On 10-Day Contract Opening Day: D-League Call-Up Candidates
These 10-day contracts, worth as much, if not more, than a D-League player's salary for the entire season, are the reason players choose to play for less money in America rather than the lucrative overseas offers most NBA-caliber players receive.
So, with the 10-days now becoming a possibility, FanHouse has polled a group of NBA scouts and D-League personnel to narrow the 160 players currently plying their trade from Springfield to Bakersfield in the NBA's official minor league to a more palatable list of the 10 players most likely to earn the first call-up of the season.
As a primer, 15 of the teams in the NBA -- Chicago, Denver, Golden State, the Clippers, the Lakers, Memphis, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio and Utah -- have an open roster spot that could be used for a short-term looksee.
Nets' coach Avery Johnson told the media after practice that his team will "absolutely" sign someone, though didn't narrow it other than to note that the signee wouldn't be a power forward.
Aaron Miles, PG, Reno Bighorns
Just the facts: Miles, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 assists while shooting 52 percent from the field. Miles also leads the D-League with a 'pure point rating' of 9.15 and has an assist to turnover ratio above 3-to-1. Miles was in training camp with the Golden State Warriors this preseason.
Scout's Take: "Aaron is tough and smart, two great point guard qualities. He is not a great shooter, but in a D-league full of young athletic guards his IQ stands out. He's been able to expertly manage the offense in Reno, specifically the pick-and-roll where he's able to either finish in the lane or make the right pass for an easy assist."
Zabian Dowdell, PG, Tulsa 66ers
Just the facts: Dowdell, a 6-3 guard out of Virginia Tech, has been on the NBA's radar for the past four summers as a Summer League standout, but has yet to play a full season in the USA since leaving the Hokies. Since being released by the Phoenix Suns during the preseason, Dowdell is averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 2.4 steals while leading his 66ers to an 8-2 record over their past 10 games.
Scout's take: "Dowdell's not quite the facilitator that Miles is, but he makes up for it by better creating his own offense because he can get to the rim and has a solid mid-range jump shot. He doesn't necessarily do anything great, but he's a known commodity because he does everything well."
Other point guards mentioned: Mustafa Shakur, Antonio Daniels (currently out with a hand injury)
Kyle Weaver, SG, Iowa Energy
Just the facts: A second-round pick in 2008, Weaver played two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder -- and then this preseason with the Chicago Bulls -- before entering the D-League. In December, Weaver averaged 18.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while making an outstanding 26-of-53 from beyond the arc. He worked out for the Cavaliers in December.
Scout's take: "At 6-6, Weaver could actually be an efficient point guard in the NBA, but the Energy need him to play (shooting guard) so he hasn't been able to show off his play-making skills this season. He is shooting very well this year and has improved greatly from his days at Washington State. He has quick hands and shows good anticipation on defense while defending the other team's best player. He's very crafty and has a good feel for the game. He's a legitimate NBA rotational guy right now and I'd be shocked if he wasn't play significant minutes for an NBA team by March."
Trey Johnson, SG, Bakersfield Jam
Just the facts: Johnson's season was summed up here.
Scout's take: "Johnson's a pure scorer with ability to play some as a point guard, too, but isn't an outstanding enough playmaker to initiate the offense consistently. Offensively, his best asset is his mid-range jump shot but he has range outside of the arc as well. His defense is good enough to get by and seems to have improved over the past couple of years. With what Reggie Williams did last year, wouldn't surprise me to see someone give him a chance to go out and put up points."
Other shooting guards mentioned: Garrett Temple, Oliver Lafayette, Matt Janning
Othyus Jeffers, SF, Iowa Energy
Just the facts: A call-up to the Utah Jazz last season with an interesting back story, the former NAIA standout is averaging 19.4 points and 9.3 rebounds this year despite probably being slightly shorter than his listed height of 6-5.
Scout's take: "Similar to his fellow Chicagoan, Tony Allen, OJ is tough and plays bigger than he is. His crazy long arms allow him to finish and rebound inside while helping disrupt passing lanes on the outside. He's not a shooter, but makes plays and plays hard. He's exactly what you want in an 11th or 12th player on the bench."
Orien Greene, SF, Utah Flash
Just the facts: Green played 80 games as a rookie for the Boston Celtics during the 2005-06 season but has slowly been falling off of the NBA radar since. His recent statistical resurgence this season, though, has made NBA decision makers notice him once again as he's currently averaging 21.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists while making 45 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Scout's take: "Greene's a great athlete with an NBA body. He's always been aggressive attacking the basket, he's really improved his outside shooting this year. On defense, he's got a great knack for the ball and active hands. The only thing holding him back right now is he often times comes off as being a little out of control."
Other small forwards mentioned: Larry Owens, Shane Edwards, Patrick Ewing Jr.
Jeff Adrien, PF, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Just the facts: Adrien's undersized at 6-6, but after beginning the season with the Golden State Warriors the former UConn standout is averaging 11.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while getting acclimated to the D-League.
Scout's take: "Jeff's probably the strongest guy in the D-League. He's a great low block scorer and dunks everything, but has shown improved touch around the basket as well when needed. He rebounds at an NBA level and probably won't last in the D-League long."
Joe Alexander, PF, Texas Legends
Just the facts: Alexander's not far removed from the NBA as he was the eighth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2008 draft, but after failing to make the New Orleans Hornets this preseason, he decided to enter the D-League. Through 12 games, Alexander's averaging 19.3 points and 11.1 rebounds while playing nearly 44 minutes per contest with the Nancy Lieberman-led Legends.
Scout's take: "Joe Alexander looks way more comfortable as a (power forward) and should never again be tried as a (small forward) - It wasn't fair to him. While he was underskilled and looked lost as a wing, he looks skilled and comfortable as a big that can make plays off the dribble and pick and pop. He is slightly undersized at 6-8, but is strong and athletic enough to take advantage of match-up problems. There's no question he is an NBA bench player."
Other power forwards mentioned: Antoine Walker, DeShawn Sims, Tiny Gallon
Courtney Sims, C, Iowa Energy
Just the facts: Sims has been a D-League mainstay as this is his fourth season playing in the Development League, but it hasn't led to many NBA minutes despite past call-ups from the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks as well as a training camp invite from the Denver Nuggets this preseason. The 6-11 big man is averaging 18.4 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field this year, a slight dip from his D-League MVP season in 2008-09 when he averaged 22.8 points and 11.0 rebounds.
Scout's take: "Court continues to be productive and is one of the very few players in the D-League with legit size. He's long, seals well in the post, has great hands and enough moves to be an effective scorer in the NBA. If he'd play hard every possession, he'd already be in the NBA."
Sean Williams, C, Texas Legends
Just the facts: The 17th overall pick in the 2007 Draft after being dismissed by Boston College due to a reported failed drug test, Williams was unable to find his stride in three seasons with the Nets. He seems to be finding his way in the D-League, however, and is averaging 16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks while making an astounding 64 percent of his shots.
Scout's take: "It's hard to find NBA shot blockers in the D-League, but Williams length and athleticism are NBA-caliber so I think he could easily bring some energy and defense off of an NBA bench. He's also a great rebounder, but it's hard to put his past behind him. He could still probably play a (Chris) Birdman Andersen type of role in the NBA."
Other centers mentioned: Marcus Cousins