NBA D-League Preview: Iowa Energy banking on Kalin Lucas

Mar 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard JaKarr Sampson (9) in the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard JaKarr Sampson (9) in the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the next couple of weeks, The Step Back will examine each of the 22 NBA D-League teams and bring bringing you an in-depth look at their roster as well as any potential storylines to watch for. Teams can retain up to 12 players, while only 10 will be active for games. This is your first look at the prospects to watch out for all season.

Roster Breakdown

Affiliates: Matt Costello, Kellen Dunham, JaKarr Sampson and Wayne Selden Jr.
Returners: Kalin Lucas, Cartier Martin, Ramon Harris, Terry Whisnant and Mardracus Wade
Draftees: Omar Reed and Quinton Chievous
Tryouts: Matt Gatens
Potential NBA Assignees: Deyonta Davis, Troy Williams and Jarell Martin

Lucas returns to push the Energy

This is Lucas’ third campaign with the Iowa Energy and the 27-year-old has one goal on his mind — reach the NBA. Two seasons ago he started fast and earned two call ups with the Memphis Grizzlies, but unfortunately did not stick. Now after spending last season in the Turkish TBL, he returns to lead the Energy.

At 6-foot-1, Lucas needs to prove he can run this team successfully and not simply by scoring a ton of points. Yes, he can score, but this team has a number of inexperienced players who really need someone like Lucas to help set them up. During the 2014-15 season with Iowa Lucas averaged a robust 19.3 points but managed an assist rate of just 19.11 — there are forwards who post higher numbers. The focus needs to be on distribution, while hitting timely shots and potentially taking over offensively if need be.

Lucas is a pest on defense and has quick burst foot speed which allows him to move laterally very well. Think of Lucas as a poor man’s J.J. Barea. Now, he needs to show off the playmaking portion of his game to earn that next opportunity.

Opposite sides of the coin

The Energy have two NBA experienced forwards on the roster this season, and the two could not be more different. JaKarr Sampson is a versatile, 6-foot-9 forward who spent his last two seasons in the NBA, primarily as a wing defender. Cartier Martin hasn’t played in the NBA since 2014-15 and his main contributions come in the way of offense.

Sampson is 23-years-old, Martin is 31-years-old and both will have to fill their roles perfectly for this Iowa team to get some wins. Many thought Sampson could eek out the final roster spot in Denver during training camp but it wasn’t meant to be, and now the prospect is here to pick up the pieces. All is not lost however. This is an ideal time to work out some kinks offensively while still showing his defensive prowess for NBA clubs.

Martin was on this roster last year but had his year cut short with a wrist injury. Through five games last year he was averaging 20.4 points on 43 percent shooting overall and 40 percent on his 3-point attempts. That’s an extremely small sample size, but Martin has proven over time to be a viable scoring option both from the catch, and working out of the pick-and-roll.

From undrafted to the NBA?

Wayne Selden Jr. is perhaps the most intriguing player on this roster. The 22-year-old shooting guard went undrafted after leaving Kansas prior to his senior season. While he didn’t meet expectations in the college ranks, he did show a propensity to knock down big shots when it mattered most. Bill Self’s offenses are predicated around post play as well, so offensive numbers are rarely impressive for wings in a Jayhawks’ uniform.

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Still, Selden’s efficiency numbers improved greatly as a junior and he felt it was worth the gamble of taking the pro plunge. He doesn’t rebound all that well for a 6-foot-5 wing, but the spacing in the pro style game could allow him to showcase some of his athleticism in that department. The major question coming in as a pro will be in Selden can create for himself. In college he was largely a catch-and-shoot player on the perimeter and while that will be an option in the D-League, proving he can be effective out of the pick-and-roll will be an important growth point for him.