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.
Draft Rights: Abdel Nader
Affiliates: Marcus Georges-Hunt, Jalen Jones, Damion Lee
Returners: Jason Calliste, Coron Wiliams and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum
Draftees: Joe Thomasson and Dallas Lauderdale (trade)
Tryouts: Pendarvis Williams, Arthur Edwards and J.J. Panoske
Potential NBA Assignees: Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey and James Young
Grooming Nader for the future
The Boston Celtics selected Abdel Nader with the 58th pick in the NBA Draft and there was an unwritten agreement that he would play with the Maine Red Claws this season. Instead, things grew a bit contentious following a successful showing for Nader in summer league which thrust him up international interest boards. Ultimately, Nader gave up lucrative offers overseas to play in Maine as a rookie and improve under the watchful eye of the big green.
Nader is a 6-foot-6 forward who may have played himself onto most NBA teams as an undrafted rookie, but the Celtics are stacked with young talent right now and minutes are impossible to come by. The benefit here for the club is they don’t have to pay Nader a minimum salary, they didn’t have to waive one of their other players and they hold Nader’s draft rights. The benefit for Nader is growth in Boston’s system and the not-so-guaranteed chance to play for the Celts next season.
Meanwhile, he’s going to light up the D-League in a big way.
Jalen Jones is here
Jones is another undrafted rookie for the Claws. He played his final two NCAA season with Texas A&M and last year ended up making 1st Team All SEC after notching 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds at a 6-foot-7 forward. Jones was a high usage guy at A&M and while he scored in bunches, he didn’t really make plays for others. That development will be essential for his play moving forward and he will learn to adapt, because Coach Morrison preaches a share-happy style of play in Maine.
Jones is also a high-energy rebounder. He’s a bit undersized for a 4 in terms of the NBA, but can definitely play the 3 or 4 spot with success in this league. The key will be how he fares on the opposite end of the floor as lateral quickness isn’t his strong suit.
If he can play within himself while improving on his shortcomings, Jones is going to be a formidable no. 2 option next to Nader.
Back court mates
Marcus Georges-Hunt and Damion Lee round out the foundation for Morrison’s Claws. Georges-Hunt is a player who steadily improved at Georgia Tech and at 22-years-old has plenty of ceiling left to reach in terms of his upside. He will likely run the point guard and combo guard positions with Lee and at 6-foot-5 has quality size for a guard. He needs to work on his court vision, awareness in the pick-and-roll and extend his range and consistency from outside, but he’s well on his way to making his mark this season.
Lee really made a name for himself last season after transferring to Louisville and playing very well. He spent his first few years at Drexel where he was the star attraction, so he knows a thing or two about being the alpha. Lee brings another guard with size at 6-foot-5, so the run-and-gun style of Morrison will be perfect for Lee who likes to get out and score in transition. In the half court set it will be important for Lee to knock down the 3-pointer regularly to help space the floor his teammates to attack.