NBA

NBA D-League Call Up Rankings: Guards abound

The NBA D-League season is about two weeks in, which has provided ample time to peruse the talent and deem those worthy of an NBA look. There are recognizable names and newcomers alike, although the inaugural rankings only include two rookies.

At this point in the season there have only been three players called up to the NBA, however the silver lining is all of them are still on an NBA roster. So, while call ups have been few, they seem to be sticking; at least for now. Unfortunately, there are literally no roster spots available in the NBA currently, but history shows spots will eventually open up and call ups will rise accordingly.

Only one D-League player — Ben Bentil — has bolted for the international paycheck, so the talent pool is chalked full right now, which made these selections excruciating. Very good names were left off the list, but these rankings are fluid and will be updated weekly.

Read More: Jordan Crawford is on a mission

Note — NBA draft rights players are not included in the call up rankings as their rights are held by their NBA club. This means only that team can call them up. (Examples – Dakari Johnson & Abdel Nader)

Outside Looking In: Justin Harper, Wayne Selden, Chris Evans, Xavier Munford, Cameron Jones

10. Lamar Patterson, SG/SF, Reno Bighorns

2016-17 Stats: 17.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists
35.6 mins, 35.6% FGs, 29.7% 3P, 85.1% FTs

Patterson has two years of pro hoops under his belt as he spent his rookie season in Turkey before the Atlanta Hawks signed him for 2015-16. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep him on roster for this season and now he’s scratching and clawing for another opportunity on the big stage. The Bighorns are struggling to start the season, but Patterson has been there go-to guy early. His shooting has not been where it needs to be but his free throw percentage indicates no issues with mechanics. Reno just added Kendall Marshall which will allow Patterson to play more off the ball and allow him to take better shots — those percentages will all rise very soon.

9. Ray McCallum, PG, Grand Rapids Drive

2016-17 Stats: 20.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8.3 assists
38.8 mins, 46.5% FGs, 22.2% 3P, 75.0% FTs

The Drive have faltered of late after starting 2-0 but McCallum has been a steady force at the point guard position. He’s playing in tandem with another NBA veteran Jordan Crawford, and they are still working out the kinks as far as chemistry goes. The bugaboo for Ray has always been his lack of consistent outside shooting and that’s holding true here as well. His feel for the game is there, his efficiency out of the pick-and-roll is stellar and he’s finding open teammates, but he’s got to shore up that 3-point shot (and really his mid-range too) to garner real NBA interest.

8. Keith Benson, C, Sioux Falls Skyforce

2016-17 Stats: 17.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.7 blocks
32.6 mins, 48.1% FGs, 33.3% 3P, 87.1% FTs

Benson is a 28-year-old journeyman who has performed well in Russia, Lithuania, the Philippines and now the NBA D-League for years. He’s 6-foot-11 and provides rim protection, rebounding and possesses a soft touch around the rim few big men have. His footwork, on both ends, has really improved and this year he’s got the stage as the Skyforce’s star attraction in the paint. A huge plus for Benson is his free throw shooting that is near the top of the league.

7. Vander Blue, SG, Los Angeles D-Fenders

2016-17 Stats: 22.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists
34.6 mins, 48.5% FGs, 47.1% 3P, 74.1% FTs

Blue is still just 24-years-old, which is kinda wild since it feels like he’s been around as long as Dirk Nowitzki. He’s improved every single year and this one is no different. This is his third consecutive season with the D-Fenders and he’s showing off an increased scoring efficiency; especially from 3-point range. Blue is 6-foot-4 so he falls in that tweener position. Really he’s a shooting guard who can attack the rim with explosive finishes but always needed to ramp up his consistency from outside. It appears he’s worked on it this offseason and time will tell if NBA clubs take notice.

6. Askia Booker, PG, Northern Arizona Suns

2016-17 Stats: 22.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists
37.1 mins, 47.7% FGs, 50.0% 3P, 77.3% FTs

This inaugural NAZ Suns season has been a coming out party for Booker. He played with the club last year (in Bakersfield) as one of the most proficient backups in the league. Now, he has the stage and he’s not looking back. His scoring numbers, shooting percentages, assist rates and plus/minus are all through the roof and he — alongside Elijah Millsap — helps make up one of the most potent defensive backcourts in the D-League to boot. At 6-foot-1 he’s not an explosive leaper, but his feel for the game is on full display this season and he’s been magical out of the pick-and-roll.

