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.
Affiliates: Vashil Fernandez, Luis Montero, Okaro White and Stefan Jankovic
Returners: Briante Weber, Keith Benson, Bubu Palo and Jabril Trawick
Draftees: Marcus Posley and Ike Nwamu
Tryouts: Eric Weary Jr.
Potential NBA Assignees: Rodney McGruder
Prince of perimeter defense returns
Last year I tabbed Weber a defensive tyrant in the early going due to his impact on that end of the floor, and this season will be no different. Weber spent the first half of his rookie season rehabbing a torn ACL from the previous college season, but once he joined the lineup he had an immediate impact. Sioux Falls ended up setting a D-League record by going 40-10 and ultimately won the D-League title over the L.A. D-Fenders as well.
Weber earned call ups with both the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat, but was a camp casualty this October. Now he returns to Sioux Falls ready to do whatever the team needs him to do. Weber is a premium athlete who relishes the task of defending — something only a small percentage of players truly embrace. Weber’s Achilles heel has been shooting the basketball although last year in 28 games with the Skyforce he shot 47 percent overall and almost 41 percent (49 attempts) from 3-point range. Clearly, that’s a very small sample size, but its still encouraging to see efficient numbers from a guy deemed to be a non-shooting threat.
As long as Weber is on this roster, Sioux Falls has an advantage at that position.
Benson anchoring the paint
Keith Benson is a 28-year-old journey man center. He’s played in the Philippines, Russia, Lithuania, the D-League and had a cup of coffee in the NBA five years ago as well. Last season, he was a bit of an afterthought as eventual MVP Jarnell Stokes garnered most of the headlines. However, when he got ample opportunity Benson proved to be a viable threat on both ends of the floor.
In 23 games as a starter last year Benson notched 17 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 58 percent from the floor. The 6-foot-11 center is a solid post threat and this year could be his breakout season in the D-League. That’s kind of weird to think since he’s already 28, but opportunity can breed success and Benson should have plenty of playing time this go round with Sioux Falls.
Appearing from the shadows
Imagine playing high school basketball on the same team as Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott, then going on to play for your hometown university only to have people still not know who you are (outside of Iowa that is). Bubu Palo is that guy. After going undrafted in 2014, Palo has played his first two pro seasons in the D-League with last year being a breakout year of sorts. He was surrounded by Weber, Rodney McGruder, DeAndre Liggins and Tre Kelley on the perimeter, but managed to shine regardless.
This is his third season in the D-League and will an increased role, he’s looking to really step out of the shadows he’s been hiding in. Palo stands 6-foot-1 and can play either guard position. With Weber in town, he will mostly play off the ball and that’s not an issue since he shot almost 46 percent from distance with Sioux Falls last season.
Palo should be a starter on this team and while he will mostly play the off guard spot, he will have numerous chances to run the offense and show what he’s capable of. At 25-years-old, Bubu Palo is finally going to get his chance; now let’s see what he can do with it.