2009 D-League Draft Diary

2009 D-League Draft Diary
Nov 06, 2009, 09:43 am
Another year, another draft, another 4,000 words of nonsensical gibberish about a draft nobody could possibly predict, but which is always entertaining. Stick with me while I recap NBATV’s draft coverage, make fun of commercials, and wander off on tangents you couldn’t possibly be interested in. It’s going to be exciting!

If you’re really nice I’ll even try and throw in a bit of analysis about the players, picks, teams, etc. But I mean REALLY nice – like flowers, chocolates and foot massage nice. After all, analysis is what we do here at DraftExpress…. right?

6:50pm – There’s no way there’s any pre-draft coverage this year, right? I mean, it’s not like they have their own channel that plays their own content and which they need to fill 24/7/365. Dutifully though, like the ignorant D-League fan I am, I flip over to NBATV hoping to catch a few tidbits on the return of uber-veteran Carlos Powell, or at least some hype surrounding Latavious Williams. Nope. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It’s some sort of “this week in the NBA” retread with a spotlight on Joakim Noah. Literally dozens of fellow D-League fans around the nation sigh and roll their eyes.

6:59pm – Back to NBATV I realize they’re in the middle of Top 10 Plays of the Week, so I quickly rewind…

6:57pm – Why are these things never in the right order? Is it that hard to evaluate what the “cooler” play is? For example, why is Brandon Roy’s pull up from just behind the arc ranked #7 and Gilbert Arenas’ half court shot at #8? That makes no sense.

In D-League news Shannon Brown’s put back dunk at #5 is SPECTACULAR. I’m pretty sure his head is above the rim. True story: despite being absolutely ripped, Shannon Brown doesn’t lift weights – he focuses almost solely on pushups. That’s right, a guy with a 45 inch vertical doesn’t do leg exercises. That’s just unfair.

(A few years ago during the Showcase, DX super scout Jim Hlavac lovingly referred to him as a “chucker”. Probably due to the 20 field goal attempts he averaged per game – while coming off of the bench!)

7:00pm – Finally, we arrive at the NBATV studios and find our good buddy Rick Kamla and league president Dan Reed seated and ready to go. Kamla quickly informs us that we’re “going to have a blast” and if Dan Reed’s reaction is anything to judge by then I believe him! (Not really.)

Reed tells us that historically 1 out of 5 D-Leaguers will end up on an NBA roster within a year. This seems not only unlikely, but patently absurd. Somebody really needs to proof-read their scripts and point out that he surely must be including summer league and training camp rosters.

I wonder who those players are from Albuquerque last year? Erie? Heck, the Anaheim Arsenal? Oh right, James White, that’s about it though. Interestingly though the Anaheim A-List girls managed a ridiculous number of “call-ups” to teams such as the Lakers, Clippers and Chargers. That’s right, the cheerleaders outperformed the basketball team. No wonder they folded – err, uhh, moved to Springfield.

(By “moved“ I of course mean “got new owners, a new city, a new arena, a new team name, a new mascot, and new players”. And just in case you were wondering, they also replaced the cheerleaders, so they don’t even have that going for them anymore.)

7:03pm – In reference to the enhanced media presence planned for the season Dan Reed just said that he thinks “it will be great for the millions of fans out there who really want to follow the NBA Development League.” Umm… no comment.

7:07pm – Single affiliation partnerships. Where to begin? Of course the league is promoting this as a “win-win”. The NBA teams get to control who the teams pick, what kind of system they run, who they trade, who they waive, etc. And the local team gets…? Someone pulling their strings? Controlling their operations from a distance? Making basketball decisions that are bad business decisions? Reaping all of the benefits of having a minor league team without any of the financial risks?

For example, the Rockets, who now control the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, have absolutely no incentive to draft a player who makes the Vipers a better team. Their only real interest is making the Rockets a better team. Drafting a multi-year veteran contributor who could help lead a team to the D-League playoffs, but will never make an NBA roster, doesn’t help them in the least. Drafting a project player with few skills and potential upside, and then painfully playing him 35 minutes a game in your system to try and whip him into call-up shape, seems much more likely to me. The NBA teams win, the D-League teams lose, and most importantly, the fans get the shaft.