5. Quinn Cook, PG, Canton Charge

2016-17 Stats: 24.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists
40.5 mins, 41.7% FGs, 40.0% 3P, 86.0% FTs

Quinn Cook shot the lights out for the New Orleans Pelicans in preseason leading a lot of people to believe he would be retained. Instead, he’s right on the NBA’s doorstep in the D-League and leading the way in Canton. Cook earned Rookie of the Year honors last year in the NBADL and he’s so much more confident in his sophomore season. His free throw attempts have nearly doubled and while his overall shooting percentage has gone down, his 3-point efficiency has jumped to 40.0 percent on 6.4 attempts. He still needs to work on his distribution to teammates and carelessness with the ball at times, but the 23-year-old lead guard is on his way.

4. Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Windy City Bulls

2016-17 Stats: 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists
36.8 mins, 47.3% FGs, 42.1% 3P, 84.6% FTs

Honestly, there’s really no viable reason for Dinwiddie to be here instead of on an NBA roster. He’s still only 23-years-old, has plus size (6-foot-6) for a point guard and has amazing feel for the game. The one knock on Dinwiddie in his first two seasons with Detroit was his lack of outside shooting (13-of-75 from 3 in limited minutes for Detroit), but he’s showing he can hit those shots as well. Dinwiddie has been the driving force for Windy City’s 3-3 start as he’s scoring when he needs to, but more importantly he’s helping teammates get easy looks with his assist rate of 31.2 percent. Spencer is just too good with the ball in his hands to last very long in the D-League. Right now he’s 8-of-19 from 3 and all but one of those have been off the dribble.

3. Jalen Jones, SF, Maine Red Claws

2016-17 Stats: 21.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals
34.5 mins, 45.4% FGs, 37.8% 3P, 89.3% FTs

Six games is a small sample size, but Jones is showing shooting touch that simply was not on display in the NCAA ranks at Texas A&M. He was a 31 percent shooter from 3 and a 69 percent shooter from the charity stripe and both of those numbers are way up so far. NBA league average from 3 last season was 35.4 percent, so he’s above average there and his free throw rate has jumped 20 percentage points?! He’s fluid with the ball in his hands, he moves and cuts well off the ball and he can guard positions 1-4 at his size (6-foot-7). If the outside shooting holds around 36-39 percent, he’s a lock for a call up at some point this year.

2. Isaiah Taylor, PG, Rio Grande Valley Vipers

2016-17 Stats: 25.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists
35.3 mins, 54.6% FGs, 44.8% 3P, 83.3% FTs

Taylor has been a pleasant surprise in the early going this season. He’s third in the league in scoring and seventh in assists thus far, as the free-flowing pro style the Vipers employ really suits him. He’s relentless attacking the basket which has led to seven free throw attempts per game. At Texas he shot 29 percent from 3-point range and made just 19 3s last season in 33 games as a junior. Through five games as a pro he’s 13-of-29 and with his quickness is able to pump fake and hesitate his way by defenders, sine he’s knocking down the long ball.

1. Briante Weber, PG, Sioux Falls Skyforce

2016-17 Stats: 14.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 3.8 steals
34.0 mins, 39.0% FGs, 20.0% 3P, 66.7% FTs

Briante Weber is a dynamo on the court. He cannot shoot the ball a lick right now and it honestly does not matter. He affects the game in so many ways, so a box score simply cannot quantify his impact on the game for his team. The shooting is an issue moving forward, but he’s only 23-years-old and while the mechanics aren’t Redickesque, they can be repaired and improved upon. When you watch Sioux Falls play it feels like there are two or three Briante Webers on the court and that’s a testament to his work ethic and energy. He’s also an astounding rebounder for a 6-foot-2 guard at 8.2 per contest. He will get another NBA look or two this season.