NBA D-League Positional Rankings v1.0

Dec 26, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Lamar Patterson (13) dribbles against the New York Knicks in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Knicks 117-98. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 26, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Lamar Patterson (13) dribbles against the New York Knicks in the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Knicks 117-98. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The D-League season is basically two months old and there have only been six players called up to the NBA. This may seem low, however last season at the same point there had only been four call ups and ultimately there ended up being 42, so all is not lost. Four of the six players called up are still with their NBA clubs, so that’s a great sign as well.

In past weeks here at The Step Back we have ranked players in a top-10 fashion regardless of position, but with 10-day contract season coming up (NBA teams can offer these deals starting January 5, 2017), we decided to break it down by position. Think your team needs a small forward off the bench? We got you covered. Best player available? Look no further.

The guard positions are the deepest and the small forward and center positions lack depth overall, though there is talent to be had there as well. Really, the NBA is basically positionless, but this hierarchy aims to provide a more detailed list of the top players available in the D-League.

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)

Point Guards

1 – Briante Weber, Sioux Falls Skyforce, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 3.2 steals
35.9 mins; 40.9% FGs, 27.3% 3Ps, 77.8% FTs

Category: Defensive animal, athletic guard

It’s only a matter of time before fans see Weber in the NBA again this season. He’s one of the few who has the tangible skills to match his stellar intangibles as a winner and a fighter. He can impact a game without dominating the ball and his defense at the guard position is elite.

2 – Ray McCallum, Grand Rapids Drive, 25-years old
2016-17 Stats: 19.8 points, 7.5 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals
38.4 mins; 46.4% FGs, 34.0% 3Ps, 80.5% FTs

Category: Heady lead guard, crafty finisher

McCallum is benefiting greatly from coach Rex Walters giving him the keys to the offense in Grand Rapids. He moves so well in the pick-and-roll, makes quality decisions and can finish around the rim even without plus athleticism. Over the past two weeks his 3-point percentage has risen from the depths (17 percent) to a respectable 34 percent.

3 – Julyan Stone, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 28-years old
2016-17 Stats: 10.1 points, 8.6 assists, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 steals
35.9 mins; 42.3% FGs, 40.0% 3Ps, 69.2% FTs

Category: Versatile lead guard, defensive chameleon

Stone is another lead guard hanging his hat on the defensive end. At 6-foot-6 he can guard positions 1-3 successfully and he still has the lateral quickness to defend the quicker point guards. Adding a viable outside shot has been key for his resurgence as a guy who deserves NBA looks.

4 – Quinn Cook, Canton Charge, 23-years old
2016-17 Stats: 25.0 points, 5.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals
39.2 mins; 46.6% FGs, 34.9% 3Ps, 88.3% FTs

Category: Quick shooting combo guard

Cook’s amazing offseason unfortunately didn’t garner an NBA roster spot, so he’s back in the NBADL grinding for the Charge; while posting career highs across the board. If he can reign in his turnovers (only has a 1.34 AST/TO ratio) he will climb this list and NBA prospect lists as well.

5 – Xavier Munford, Greensboro Swarm, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 18.3 points, 5.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals
37.0 mins; 41.3% FGs, 33.7% 3Ps, 81.0% FTs

Category: Pick-and-roll attacker, defensive stalwart

Munford has burst onto NBA radars over the last year and a half, and this season he’s showing an increased focus on the defensive end as well. His efficiency in terms of shooting has dipped a bit, but there are many nights when he’s the best player for the Swarm, even with Aaron Harrison and Christian Wood playing.

Shooting Guards

1 – Elijah Millsap, NAZ Suns, 29-years old
2016-17 Stats: 19.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.2 steals
36.5 mins; 45.7% FGs, 32.7% 3Ps, 71.8% FTs

Category: Attacking off guard, defensive stopper

Millsap is nearing the “NBA or bust” age in terms of prospects. He spent a season with the Utah Jazz and is doing all he can to get back to the big show. At 6-foot-6 he can play some point and he can hit open shots off the ball, but ultimately he thrives with the rock in his hands. Millsap is a plug-and-play option for NBA teams right now. He’s that good.

2 – Lamar Patterson, Reno Bighorns, 25-years old
2016-17 Stats: 21.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.4 steals
35.3 mins; 41.4% FGs, 28.7% 3Ps, 77.5% FTs

Category: Playmaking wing, versatile defender

Patterson has really grown in his two years since being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks. He looks more confident than ever in his playmaking abilities and once he starts knocking down 3s with consistency, it’s all uphill for him. He’s yet to reach his prime, but he’s trending in the right direction.

