The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase will begin its final day on Thursday afternoon when the Austin Toros game against the Dakota Wizards tips off at 1 p.m. ET on NBA TV. All 16 D-League teams have right around 30 games left this season, but the final games in Reno are quite important as players look to leave the NBA decision makers in attendance with a positive lasting impression.
The Austin Toros have quite a few players on the cusp of the NBA as Justin Dentmon, Lance Thomas, Leo Lyons and Da’Sean Butler were all invited to training camps last month, but Thursday’s game against the Dakota Wizards will be the last time this season that they’re in front of as many NBA scouts as there are in Reno this week. There’s quality buzz around Dentmon and Thomas — both camp invites of the New Orleans Hornets — entering the Showcase finale, but it could be all for naught if they’re unable to impress one more time.
The Dakota Wizards’ top prospect is swingman Edwin Ubiles, a swingman from Siena that’s technically playing out his rookie season after being forced to sit last year due to injury. Ubiles is a great shooter and certainly looks the part, but it’s up to point guard Maurice Baker to get the Dakota offense in sync so the entire team is able to showcase their skills.
Thursday’s second NBA TV game will feature the Oklahoma City Thunder-owned Tulsa 66ers meeting up with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at 3:45 this afternoon. The Mad Ants will have to prove that they’re more than just good minor league players against a Thunder team that includes leading rebounder Marcus Lewis along with Jerome Dyson, one of the top perimeter defenders in the D-League.
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers will play the Springfield Armor in the penultimate Showcase game on Thursday afternoon in a game that will feature a few interesting match-ups. JamesOn Curry is hoping to get another chance at the NBA by way of starring in the Springfield backcourt while Greg Smith, a rookie big man for the Vipers, has to prove he has the skillset to match his impressive physique at such a young age.
The final game of the D-League Showcase pits the Canton Charge, excellently-run by the Cleveland Cavaliers, against the Iowa Energy. The player to keep an eye on for the Charge is former Cavs wing Manny Harris as he recovers from injury, but it might not be the most exciting game to watch after Iowa was blown out by 30+ points in Wednesday’s nightcap.
Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.
Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.
Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.
With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.
That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.
Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.
“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”
Lue put it this way.
“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”
While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.
Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.
The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.
Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.
As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.
If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.
When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.
He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.
What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.
“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”
“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.
Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.
Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.