NBA D-League Preview: Westchester giving second chances

Mar 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; New York Knicks forward Cleanthony Early (17) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 87-82. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; New York Knicks forward Cleanthony Early (17) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 87-82. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-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: Cleanthony Early, Damien Inglis and Chasson Randle
Returners: Kevin Capers, Jordon Crawford, Robert Vaden, Devondrick Walker & Keith Wright
Draftees: Max Hooper and Lasan Kromah
Tryouts: Jaylen Bond and Anthony Kent
Potential NBA Assignees: Ron Baker, Maurice Ndour and Marshall Plumlee

Two former NBA prospects get another shot

Some prospects do not pan out as planned. Some simply need a second chance, a brighter opportunity to portray the skills which at one point landed them in the gotta-draft-this-guy conversation. The Westchester Knicks have two such players this year in Cleanthony Early and Damien Inglis.

Early is a 25-year-old, 6-foot-8 forward entering his third year as a pro. Knicks’ fans had high hopes for Early after he was viewed as the team’s steal of the 2014 NBA Draft. After spending his first two seasons with the Knicks, he was let go this offseason only to be brought back for another chance at relevance. Early will bring solid defense with the ability to guard positions 1-4, due to his quick lateral foot speed and lengthy frame. On offense he’s best when attacking, but he’s always been a bit one dimensional because of tunnel vision with the ball in his hands. Even with his pitfalls, Early is one of the top prospects in the entire D-League, he just has to get back to his Shocker form to earn his way back into the good graces of the NBA.

Inglis was selected three picks ahead of Cleanthony in the same 2014 NBA Draft, by the Milwaukee Bucks. He spent his entire rookie season without playing a single minute and played sparingly in year two, before ultimately getting the axe. Inglis is still just 21-years-old and is extremely raw in terms of his skillset. Right now, Inglis’ main draw is his defense as he’s able to utilize his 6-foot-8 frame to guard multiple positions, and possesses the ability to snatch a rebound off the glass and start the fast break. His offense has a long way to go however. His jump shot has a slight hitch that he 100 percent has to fix to have any chance at a consistent shot. This is the time and place to put that work in, develop a solid all-around game and earn another shot.

Randle following Galloway’s footsteps

Chasson Randle would probably be on the New York Knicks roster if not for a left orbital fracture suffered toward the end of camp. While Coach Hornacek insisted the injury would not hinder Randle’s chances, the Knicks ultimately went with rookie Ron Baker instead of Randle.

Now, Randle has the chance to follow in the footsteps of the first ever D-League call up for Westchester in Langston Galloway. Both came in as unheralded — yet wildly popular — guys who play hard, make smart plays and can score the basketball at will. Randle has a monster wingspan for a guard at 6-foot-7 and uses it to his advantage on both ends of the court.

After a solid rookie season abroad, Randle should be high on the list for team’s seeking a backup or third string guard off the bench.

The 3-point specialist

Max Hooper was a first round pick in this year’s D-League Draft for Westchester. At 6-foot-6, Hooper is the epitome of a one dimensional guard, but his dimension is mind altering. He knows down 3s at an alarming rate of 42.2 percent over his college career. That might not sound too crazy, but consider that 479 of his 490 field goal attempts were 3s over that span, and you start to get the picture. Defenses knew what to expect and quite frankly it still didn’t matter.

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The challenge for Hooper will be bringing value in other aspects on the court. Throughout history there have been plenty of pure shooters who couldn’t hack it due to their lack of overall value. Hooper has to prove early that he can hold his own on the defensive end, handle the ball when necessary and continue to hit those 3-pointers. Hooper stands to benefit greatly from playing alongside Randle, Early and Inglis as they will garner most of the attention, leaving him free to tickle the twine from distance.