3 – Manny Harris, Texas Legends, 27-years old
2016-17 Stats: 25.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.7 steals
38.5 mins; 44.6% FGs, 38.4% 3Ps, 76.4% FTs

Category: Scorer extraordinaire

The Michigan Mamba has seemingly been around for eons and he’s still here plugging away. The 6-foot-5 wing can really fill it up and this season he’s added a propensity to attack the glass and rebound better than some of the 4s in the league. He can step in off the bench for an NBA team and be proficient on offense for 10-15 minute stretches, but his lack of defense is holding him back.

4 – Jordan Crawford, Grand Rapids Drive, 28-years old
2016-17 Stats: 22.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals
29.1 mins; 46.8% FGs, 42.1% 3Ps, 86.7% FTs

Category: Instant offense, outside scoring threat

On the surface Crawford’s numbers don’t look impressive, but he’s playing the role he would for an NBA club with Grand Rapids as he’s coming off the bench and sparking their second unit. He’s the epitome of instant offense and he’s firing on all cylinders from outside. He’s also got a leg up on most players in the D-League because he’s already proven his skill at the next level.

5 – Vander Blue, L.A. D-Fenders, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 23.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals
33.2 mins; 47.4% FGs, 37.8% 3Ps, 79.4% FTs

Category: Rim-attacking wing

Blue had some NBA opportunities this offseason, but things didn’t work out and he’s back lighting up D-League scoreboards yet again. This go round he’s hitting more 3s than ever and he’s shooting a respectable 38 percent on those shots. He’s a bouncy, 6-foot-4 wing and if given the right chance, could be a valuable asset at the next level.

Small Forwards

1 – Jalen Jones, Maine Red Claws, 23-years old
2016-17 Stats: 20.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists
35.4 mins; 43.9% FGs, 29.8% 3Ps, 80.0% FTs

Category: Versatile wing scoring option

Jones is a slithery, 6-foot-7 forward who moves with the fluidity of a guard. He fits the mold of what NBA teams desire with a viable “3-and-D” threat at the 3 position. His mechanics on his jump shot are smooth and once he shores up his shot selection, his percentages will flourish.

2 – Anthony Brown, Erie BayHawks, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 23.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals
37.9 mins; 49.0% FGs, 48.6% 3Ps, 71.4% FTs

Category: Point forward, spot-up shooter

Brown is a known commodity from his Laker days and he’s already earned a call up (though short lived) with the Pelicans this season. He’s got great length at 6-foot-7 and he’s expanding his game into the point forward realm for the BayHawks, which can only help his NBA prospects moving forward. He’s only played six games in the league this year, but he’s in a tier above most players at this point.

3 – Chris Evans, Canton Charge, 25-years old
2016-17 Stats: 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.0 steals
38.4 mins; 47.0% FGs; 38.5% 3Ps, 76.5% FTs

Category: Explosive athlete, Swiss army knife defender

Evans has come out of nowhere to be the real gem of the early part of this season. He made Canton as a tryout player and now he’s in the top-15 in scoring and is a legitimate inside-outside threat at 6-foot-8. He’s got a stout build and isn’t afraid to attack the rim, guard opposing big men or do anything else it takes to win.

4 – Trahson Burrell, Long Island Nets, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 13.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals
31.3 mins; 50.5% FGs, 29.7% 3Ps, 71.1% FTs

Category: Athletic playmaking 3

If Burrell had played at a blue chip university last season, he would have been drafted; he’s that talented. He’s 6-foot-7 and plays with a fiery competitiveness on both ends for Long Island. They went to the same school, so this might seem like an easy comparison, but he’s the D-League’s very own Will Barton.

5 – Okaro White, Sioux Falls Skyforce, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals
32.3 mins; 40.8% FGs, 26.7% 3Ps, 86.2% FTs

Category: High-energy, rebounding 3

White has hovered under the radar for Sioux Falls this year due to Weber and Keith Benson being top prospects, but he’s been vital to their success. He’s got NBA size and strength and is one of the better rebounders in the league. His shooting needs to improve for him to be an NBA 3 however.

Power Forwards

1 – Cory Jefferson, Austin Spurs, 26-years old
2016-17 Stats: 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists
28.0 mins; 52.5% FGs, 50.0% 3Ps, 80.0% FTs

Category: Athletic, stretch 4

Jefferson entered the NBA two years ago as an athletic, rim-running forward. He’s still very much those things, but now he’s added a new 3-point wrinkle and it’s real. He’s a legitimate stretch 4 option as his touch on offense has improved exponentially. Jefferson doesn’t add much on the defensive end however, so therein lies the issue.

2 – Justin Harper, L.A. D-Fenders, 27-years old
2016-17 Stats: 17.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists
28.4 mins; 49.7% FGs, 42.4% 3Ps, 75.7% FTs

Category: Stretch 4

Harper is another stretch 4 at 6-foot-10. He can move really well in half-court sets and provides a pick-and-pop option, can finish as a roll man (61.4 percent at the rim) and is a sniper from the corners (7-of-8 this season). His defense also leaves something to be desired, but he’s willing to bang in the post and can move laterally in spurts.

