The NBA D-League Showcase Begins Today. Wait, What’s A D-League Showcase?

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase will tip off at 1 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon as executives from all 30 NBA teams (and your’s truly for Pro Basketball Talk) converge on Reno, Nev., to get an in-person look at the top prospects playing in the NBA’s official minor league. The D-League has quite a bit of talent in the league this season, too, meaning at least a couple of call-ups could happen with standout play this week.

Over the next four days, all 16 D-League teams — from everyone’s favorite team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ own expansion Canton Charge — will play two games as they look to showcase their talents in hopes of moving up to the next level. There’s a pretty good chance of moving up to the next level, too, considering 138 players have already earned their way from the D-League to the big league in the past with the Showcase usually kickstarting that process each season.

The talent at this year’s Showcase is going to be phenomenal. I know what you’re thinking: ‘It’s the freakin’ D-League … How is it possible for you, Mr. New Guy, to come here and say the games are even going to be worth watching, let alone phenomenal?’

Tough crowd.

To answer that question, though, this summer’s NBA lockout forced quite a few players to stay close to home in hopes of making their way into the NBA by way of training camp invites. Not many were able to make it via that route, however, and the majority of overseas jobs were filled by players back in September after the “how u” Tweet ended up being a lot less promising than it sounded on first read.

Training camp cuts aren’t the only well-known names playing in Reno this week, however, as there are quite a few ballers from yesteryear hoping to show scouts and executives in attendance that they’re worth one more contract even if they are past their prime. Some of the more well-known names that will be in action this week include the notorious Ricky Davis, a non-flattopped Greg Ostertag, a still-shimmying Antoine Walker, 12-year journeyman Mikki Moore and (former?) sharpshooter Damon Jones as they look to get called up to the same league they were starters in earlier in their career.

The ‘D’ in D-League does stand for development, however, so there will be a decent number of youngsters in attendance as well. NBA teams have assigned some of their brightest youngsters to get some in-game seasoning this week as three first round picks — Marcus Morris of the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets’ Jordan Hamilton and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph — join veterans like Yi Jianlian and Sean Williams (yes, the guy who puked all over that can also kiss the rim) as players assigned by NBA teams to get some seasoning until the big club is able to utilize their talents in the rotation.

Along with the aging veterans and players owned by NBA teams that have been sent down on assginment, there are plenty of players available for any NBA team to call-up.

Former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry, Gerald Green, Mardy Collins, Terrico White, Orien Greene and Da’Sean Butler litter rosters around the D-League. There are also undrafted players with NBA experience — like Bobby Simmons, Blake Ahearn, Larry Owens, Maurice Baker and Renaldo Major — and guys that aren’t household names quite yet, but could be soon (a la Ivan Johnson last week with the Atlanta Hawks) such as Justin Dentmon, Courtney Fortson, Edwin Ubiles, Charles Garcia and Jeff Foote.

Those players and more will be looking to gain not only the attention of scouts around the NBA this week, but fans of basketball as well as 12 of the 16 Showcase games will be broadcast on NBA TV with veteran play-by-play man Chad Andrus joining Kenyon Murray to call the action from courtside.

A full schedule of this week’s action is available here, but Pro Basketball Talk will provide a preview of each day’s action, interviews featuring the players and scouts in attendance and recaps of the standouts each day — Stay tuned!

Report: Thunder signing Dakari Johnson two years after drafting him

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Two seasons ago, Dakari Johnson was the youngest player by more than two years on the D-League’s All-Rookie team. Last season, Johnson was the youngest player by more than a year on an All-D-League team – and he made the first of three teams.

Now, Johnson – who the Thunder drafted No. 48 in 2015 and whose rights they continued to hold – is finally moving up to the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Thunder have already used the full taxpayer mid-level exception, so presumably Johnson will get the minimum – $2,128,226 over two years. That, plus two years of meager D-League salary, will be Johnson’s return for granting Oklahoma City four years of his services.

He could have forced the Thunder’s hand either of the previous two years by signing the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – a team must extend to retain a draft pick’s rights. Accepting the tender would have meant Johnson earning an NBA salary (and gaining a year of service) if Oklahoma City kept him past the preseason. Or, if they waived him, he would’ve been an unrestricted NBA free agent. He still could have developed with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate while available to any NBA team.

Instead, Johnson repeatedly rejected the tender, allowing Oklahoma City to maintain exclusive negotiating rights.

At least the Thunder helped develop him. A strong 7-footer, Johnson has improved his mobility and skill level. He’s still an old-school center in a league moving away from that style, but he’s now more equipped to keep up.

Whether he’s ready enough is another question. Johnson will fall behind Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the depth chart. At just 21, Johnson is still a decent developmental prospect.

