Some of the top names in the D-League have already been snatched up by NBA clubs, but there are still plenty of talented prospects to be had. There have been 18 call ups so far this season and five of those players (Spencer Dinwiddie, Quincy Acy, Chasson Randle, Okaro White and Yogi Ferrell) have now been signed to multi-year deals in the NBA.
At this point last season, there had been 15 call ups so history shows there will be many more to come. This week the league gained two more potential call ups in Nate Robinson and Prince Ibeh as well. This list includes players who have played at least 15 games this season, so those two are omitted for the time being. Though Pierre Jackson has returned to the Texas Legends, he remains out with an injured hamstring, thus his absence on the following list.
On Monday the D-League announced their Eastern and Western Conference All-Stars as well. These are the top-24 players as voted by coaches and players across the 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)
10. Jordan Crawford, SG, Grand Rapids Drive
2016-17 Stats: 22.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals
29.3 mins; 47.0% FGs, 38.2% 3P, 85.6% FTs
Steezus returned to the D-League this year hoping to garner NBA interest. At just 28-years-old, the 6-foot-5 combo wing brings microwave-type offense scoring points in bunches for Grand Rapids. He’s the only player in the top-15 in scoring averaging less than 30 minutes nightly and with the departure of point guard Ray McCallum to the Hornets, he could be line for some minutes at lead guard to show off his playmaking abilities.
9. Edy Tavares, C, Raptors 905
2016-17 Stats: 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 blocks
23.6 mins; 60.6% FGs, 71.0% FTs
On the surface Tavares’ number might not seem “call up worthy”, but the 7-foot-2 center has been coming on strong of late. First year coach Jerry Stackhouse plays an eight-man rotation and he brought Tavares along slowly in terms of minutes as well. However, in January those minutes jumped to 27.2 per game and Edy averaged 12 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while posting five double doubles in 12 games. He has innate shot-blocking ability and the increased playing time has helped his confidence on the offensive end as well. He’s still just 24-years-old and though he has two years of NBA experience, he only amassed 76 total minutes of court time with the Atlanta Hawks during that time.
8. Cory Jefferson, PF, Austin Spurs
2016-17 Stats: 16.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.0 assist
28.7 mins; 48.8% FGs, 38.5% 3P, 82.3% FTs
The Austin Spurs have struggled a bit this season (14-17), but Jefferson has been a revelation at the 4 spot for them. He has been able to extend his range and has slowly morphed into a dependable pick-and-pop option, which will expand his suitors. Jefferson’s downfall is not making much of an impact on the defensive end. When you pair his 6-foot-9 frame with his athleticism, he should be blocking shots regularly –especially in the D-League — so the fact he isn’t is a bit of a red flag. However, there are many 4s in the NBA who don’t provide elite defense and are still viable, and Jefferson falls into that category as well. Jefferson just turned 26-years-old in December, so he hasn’t even hit the prime of his career yet.
7. Shawn Long, PF, Delaware 87ers
2016-17 Stats: 20.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
29.8 mins; 54.0% FGs, 21.4% 3P, 68.9% FTs
Long dominated the boards in college at Louisiana-Lafayette, had a solid summer league and preseason with the Philadelphia 76ers and is coming on like gangbusters in the D-League. The Sixers already had a logjam of bigs, so the writing was on the wall for Long there, but other teams now have a chance to scoop up the rebounding maven. He’s only 6-foot-9 and he does not play above the rim, but he possesses above average footwork and touch, enabling him to handle most defenders in the paint. Long is one of only two players in the entire NBADL averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds and he’s second in the league with 18 double doubles. Simply put, he’s a beast, and the recently turned 24-year-old is definitely on NBA radars.
