and down a lot. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I can try to get back to."
Throwing him in the deep end hasn't helped speed along the process. The showcase has passed, so it's a moot point now. But if the Cavs want what's best for their prospect, they'll put him in a situation where he can truly develop.