Boxscores and game recaps can be found at the D-League's official website.
Kyrylo Fesenko, 7-0, Center, Utah Flash (Jazz assignee)
17 points, 7 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-8 FG, 3-6 FT, 26 minutes
Fesenko was pretty aggressive looking to establish position deep in the paint, and Utah (and particularly Kevin Kruger) made it a point to feed him in a place where he can finish with a strong, simple move. He showed terrific hands coming up with a couple of deflected balls not intended for him, and was very active moving towards the ball and making his presence felt. A constant staple of Fesenkos game is the effort he brings to the offensive glass, and today was no exception. He was constantly in the mix for loose balls, using his big frame to the fullest and coming up with a couple of extra possessions for his team in the process, even if these werent always counted directly as offensive rebounds for him.
Fesenko surprised us with two parts of his game in particular that leave a lot of optimism regarding his long-term potential. For one, he made some terrific passes, both from the high post and when doubled out of the low post. He sees the floor nicely from his high vantage point and is extremely unselfish getting players around him involved, always looking to make the extra pass like everyone on this team.
Another was the way he moved his feet defensively. Fesenko is not what you would call a quick player by any stretch, but when stepping out to hedge screens and then recovering back into the post, he did a very nice job. On one occasion he was caught out on the perimeter on a switch and was forced to defend a 6-5 and pretty athletic wing player in Scooter McFadgon. McFadgon took him off the dribble and Fesenko slid his feet nicely matching him stride for stride in fundamental fashion, finally meeting him at the rim and getting off his feet to swat the shot away and then grab the loose ball. Thats a pretty impressive play for a guy that size to make, and should make Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz pretty happy.
Fesenko still has a long road ahead of him to become a productive NBA player, but he seems to be off to a really nice start.
JamesOn Curry, 6-3, Shooting Guard, Iowa Energy (Bulls assignee)
34 points, 7 assists, 5 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 15-21 FG, 4-8 3P, 0-2 FT, 47 minutes
Curry was extremely aggressive looking for his own offense, playing on the ball quite a bit and taking exactly what the defense gave him. He operated a great deal in the mid-range area pulling up sharply off the dribble on a number of occasions, and displaying beautiful elevation to create separation from his defender. He hits tough shots even with a defender draped all over him, coming off screens and going left or right, fading away and flailing his legs out and regardless knocking down many off-balance looks. Hes got picture perfect mechanics on his 3-point stroke as well, looking equally dangerous coming off screens, on the catch and shoot with his feet set, or pulling up with the ball in his hands.
As a slasher, Curry is not the type of player who gets to the free throw line a great deal, as his first step is average and hes a bit on the skinny side. He is smart enough to know how to get past his man, but usually prefers to pull-up before he gets all the way to the rim, which is probably a good idea since hes isnt a terribly explosive finisher. Hed rather drop a beautiful floater in his defenders eye than go up and take contact at the rim. He racked up 7 assists tonight playing a combo guard role, mostly by making the extra pass on the perimeter or finding the open man on the drive and dish, but not really by displaying any outstanding point guard skills. Indeed, hes a scoring guard in the Jannero Pargo mold, which is probably exactly the role Chicago drafted him to play. He was a bit careless at times with the ball and forced the issue on a few select possessions, leading to 5 turnoversalthough this is somewhat expect considering how much ball-handling he was forced to do.
Defensively, Curry is nothing to write home about, possessing average lateral quickness and poor awareness on this end of the floor. Hes really not physical enough, giving up too much space on the perimeter and not doing a very good job fighting through screens on the pick and roll. This might be the biggest improvement hell have to make if hes to eventually stick in the NBA, and although he tried for the most part to make his presence felt (he even fouled out), the results werent really there. Curry did as good of a job tonight making sure that the NBA and International teams are aware of his strengths with the way he played, and at the very least surely earned himself some money overseas if hes eventually forced to take that route.
Maurice Baker, 61, Point Guard, Dakota Wizards
41 points, 12-17 FG, 17-17 FT, 6 assists, 0 turnovers, 6 steals
Baker showed good body control while hitting a baseline floater and demonstrated a good two-man game with Rod Benson getting the kickout for an open 20. Baker showed some very steady play while smoothly pulling up in transition and knocking down a 20 jumper, and also stole an outlet pass and calmly banked it in off the glass from 15 out. He can finish with either hand around the basket, and has nice toughness and strength for a guard. His mid-range game is a real strength of his, making him an extremely difficult player to guard because of the many ways he can score the basketball.