3 – Alex Poythress, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 23-years old
2016-17 Stats: 20.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.1 blocks
31.6 mins; 56.9% FGs, 26.7% 3Ps, 76.0% FTs

Category: Athletic, rim-runner, shot blocker

Poythress is an undersized 4 at just 6-foot-7, but his strength at 235 pounds and elite athleticism more than compensate for his smaller stature. Right now he’s very raw, but he’s shown signs of knocking down jump shots when left open. He really has to improve his post moves and overall defensive awareness but at 23, he’s got plenty of time to develop into a rotational forward.

4 – Eric Moreland, Canton Charge, 25-years old
2016-17 Stats: 11.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 blocks, 2.0 steals
30.1 mins; 59.5% FGs, 0.0% 3Ps, 27.3% FTs

Category: Defensive monster, athlete

Moreland has endured really terrible luck with injuries over the past two seasons, but he appears healthy now and he’s doing his best Gerald Wallace impersonation so far. His defensive versatility is the real draw and while his outside shooting is non-existent, he knows his limitations and plays to his strengths. He’s the only player in the league averaging at least 11.5/9.5/2/1.5/2.0.

5 – Quincy Acy, Texas Legends, 26-years old
2016-17 Stats: 17.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.5 steals
30.6 mins; 50.4% FGs, 39.4% 3Ps, 83.3% FTs

Category: Rebounding, energy 4

Acy is a surprise for the D-League this year as he started the season on the Dallas Mavericks. Now he’s using this team to develop an outside shot and his motion looks quite fluid. What Acy lacks in size (6-foot-7) he makes up for with brute strength, plus footwork and a high basketball IQ. He always seems to be in the right place — especially on offense — and if he can truly morph into a stretch 4, his NBA odds will rise.


1 – Keith Benson, Sioux Falls Skyforce, 28-years old
2016-17 Stats: 18.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.1 blocks
32.1 mins; 52.9% FGs, 33.3% 3Ps, 80.7% FTs

Category: Shot blocker, savvy pick-and-pop 5

Benson is the best big man in the league and it’s really not been close. He’s the only person averaging at least 18/10 in the entire league and his 3.1 blocks leads the league as well. Not only is he finishing 65 percent of his attempts at the rim, but he’s extended his range out to 15-19 feet where he’s knocking down almost 46 percent of his jump shots.

2 – Edy Tavares, Raptors 905, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 8.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 2.2 blocks
20.3 mins; 65.4% FGs, 0.0% 3Ps, 64.7% FTs

Category: Shot blocker

Tavares is part of the whirlwind, player every guy at least 20 minutes, style first year coach Jerry Stackhouse is using for the 905 and he’s flourishing. Edy is still very raw offensively, but the draw for him is shot blocking and his block percentage is a ridiculous 9.99 percent! Even with limited minutes he’s proving he can be effective and that’s important to show NBA teams, because 10-12 minutes is likely his ceiling in the NBA right now.

3 – Kaleb Tarczewski, OKC Blue, 23-years old
2016-17 Stats: 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists
25.8 mins; 54.5% FGs, 0.0% 3Ps, 78.8% FTs

Category: Rebounding stalwart

Tarczewski is the backup for Dakari Johnson and he’s been stellar in limited minutes. He does exactly what you expect from an athletic 7-footer; runs the floor, gobbles up rebounds and finishes around the rim. The one skill Tarczewski lacks is protecting the rim. As a senior last year he posted a 5.01 block percentage and this year it’s down to just 2.63 percent.

4 – Mike Tobey, Greensboro Swarm, 22-years old
2016-17 Stats: 12.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
26.0 mins; 47.5% FGs, 21.9% 3Ps, 79.6% FTs

Category: Skilled 5

Tobey lacks any semblance of quickness, but makes up for it with fundamentals and quality footwork. While inconsistent, he’s also shown an ability to hit the 3-pointer this season, so if he can truly develop an outside shot, the 22-year old, 7-footer could have a Spencer Hawesish vibe.

5 – Dennis Clifford, Santa Cruz Warriors, 24-years old
2016-17 Stats: 9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 blocks
26.2 mins; 57.1% FGs, 0.0% 3Ps, 62.5% FTs

Category: Legit 7-footer

Clifford has been a pleasant surprise in Santa Cruz this season as a traditional big man. He stands 7-foot-1 and weighs in at 260 pounds, so he’s living in the paint with 97 of his 106 shots coming from eight feet or closer. He’s tried to stretch his game out a little bit (just 3-of-23 on jump shots), but he’s better served sticking to his strengths.