Last week at the Dime office, the topic of the D-League came up. A lot of the staff were surprised to hear that guys in the NBA’s minor league were only bringing in around $20K a season. The main argument was: Why would someone play in the D-League for peanuts when the possibility to make six figures is just an ocean away? The answer: Sundiata Gaines. Last Tuesday, the Utah Jazz signed the former Idaho Stampede guard to a 10-day contract.
Sure, a lot of guys in the D-League could probably score much more lucrative deals overseas, but like Gaines and Cartier Martin (who was called by the Warriors yesterday) are proving, the D-League is just a stone’s throw away from the big, bright lights of the NBA. One day after signing with Utah, Gaines logged in 21 minutes and scored 3 points and dished out 5 assists in his first NBA game against Memphis. So far this season, five D-Leaguers have been promoted to the big leagues.
With the D-League Showcase wrapping up last week, here are some of the players who have been sticking out and could be in an NBA uniform in the coming weeks.
1. Anthony Tolliver, F, Idaho Stampede (Creighton) – 21.7 ppg, 11 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 36% 3p
Tolliver already had a cup of coffee in the NBA this season, when the Blazers called him up last month. Although he only appeared in two games before he was released, a lot of scouts and teams are aware that Tolliver has the game to stick in the NBA – it’s just a matter of finding the right situation. Since he’s returned to the Stampede, the 6-9, 240 pound forward has led the team to a 5-1 record. In his last game (Jan. 9) against the Toros, Tolliver went for 27 points and 17 rebounds. He is also a great shooter for his size. In his first game of the D-League Showcase, the 24-year-old hit 5-10 three pointers against the Springfield Armor.
2. Morris Almond, G, Springfield Armor (Rice) – 29.1 ppg, .25 rpg, 50% fg, 42% 3p
Almond has only been in the D-League a month, but he has already proven he is the most prolific scorer in the league. With the exception of Patrick Mills – who was recalled by the Blazers after putting up 30 ppg in 2 games with the Stampede – Almond is the leading scorer in the D-League right now. He’s shooting at a good percentage and is getting to the line 11 times per contest. He’s gone for over 30 points in three of his last four games, including his 34 point, 8 rebound performance against the Red Claws on Saturday. However, the knock on Almond is he hasn’t done a great job involving teammates and the Armor are only 3-9 since he’s been in the lineup.
3. Carlos Powell, F, Albuquerque T-Birds (South Carolina) – 22.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.8 apg, 2.1 spg
Powell has been one of the most consistent players in the D-League in ’09-10. He has scored in double digits in every single game he’s played this season. Powell dropped 40 points on the D-Fenders back on Dec. 27. On top of his scoring, NBA teams like the fact he is versatile and is aggressive on both sides of the ball. The 6-7, 225 pounds forward was a big hit at the Showcase averaging 22.5 ppg, 6 apg and 4.5 rpg. Best of all, he has been helping Albuquerque finally get some wins. The T-Birds have won four straight and Powell’s dominating play has been the main reason why.
4. Reggie Williams, F, Sioux Falls Skyforce (Virginia Military) – 25.9 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 59.3% fg
At first glance, Williams doesn’t fit the mold of a scoring machine. He’s not the quickest and biggest forward out there, but like Paul Pierce, he’s crafty with the ball. Williams pretty much dropped jaws with his 43-point, 10 rebound outburst against the Toros during the D-League Showcase (he also got to the line 13 times that game). He was lights out as he shot 21-28 in the two-game Showcase. Once he improves his defense and trims up his body a little bit, I think it is inevitable that you will see him in the League.
5. Dontell Jefferson, G, Utah Flash (Arkansas) – 19.4 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.4 rpg, 1.3 spg
It hasn’t been the greatest of weeks for Jefferson. After a lot of speculation that the Flash’s NBA affiliate, the Utah Jazz, might sign him, they opted to go with Gaines instead. In Friday’s game versus the Reno Bighorns, Jefferson has one of his quietest games of the season: 9 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers. Regardless, he’s still one of the most intriguing and NBA capable guard in the D-League. During the Showcase, Jefferson averaged 26.5 ppg, 5 rpg and 4 apg.
6. Alonzo Gee, G, Austin Toros (Alabama) – 21.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 spg, 50% fg
Gee is one of the best athletes in the D-League. He has an NBA-ready build and has some talent. During the Showcase, he averaged 26.5 ppg and 6 rpg. NBA teams have to be liking the fact he’s gotten to the charity stripe over 10 times a game on seven different occasions this season. He is also a strong rebounder for his size and position. The thing that has been keeping Gee out of the league is his lack of a jump shot. Although he is improving, he is still not a threat from three-point territory, which is a must for a two-guard in the NBA. He is just 2-9 for the entire season.