The arena in Idaho was buzzing about Baker after the game. The 41 points he scored came effortlessly, and the crowd was duly impressed. He attacked the basket aggressively and is a very versatile ball handler with a high acumen for the game, but despite his upper body strength its not clear yet if he has the athleticism to take it to the next level. His quickness looks somewhat average compared with some of the other guard prospects here, so its hard to say whether hed be able to translate this same scoring ability to a higher level.
Kevin Kruger, 6-1, Point Guard, Utah Flash
7 points, 9 assists, 1 turnover, 1 rebound, 2 steals, 3-8 FG, 1-4 3P, 0-0 FT, 28 minutes
Kruger stands out especially well for his basketball IQ and court vision, making creative passes and really doing a nice job controlling the tempo for the Flash. He runs their half-court offense, moves the ball around the perimeter fluidly, and gets the ball into the post nicely when the situation calls for it. Hes not the quickest or more explosive player youll find here, and that is somewhat reflected in his zero free throw attempts. He struggles at times when his half-court offense breaks down and hes forced to go out and make plays on his own with the shot-clock running down, but he regardless did a nice job here finding creative solutions and ensuring that his offense ran fluidly. It will be interesting to see how he looks against a better defense.
Defensively, Kruger doesnt have great lateral quickness, but hes smart and puts a good effort in, which brought some pretty solid results on this end of the floor. He got in the passing lanes nicely as a result of his effort here.
In terms of scoring, Kruger seemed more concerned with running his offense and getting everyone around him involved first and foremost, possibly passing up on some situations where he could have been aggressive and put the ball in the basket himself. His 3-point shot wasnt falling for him at a great rate here, but he clearly has nice looking (albeit flat-footed) mechanics, and this is probably a better weapon that he was able to show today.
All in all, Kruger looks like one of the better point guards the D-League has to offer, but its hard to say that his NBA potential is very high. He should be able to make a solid career overseas in mid to high level Europe.
Ivan Johnson, 6-8, Power Forward, Anaheim Arsenal
26 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers, 11-16 FG, 4/5 FT
With a strong build and above average athleticism, the 23 year-old certainly has a good deal of upside. To enter NBA discussions, he must focus on making a defensive improvement. Opposing big men had no problem backing him down and scoring over the power forward in the low post. He also looked completely lost attempting to defend the pick and roll, and often left his position for rebounds to wildly chase a blocked shot.
With his offensive game and athletic abilities, Johnson has the tools to become a very effective offensive player. At 6-8, hes probably lacks the combination of size and athleticism to make an NBA roster, but the European scouts in attendance took notice of his performance today.
Andre Barrett, 5-10, Point Guard, Bakersfield Jam
11 points, 10 assists, 4/10 FG, 3 turnovers
Defensively, Barrett struggled at times when forced to guard bigger players, and Lamar Rice took him to the low block and scored very easily on him on one possession. Defense will also be a issue for him at the NBA level due to size, but he could do a better job of pressuring the ball.
Barrett missed most of his step-back jumpers off the dribble today, but usually scores these type of mid-range shots effectively. To maximize his potential, Barrett must look for his teammates earlier in the shot-clock as well as picking the right spots to attack the basket. The score-first mentality really hurt the team and didnt do much for the scouts in attendance either, although it must be noted that his team didnt do a great job helping him out in this department much either. Though it wasnt his day, Barrett remains one of the top candidates in the D-League, and will have a chance to redeem himself later this week.
Michael Cuffee, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Bakersfield Jam
20 points, 6 rebounds, 5/11 FG, 10/11 FT, 4 turnovers
Will Blalock, 6-0, Point Guard, Anaheim Arsenal
5 points, 4 rebounds 2 assists, 1 turnover, 21 minutes, 2/5 FG, 1/4 3P
Dontell Jefferson, 6-4, Point Guard, Dakota Wizards
0 points, 0/5 FG, 2 assists, 0 turnovers, 3 rebounds
Blake Ahearn, 6-2, PG/SG, Dakota Wizards
12 points, 3/10 FG, 6/6 FT, 2 assists, 1 turnover
Steven Smith, 6-8, SF/PF, Anaheim Arsenal
11 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, 3-11 FG, 1-2 3P, 4-4 FT, 28 minutes
With that said, you could still see that there is a lot of talent and determination to be found in Smiths game, even if that didnt always produce great results out on the floor. Smith is a high-energy, extremely aggressive player on both ends of the floor, which leads him to a lot of good sequences, but also a lot of bad. He likes to play facing the basket primarily, where he can put the ball on the floor and attack his matchup, and either finish with a pretty floater, pull-up off the dribble, or turn-around and go to work with his back to the basket. Hes a very versatile offensive player, possessing range out to the NBA 3-point line and a team spirit that shines through despite his insistence of playing so much one on one basketball. Being a good, but not great athlete, he often struggles to fully beat his man off the dribble when attacking him from the perimeter, which is what leads to many of his problems (read: turnovers).