(For those of you scoring at home, instead of a win-win that’s a win-lose-shaft.)

7:08pm – First commercial: NBA2k 10. Okay, that’s pretty legit. Second commercial though? Heel-Tastic! In all seriousness, how many people watching this show have heels so dry they’re embarrassed to wear sandals? Clearly more than I think there is, that’s for sure.

Side note: I love these kinds of lines: “Call now and get Heel-Tastic for just $20! But order now and we’ll cut the price to just $10!” But… you just said that right “now” it’s $20? How can “now” mean two different things? I’m trapped in some sort of NBATV/D-League multi-dimensional timewarp thingy.

Ya know, my heels are a bit dry… I think I’ll hold out until the “now” where it’s free.

7:10pm – A quick package about former Development League success stories leads us to one of my favorites that the league brings up constantly in Jordan Farmar. The dude played 3 games! 3! We’re grasping at straws here people!

7:11pm – Back to the studio and Chris Alpert has magically replaced Dan Reed at the NBATV Desk of Content Filler. A fun game if you have 10 minutes is to try and figure out Alpert’s full job title. Because you’ve already wasted 11 minutes just getting to this point I’ll go ahead and save you the trouble:

Chris Alpert, National Basketball Association Development League Vice President of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel

AKA Chris Aplert, NBADLVPBOPP for short.

(I’ve heard insider talk that every year he stays in the league they reward him by tacking on another word to his title.)

7:13pm – In preparation for the first pick they quickly cut to a map of the United States and then zoom in to New Mexico and throw a Thunderbirds graphic over Albuquerque. Just in case you weren’t sure where it was. Don’t worry, by the time they get to the Erie BayHawks you’ll be thanking them.


What?! No way! Unpossible!

I’m being entirely sarcastic of course. In his previous stint in the league he was selected #2 and went on to become an All-Star who put up 22/6/5. I think most experts pegged him to go first, even if he didn’t necessarily fill any holes the T-Birds have.

Fun fact: Carlos’ real name is Ricardo Auturo Powell.

7:16pm – You get a vibe from the John Coffino interview that they’re planning on playing him at the 4 with Kevin Pittsnogle at the 5. If that’s the case then who rebounds? Keith McLeod? You have to think with their second round pick they’re going to go big regardless of who’s on the board.

7:18pm – The Erie BayHawks need backcourt help and decide on Donell Taylor. He spent a couple of years as a backup for the Wizards (Washington, not Dakota) and certainly has NBA height at 6’6”, plus he averaged 13ppg for Egaleo in Greece last year. Both the NBA and ourselves have him ranked fairly high, although that seems to be based mostly on his time in Europe and not during his alleged stint on the Spurs summer league team that I don’t remember him being on.

Alpert loves him though, so consider me sold.

Fun fact: Donell Taylor has a twin brother named Ronell Taylor who also played in the D-League. You can’t make this stuff up.

7:20pm – I’m absolutely elated to see that in a full year since the 2008 draft they haven’t managed to shake the awning commercials. But where in the world is Better Basketball?!

7:22pm – Earlier today, sources say, the Los Angeles D-Fenders traded Earl Barron to Iowa for Anthony Tolliver and then promptly flipped him to another undisclosed team in a 3-way deal that should be announced later on today. Even still, the D-Fenders have the most complete team based on returning and allocated players, and because the Lakers aren’t too concerned about how many games they win (see the Rockets/Vipers discussion above and multiply it by 10) they’re able to take a free pass on a player with a lot of upside, so they choose Deron Washington. I don’t know about upside, but the guy certainly has ups. DX Godfather Jonathan Givony proclaimed him to be the heir to James White’s D-League Dunk Contest throne. That’s a lot of pressure. It’ll be interesting to see what a year of working with Rasheed Hazzard does for the rest of his game.

Speaking of dunk contests, I’m actually more excited this year about the D-League’s Dunk Contest and All-Star game than the NBA’s. Why is that? Well they’re hosting the NBA’s events at the new Dallas Cowboy’s stadium, which is absolutely massive and will probably be at least half empty, whereas the D-League stuff will be in a smaller and more intimate arena that the fans can really get involved in and interact with the players.

