Justin Dentmon was named the Pac-10’s Most Improved Player as a senior during the 2008-09 NCAA season with the Washington Huskies, but the 6-foot guard has improved quite a bit since. He’s looking to show NBA decision-makers just how much more he’s improved this week while playing with the Austin Toros in the NBA D-League Showcase.
The 26-year-old was averaging 23 points along with 4.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds heading into Tuesday’s game in 10 games this D-League season — split between a training camp invite with the New Orleans Hornets — and came out backing those numbers in a 111-88 blowout victory over the Erie BayHawks. Dentmon scored 23 points and dished nine assists while sharing a backcourt with San Antonio Spurs assignee Cory Joseph.
“My main focus down here at the Showcase was just to throw the first punch,” Dentmon told Pro Basketball Talk after the game. “Coach wrote on the board before the game ‘do what you do and do what we do’ so I did what I do and got the rest of my team involved. Scoring comes naturally, but I wanted to show I can be a complete player out there.”
Dentmon is forced to play off the ball a bit with Joseph in the lineup, but the third-year pro wants it made clear that he’s a point guard with the ability to score and not just a scorer who can play the point in a pinch.
“Today I thought I did a good job of putting our guys in the right spots and getting us set up in the offense, really,” Dentmon said. “They told me in New Orleans that I need to work on getting my teammates involved and run the offense better so that’s what I’m trying to show I can do.”
As soon as he proves he’s able to do that on a consistent basis, it’ll prove that turning down lucrative European offers paid off.
“What keeps me here is my dream. My dream is to be in the NBA and by me playing well, I don’t want to pass it up only to later say ‘what if?'” Dentmon said. “I don’t want to go overseas and then see a guy get called up and be like ‘what if that was me?’ I just want to be that ‘what if.'”
Other players that stood out on Day 2 in the D-League included:
- The first game of the day on Tuesday included another player with Washington state connections making waves as former Seattle U standout Charles Garcia put in 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a losing effort for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Garcia still has to prove he’s capable of fitting in on an NBA roster without causing any commotion, but he certainly has the size to contribute in an NBA frontcourt in the future.
- Xavier Silas isn’t a name most basketball fans are familiar with, but the rookie out of Northern Illinois may have opened some eyes Tuesday morning with a game-high 21 points in the Maine Red Claws 98-92 victory. Silas was invited to camp with the Philadelphia 76ers so he obviously has NBA talent, but he’ll need to show he can perform on a consistent basiss in order to get a further looks from the big leagues.
- Booker Woodfox has developed a reputation for standing out at the Showcase as the former Creighton standout shoots the lights out when on the big stage. It was Booker Time again on Tuesday afternoon as he had a few in attendance calling him ‘Microwave’ after coming off the bench for the Legends to score 22 points in 31 minutes.
- Mike Anderson looked solid in defeat for the Dakota Wizards as the lengthy forward scored 19 points, grabbed six rebounds and swatted four shots while converting on multiple highlight plays on both ends of the court. Former Cleveland Cavalier Manny Harris led the Canton Charge over Anderson’s team, however, by coming off the bench to score 15 points in his first D-League game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.
Big-market teams are licking their chops.
That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.
Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.
It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.
It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):
Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?
Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.
“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…
“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”
That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.
Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.
My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.
For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:
Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…
Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.
George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.
George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.
So he went where there is an opportunity.
Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.
Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.
It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.
I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)
Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.