Defensively, Smith is a very long and physical guy. He plays hard, is fundamentally sound, and extremely active. He hits the glass hard on both ends of the floor, making the most of his solid athleticism and frame. As far as the NBA is concerned, he might not quite be quick enough to play the small forward position, and probably isnt strong enough to guard most power forwards, but weve seen players with a similar profile make it against the odds in the past. Its not clear just how close he is to making it at this point, but hes a really nice basketball player regardless.
Scooter McFadgon, 65, Small Forward, Bakersfield Jam
7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Scooter made a concerted effort early in the game to get to the basket, but was unsuccessful, getting stripped on one play, and then on another showing good hang time with an athletic pump-fake mid-air before missing badly off the glass. He did a good job in man defense, but struggled on team defense, and in one possession in particular let his man cut to the basket for an easy feed from Andre Barrett.
Despite his troubles offensively, he did grab 6 boards, ran the passing lane for a steal plus And-1, and made a pretty pass from the top of the arc to James Peters for the alley-oop.
Michael Joiner, 67, Small Forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce
17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 of 4 from three, 6 of 7 overall
He also did a good job defensively, grabbing 8 boards (7 defensive) and blocking 2 shots. On one play in particular he showed surprising athleticism while skying for the block, only to come off the ball and commit the foul by hitting Davin White on the arm.
Michael is an excellent shooter scoring at just under 50% on the season, despite being mostly a perimeter player. He needs to work on developing a bit more of an inside game and try not to gamble as much on defense to improve his stock.
Dwayne Mitchell, 65, Shooting Guard, Iowa Energy
23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 of 15 from the line
Mitchell has a very strong upper body, which allows him to absorb contact and finish at the rim. Several times he got into the paint and attempted acrobatic finishes getting to the line 15 times, but failing to convert on 10 of them. This is a major weakness for a player who relies so heavily on his slashing game, as leaving 10 points on the board was clearly the difference between a win and a loss for his team tonight, and probably what would have been considered a breakout performance individually for him. Mitchell suffered some of these same problems in college, so clearly its something he must address.
With that said, we might be talking about the most physically impressive player in attendance here. On one play he jumped from one side of the basket and pump faked before reaching the other side and then attempting a reverse dunk. He missed the dunk, but the play showcased how incredibly athletically he is. He also showed nice touch after getting fouled in the lane and then flailing backwards and throwing up a pretty high arcing floater. Hes not only extremely explosive, but is also incredibly strong. To take his game to the next level, though, he must simplify his moves, getting rid of many of the pump-fakes and double clutches he throws in unnecessary, which led to quite a few misses that he easily could have converted had he taken a more simple route.
Mitchell has a lot of talent and if continues to play like he did tonight hell certainly get his starting role back in short order. Were talking about a player with outstanding upside to continue to improve, who is nowhere near his peak as of yet.
James Lang, 6-10, Center, Utah Flash
19 points, 4 rebounds (1 offensive), 8-12 FG, 3-6 FT, 19 minutes
Kedrick Brown, 6-7, Forward, Anaheim Arsenal
10 points, 7 rebounds (1 offensive), 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 steals, 1-7 FG, 0-4 3PT, 8-10 FT, 40 minutes
Despite his poor shooting performance, Brown never tried to force any shots. He had a couple of nice passes and finished with 4 assists.
Defensively, he did a nice job, with aggressive man defense. He also got his hands in a few passing lanes and had 4 steals.
Jackie Manuel, 6-5, Guard, Iowa Energy
10 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 5 fouls, 5-10 FG, 22 minutes
Offensively, Manuels game is still not there. Early on, Manuel had three shots within a couple of feet and only made one. He did have one nice mid-range jumper off the dribble but will need to increase his range and precision to have any impact offensively.
Manuels key to getting into the NBA lies with his ability as a lock-down defender and he might be good enough at it to earn a call-up.