Now that I think about it, that sounds pretty much like the PR spin that Reed and Alpert love to get caught up in. “We’re very excited to be playing on a tiny court with bleacher seats shoved into the corner of a convention center as opposed to in that brand new state-of-the-art $1.8 billion mega-stadium with a TV screen the size of Rhode Island.”

I’m starting to scare myself.

7:26pm – The fourth pick in the draft falls to the Bakersfield Jam, whose only requirement for a successful draft is to ACTUALLY MAKE A PICK.

(You may recall the story of then-head coach Jim Harrick famously paying attention to the slightly delayed television coverage, and not to the league office conference call, and then standing idly by as the Jam’s first round pick came and went. An infuriated Harrick unleashed a tirade over the phone, eventually getting his revenge against them by spending the rest of the season collecting a paycheck, playing golf, and leaving poor Sean Rooks to do all of the work.)

Anywho… the Jam select Amara Sy. This is a very interesting guy for the league in that he’s been an overseas professional his entire career. At 28 years old, if he’s successful in his route to the NBA via the D-League it could open the floodgates for other European veterans.

The real question though is whether or not Sy will quickly get bored in Bakersfield and fall back to a cushy $300k contract in Europe.

Draft Grade Based on Just Making a Pick: A+

7:28pm – In what must be an homage to last year, poor Rick Kamla starts discussing Utah Flash owner Brandt Andersen and getting ready to dig into detail just as the camera pulls out and switches to the going-to-commercials graphics. Rick, like the true pro that he is, quickly rips through his spiel and throws us to the break. Fist bump Kamla, nicely done.

Top fist-bumpers associated with the D-League:

1) Rick Kamla – the dude is a fist-bumping legend.
2) Shawn Respert – so smooth you might not even know it happened.
3) Da Bull – when he’s not dunking in the middle of a Toros game, he’s always up for some knucks.
4) Reggie Geary – the Arsenal didn’t win a whole lot when he was coaching, but when they did he could pound fists with the best of them.
5) Mike Schmidt – at the top for possibly the most awkward fist bumps in the history of the D-League. If you’re in Iowa for a game this year be sure to seek him out and get a taste for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

7:29pm – The Fertilizer Mulch Cocoon in the Patch Perfect commercial is… just… well… inappropriate. You really have to see it for yourself.

7:31pm – Coming back to the studio we find out that the Utah Flash are picking Garret Siler out of D2 Augusta State. Last I checked in with the seven foot Siler he was weighing it at 300lbs, though rumors are he’s slimed down to 280. That can only benefit him as he’s slow off his feet and can’t guard anyone outside of the paint. That said, the guy did shoot 79% in college… so, there’s that.

With a smirk on his face Alpert points out that Mark Madsen is now a coach in Utah. [Insert dancing joke here.]

7:34pm – Alonzo Gee goes 6th to the Austin Toros. Gee barely played for the Spurs Summer League team this year, but I guess they liked what they saw. He has some skills, but hasn’t really ever brought them together. His biggest weakness is three point shooting. And free throw shooting. Well, just shooting in general really. Usually a pre-requisite for a shooting guard/small forward, but in the D-League anything goes.

7:36pm – Heel-Tastic! Is this “now” the free one? Nope. Guess I’ll wait for the next “now”.

(Since they have a Heel-Tastic that magically fixes heels do you think maybe they have an ACL-Tastic that Robert Swift can borrow for his knees?)

7:39pm – At #7 the Reno Bighorns grab Desmon Farmer who has proven his skills in the D-League time and time again. In his last stint he averaged just under 25ppg and could see time at both the 2 and 3 this season. At least until he gets called up. Or he gets fed up.

Currently the Reno Bighorns have two of my all time favorite D-Leaguers in Majic Dorsey and Mr. Boom Tho himself, Rod Benson. It remains to be seen, however, if they can score the coveted D-League Super Fun Times Trifecta by resurrecting Elton Brown from Germany for the upcoming season.

7:42pm – The first pick in history for the expansion Maine Red Claws. This is the type of thing that sets the tone for your franchise for decades to come. With this one pick they can define their destiny. What will it be Red Claws? Perennial mediocrity or everlasting glory?!