Johnson gives the Thunder 16 players on standard contracts, one more than the regular-season maximum. They could waive Semaj Christon, whose salary is unguaranteed, but I’d be leery of having only Raymond Felton behind Russell Westbrook at point guard. Nick Collison at least provides insurance at center.

So, there’s no guarantee Johnson sticks into the regular season. One thing working in his favor: His salary will be luxury-taxed at the rookie minimum, because the Thunder drafted him. Christon or any other player acquired through free agency would be taxed at the second-year minimum.

No matter how it shakes out, Johnson is at least finally getting significant money in his pocket.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey: DeMar DeRozan to play some point guard

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The Raptors gave away backup point guard Cory Joseph to save money. So, who will play behind Kyle Lowry?

Presumably, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will each slide up a spot on the depth chart. The third-year Wright looks ready to join the rotation, and he deserves at least the opportunity.

But Toronto also has another – unexpected – option at point guard: DeMar DeRozan.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Bryan Meler of Sportsnet:

“DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”

“Everyone and their brother knows we want better ball movement,” said Casey.

DeRozan didn’t play point guard at all last season.* So, this is a pretty big shift.

*Defined as playing without Lowry, Joseph, Wright or VanVleet.

Known as an isolation player, DeRozan has quietly improved as a distributor. I don’t think his ability to run an offense is at a point-guard level, but I’m also not sure that’s the point.

The Raptors are trying to change their style and promote more ball movement. This could help in the long run.

I supported the Timberwolves playing Zach LaVine at point guard as a rookie even though it was clear he should be a shooting guard. Playing point guard was a crash course that helped him develop skills useful at shooting guard, skills he couldn’t have as easily developed while playing off the ball.

The same could be true with DeRozan. Some rocky minutes at point guard could better equip him to play with Lowry in better-passing units come playoff time.

It was more conventional to play a 19-year-old on a bad team out of position to focus on skill development than it is for a 28-year-old on a good team. But he we are.

The Raptors have achieved enough success in the regular season and not enough in the playoffs. Experimenting during the long regular season is a good plan.

Lakers meet with Derrick Rose, Ian Clark about backup point guard slot

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At a press conference this week introducing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Magic Johnson said that the Lakers wanted to find a backup point guard in the next week or so.

Thursday the Lakers took a couple of steps down that road, meeting with both Derrick Rose and Ian Clark.

Both men would serve as the backup to, and potential mentor for, Lonzo Ball. The questions come down to which man better fits that role, and of course money.

Rose put up solid numbers last season in New York — 18 points per game, a PER of 17 — and statistically appeared to be an average NBA point guard. However, he’s still a defensive liability, cannot space the floor as a shooter (21.7 percent from three last season), and he’s not versatile offensively.

Rose is thought to be choosing between the Lakers and Cavaliers, both teams offering one-year contracts (Chicago has been mentioned is a highly unlikely reunion). Cleveland can offer the chance to chase a ring and play with LeBron James, but only a veteran minimum contract of $2.1 million. The Lakers can offer the same minimum contract or the room exception of $4.3 million (it’s not known if the Lakers put that larger offer on the table, but it seems plausible to likely). Rose has to choose what he wants, what he prioritizes, in neither case is he going to start or be part of the long-term plans — this is a one-year choice.

Clark played for Luke Walton in Golden State, is younger and more athletic than Rose, shot 37.4 percent from three last season, and is coming off his best season playing almost 15 minutes a game and winning a ring with the Warriors. He’s not as good as running the offense as Rose, but last season he cut down on his turnovers and improved his defense, taking steps forward with both. If things work out, he could stick with the Lakers beyond this season, but they will only offer a one-year contract for now.

Los Angeles has other options out there on the point guard market — Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Deron Williams — but the Lakers seem to have narrowed their choice down to Rose or Clark. Once they land the backup point guard, the roster will

Shaq calls his absurd light-up shoes the real Big Baller Brand

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Because 7’1″, 350-pound Shaquille O’Neal needed an impossible-to-ignore pair of light up shoes to call attention to himself…

Shaq posted a video of himself on Instagram wearing some outrageous light-up shoes — then in the comments decided to take another dig at Big Baller Brand.

Boy was shining wasn't he #whatarethose #shineonem #feetwork #shaqshoestherealbigballerbrand

A post shared by DR. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL Ed.D. (@shaq) on

So how much do those shoes cost? More or less than ZO2?

One of the things I enjoyed about Summer League was that as Lonzo Ball played better and better, the spotlight shifted more to his play and more away from his father. Think what you will of LaVar Ball — marketing genius or loud-mouthed dad — personally I’m just weary of him. I like Lonzo’s play, I don’t need the rest.

However, between Shaq and Charles Barkley, I think there’s going to be a lot of LaVar/Big Baller Brand talk on Inside the NBA next season. Those two can’t help themselves.