6. Manny Harris, SG, Texas Legends
2016-17 Stats: 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 steals
39.5 mins; 46.6% FGs, 37.6% 3P, 78.7% FTs
Somehow Harris was not named to the D-League All-Star roster Monday afternoon, but the 27-year-old scoring dynamo has still been on quite the tear this season. In past year’s Harris has utilized the D-League to earn lucrative overseas offers, but this season he’s already played more games (27) than any previous season, so it appears he’s sticking around for an NBA deal. The Legends have enjoyed their fair share of call ups this year (Gary Neal, Pierre Jackson and Quincy Acy) and Harris may be the next in line. He’s shown an ability to attack the glass this season, make plays for others and still rack up buckets for himself as well.
5. Vander Blue, SG, Los Angeles D-Fenders
2016-17 Stats: 24.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals
33.8 mins; 44.3% FGs, 39.0% 3P, 81.4% FTs
This is Blue’s fourth season in the D-League, but he’s still a ripe 24-year-old for the picking. His game is attacking the rim (10.1 free throw attempts per game) and now he’s even added the 3 to his offensive arsenal. He’s hitting 39 percent of his 3s (5.0 attempts), but his bread and butter is still endlessly slithering to the rim. Last season he set the single-season record for free throws made (345) in the D-League, and this year he’s on pace to knock down 411! He did not look great this summer playing for the Dallas Mavericks, but it’s about time for another shot.
4. Anthony Brown, SG/SF, Erie BayHawks
2016-17 Stats: 21.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists
39.2 mins; 46.1% FGs, 46.8% 3P, 78.8% FTs
After being waived by the Los Angeles Lakers, Brown opted for the D-League and was the no. 1 overall pick in the draft by Erie. He’s already earned two call ups (New Orleans Pelicans and Orlando Magic) but obviously did not stick with either one. At 6-foot-7, he’s displayed ball handling and playmaking abilities few around the league can match. He’s also hitting almost 47 percent (5.5 attempts) of his 3s, while being the offensive focal point for a struggling (8-22) BayHawks team. He’s got NBA talent, but just cannot hit 3s when he’s in the NBA; it might be mental at this point.
3. Quinn Cook, PG, Canton Charge
2016-17 Stats: 25.8 points, 6.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals
38.6 mins; 47.1% FGs, 34.2% 3P, 88.6% FTs
After the recent run on point guards by NBA teams, Cook is now the best lead guard left in the league, even if it’s not good enough for LeBron James. Cook has been stellar all season long for the Charge and he’s proven at 6-foot-2, he can run the offense or even play off the ball due to his outside shooting prowess. My only critique is sometimes he presses on offense, which causes him to take bad shots. Canton now has quality players around him (Eric Moreland, Chris Evans and John Holland to name a few), so he needs to start letting the game come to him and things should work out fine.
2. Keith Benson, PF/C, Sioux Falls Skyforce
2016-17 Stats: 21.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
33.0 mins; 58.7% FGs; 50.0% 3P, 77.1% FTs
There’s no reason for Benson to still be in the D-League right now. He’s been dominant for one of the top teams in the league (Sioux Falls is 21-11), he’s ultra efficient around the rim and he leads the league at 2.7 blocks per night. WHAT ELSE DOES THIS MAN NEED TO DO?! I’ve been told teams are shy to give him a chance due to his older age at 28, but that should make him more desirable because he can contribute now. He’s the best big in the league hands down.
1. Jalen Jones, SF/PF, Maine Red Claws
2016-17 Stats: 21.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists
36.4 mins; 44.1% FGs, 32.8% 3P, 77.0% FTs
The 23-year-old Jones is a firecracker for the Maine Red Claws. He’s going full tilt literally the entire game. Jones is on the floor at least 5-7 times per night with the Claws, scrapping for loose balls, diving for rebounds or getting fouled. If it weren’t for his teammate Abdel Nader, he would be the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors as well. Despite only standing 6-foot-7, he’s fourth in the league with 14 double doubles and is tenacious on the glass. He needs to work on his shot selection and passing as he can sometimes be a bit of a black hole in the half court, but all the tools are there for this budding young player.
*All stats from stats.nbadleague.com and accurate as of Feb. 5