All right, that was a bit melodramatic. In the grand scheme of things this pick means nothing and don’t let anybody tell you differently.

The Red Claws grab Paul Harris at #8 who, while a bit undersized, will probably a very solid contributor at the D-League level. He’s surrounded by similarly solid D-League veterans in Billy Thomas, Noel Felix and Will Blalock, and is the type of player that should thrive because of that. He also has plenty of experience working with Maine assistant coach Mike Procopio, the lead trainer at Tim Grover’s gym the past few years.

The best part of this pick was Kamla’s reaction to the Red Claws logo. Definitely a candidate for this year’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants Awesomest Expansion Franchise Logo trophy.

(What you gots Springfield Armor? You best step up if you wanna compete with the Red Claws, yo!)

7:48pm – The Iowa Energy have some European scouting heavyweights guiding their team this season and so it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that they select Italian first division leading scorer Rashad Anderson with the #9 pick. He’s an A contract scorer who comes with only a B contract salary and in a lot of ways that makes him a steal.

Kamla questions whether or not he has NBA range, to which I would say that even if he doesn’t head coach Nick Nurse has a pill that will cure that.

7:52pm – The Mad Ants need a point guard and I’m inclined to think they’ll take Mustafa Shakur at #10, who is the best one on the board.

And my inclined was declined! They take Alade Aminu which I guess means they’re pretty happy heading into the season with Kyle McAlarney at the PG spot. Or they’re following the Dan Panaggio Draft Playbook strategy of “pick all big men and worry about gaps later.”

Aminu is a definite “upside” pick, but that upside is pretty high. Really needs to bulk up, so we’ll have to wait quite a while though to see if it pans out for the Mad Ants.

7:54pm – There’s that Mulch Cocoon again… yeah…

7:57pm – Donnie Nelson, co-owner of the new Frisco, Texas franchise joins us on the phone. The most interesting thing about this franchise is that they have one of the foremost experts and basketball analysts in the entire D-League already living in Frisco and yet they haven’t even bothered to contact him. You would think that would have been at the top of their agenda. Guess not.

Donnie reminds us that they’ve hired Nancy Lieberman as the first female coach in D-League history. The real story about this choice isn’t that she’s a she, it’s that she’s a damn fine coach and, maybe more importantly, they’ve hired her a full year out. Leadership and direction coming from a D-League franchise? That’s the real first. Well done, Frisco Fighters.

(Not big on “Fighters”, eh? Umm, Frisco Flames? Frisco Fang? Frisco Franchise? Firecrackers? Flamingos? Freebirds? I’m out of ideas, but I think we all know it’s going to be the Frisco Flyers.)

Best part of the interview comes when we find out that Donnie Nelson researched Lieberman by reading up on her Wikipedia page.

8:02pm – Curtis Withers goes to the Dakota Wizards at #11. They needed a big for sure, and while Withers is undersized, he can provide some rebounding and maybe do just enough scoring to keep their inside-out game intact this season.

8:04pm – Alpert reminds folks at home that players as deep as the third and fourth rounds in the last years have produced players good enough to get called up to the NBA and that fans should be excited at the opportunity to… draft a steal of a player who then ends up leaving them in the dust…? A better plan might to draft a guy just good enough to NOT make the NBA.

(You think I’m kidding, but this is the actual strategy of most D-League teams, which is why slotting these drafts is borderline impossible. “He needs to be good, but not so good that he gets called up or leaves for Europe!”)

8:05pm – The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are in a curious position with a lot of fringe intrigue players. Add to the mix new head coach Chris Finch (who a lot of folks speculate is already the best coach in the D-League without having had a game) and their team becomes even more interesting.

At #12 they decide on Antonio Anderson, who put up really well rounded numbers at Memphis while playing plus-defense en route to becoming conference player of the year. He can’t shoot a lick, but does a decent job of getting to the basket. Despite that fact all of the highlights they show of him are of knocking down threes while playing pre-season for the Bobcats. Some cherry-picked highlights if I’ve ever seen them. He’ll probably be a solid contributor for the Vipers this season, but not much beyond that.

8:09pm – An ITT Tech commercial! We’ve upgraded to middle-of-the-day Jerry Springer level advertising. Next year? As-seen-on-TV infomercials!

