Thursday night marked the 2011 D-League Draft, and to little surprise, proven NBAer Jamaal Tinsley went first overall to the L.A. D-Fenders. As much as the league itself is concerned with developing talent, a player of Tinsley’s caliber held obvious appeal to what is, first and foremost, an actual basketball organization. The D coaches up prospects and provides playing time for assignees, but the league’s coaches, players, and managers are all still vying for success on the minor league level in addition to their harbored call-up dreams. Tinsley, more than any other player in the draft pool, gave the D-Fenders the best way to tap into that success.
D-Fenders coach Eric Musselman provided the cut-and-dry explanation for the selection, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register:
“Our goal all along with the first overall pick was to take the player who we felt gave the D-Fenders the best chance of winning right now,” D-Fenders coach Eric Musselman said. “In this case, we were able to do just that with the selection of Jamaal. The guard position was a point of emphasis for us entering the draft, and Jamaal’s extensive experience in the backcourt provides the D-Fenders with a great foundation as we work towards our ultimate goal of winning a D-League championship.”
Supposing Tinsley has a successful D-League season without giving teams reason to doubt his ability to fall in line, it’s easy to see him filling in on an NBA team hit with injury a la Antonio Daniels. Tinsley is the more talented playmaker among them, and would fit in nicely as a reserve guard on a number of pro-level clubs — injury or no. It’s just a matter of convincing teams that he’s worth the perceived trouble at this point, a tall order considering Tinsley’s dicey reputation. Fair or not, that’s Tinsley’s current predicament.
The rest of the NBA names went early, as Alando Tucker (No. 2 to the Texas Legends), Gabe Pruitt (No. 4 to the Sioux Falls Skyforce), and Jamal Sampson (No. 5 to the Texas Legends) were all taken in short order. Beyond that group, the draftees primarily consisted of middling contributors to major college programs, relative unknowns from smaller schools, and local talent selected as a ticket draw. The D-League draft rarely seems like a gold mine on first glance, but some among these will pan out as capable contributors, with a select group successful enough for legitimate call-up contention.