8:11pm – The Sioux Falls Skyforce nab Raymond Sykes at #13. I don’t really know a lot about him other than he’s supposedly a decent athlete for his size who should bring some energy to the court. Judging by Alpert’s recap he doesn’t know a whole lot about him either. This seems like a massive reach at 13.

I think my favorite part about the Skyforce is that their affiliates are the Minnesota Timberwolves and… wait for it… the Miami Heat! I’m not sure there are two more polar opposite places on the planet than Miami and Sioux Falls. But maybe I’m just being too hard on Miami.


8:13pm – What’s up Springfield Armor? Or should I say Armour? All you could come up with for a logo is a fat dude in knight’s armor holding a basketball? What an incredible disappointment. The Maine Red Claws proudly hoist their FWMA Awesoment Expansion Franchise Logo trophy (presented by Heel-Tastic™!) and then promptly fart in your general direction.

(The Anaheim Arsenal are rolling over in their graves.)

But wait! With #14 the Armor take JamesOn Curry, one of the best prospects in the entire draft! A guy who could have easily gone at #1! Redemption so soon? We’ll have to wait and see, but the success of this pick will probably have to wait until after the Showcase when we find out if Curry gets busted again for urinating in public. Seriously.

(Odds Kamla brings up the urinating in public issue? 5 to 1. Odds Alpert brings it up? 1,000,000,000,000,0-------- INFINITE NUMBER OVERLOAD! ERROR! ERROR! ERROR! CANNOT COMPUTE!)

8:15pm – The penultimate pick at #15 belongs to the Idaho Stampede, who select Sundiata Gaines. Frankly this team has a lot of ground to make up. In addition to losing all of their good players, they lost head coach Bryan Gates and assistant coach Randy Livingston. Gaines is a player we’ve had high on our radar for a while now and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares after having a very solid year overseas playing for Italy’s Cantù. Stampede fans probably won’t be too familiar with him, but I think he’s going to be a pleasant surprise for them this year.

Meanwhile Kamla and Alpert wander off into a discussion about how the D-League Showcase is returning to Boise this year, and while I do agree that Boise is a great fit (the hotel is attached to the arena after all), it would be nice to go somewhere else. Though, in fairness, previous Showcases in Provo, Utah and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have been marred by an obscene amount of snow. Here’s a novel idea: why not host it somewhere warm? I know, where do I come up with stuff? Brilliant! LA or Austin would be perfect. They should really look into that.

While Armor head coach Dee Brown is being interviewed I can’t help but notice on the ticker bar that JamesOn written without proper capitalization reads as Jameson. Like Jameson Whiskey. Or Jamison Brewer. Weird.

8:23pm – This is it! The finale! El fin! The last pick! ...of the first round. Sadly only the first round is aired on television, but I mean, can you blame them? I mean, seriously people, there’s an All Access with Ahmad Rashad to be aired! I hear it’s a can’t miss episode!

And the 16th pick is…

Latavious Williams!

Easily the most interesting player in this draft for the simple reason that he’s coming out of high school and will be eligible next year for the NBA draft. We did a bit of a write up on him the other day, so I won’t repeat any of that, but suffice it to say every person in the D-League and NBA is going to be watching him keenly this season. Even more so than Amara Sy, a successful run by Williams could change the shape and meaning of the D-League for seasons to come.

Normally you would make the argument that he probably won’t contribute that much to the Tulsa 66ers, but that you expect he’ll be playing his ass off to try and earn that big time paycheck come June. I’ll also add, however, that this is exactly the type of pick I was talking about earlier when I mentioned teams like the Vipers, D-Fenders and Spurs being more interested in projects that will help their parent clubs than their NBADL counterparts. The 66ers are owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder and you can bet money that they’re going to at least make an attempt to groom him into their own personal perfect NBA draftee. Which means minutes, minutes, and more minutes, regardless of how well he plays.

8:27pm – After some slobbering wrap-up rhetoric about being innovators by President Reed, we’re out.

So that does it! If you managed to get this far though my draft diary you’re probably a diehard D-League fan, a masochist, or my Mom.

(Hi, Mom!)

Stay tuned for another year of unbelievable D-League content!

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