D-League Showcase’s top prospects included Blake Ahearn And Greg Ostertag

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The NBA Development League Showcase wrapped up on Thursday night following 16 teams playing a total of 16 games over the course of four days in lovely Reno, Nev. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told Pro Basketball Talk that the talent at the annual event was at an all-time high so it seems to make sense to give everyone that didn’t make the trek — unlike representatives from all 30 NBA teams — a quick glance at the top players in attendance by position.

Guards:

Blake Ahearn of the Reno Bighorns was often overlooked when scouts were asked to name the best prospects in the D-League this week, but that might be because Ahearn’s no longer a prospect … he’s a proven commodity. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 23.5 points and nine assists while shooting 50 percent from the field as the Bighorns racked up a pair of blowout victories as the hometown team at the Showcase. Ahearn’s spending his fifth season in the D-League this year and has little left to prove considering he can shoot the lights out, get to the foul line (and convert, considering he’s the NCAA’s all-time leader in free-throw percentage and a lifetime 96-percent from the charity stripe in the D-League) and be a positive influence to his teammates on and off the court. NBA teams seem to overlook the positives and instead try to find the negatives, but as soon as their attitude improves on that front, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ahearn get another look in the Association.

Justin Dentmon was a man on a mission at the Showcase this week as the 6-foot guard for the Austin Toros set out to prove he was a point guard. That mission may not have worked out quite as planned considering he picked up nine turnovers on 13 assists, but the quick guard showed he’s easily able to be a force on the offensive end with his play in Reno. Dentmon averaged 26.5 points while shooting 62 percent from the field. It’s going to be interesting to see what NBA teams think of his performance in Reno, but there’s no doubt he has NBA skills — even if he doesn’t have the prototypical NBA body for a scoring guard.

Forwards:

Gerald Green is a well-known player considering he was a former first round pick and competed in the NBA Slam Dunk contest a few years ago, bu he’s had to toil in the D-League this season as he works toward a comeback at the ripe old age of 25. Green’s first game at the Showcase didn’t go as planned as he scored just four points off the bench in a 15-point victory for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, but his second game was outstanding. Green scored 34 points on 13-of-17 shooting on Wednesday to show that his NBA comeback attempt is all for naught as his skillset tries to catch up with his athleticism.

Marcus Lewis might not look like an NBA prospect and he certainly doesn’t have the pedigree, but the former Oral Roberts standout has consistently improved while playing the past few seasons with the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League. Lewis, a 6-foot-8 power forward listed at 245 pounds, is the D-League’s leading rebounder this season with 13.8 per game, meaning his 23 total boards at the Showcase might have been a bit of a disappointment. He certainly opened eyes this week, though, and could be in line for a good gig down the line.

Center:

Greg Ostertag wasn’t expected to do much in the D-League this season considering he’s been out of basketball for five seasons, but the former starting center for the Utah Jazz looked great this week in limited minutes. Ostertag averaged nine points and 5.5 rebounds in a pair of games while showing that he’s capable of being an NBA back-up big man by playing the same role — minutes included — in the D-League this week. Ostertag talked to Pro Basketball Talk about his comeback earlier this week and, judging by the opinions of those in attendance, it wouldn’t be crazy to see him back on an NBA roster this year.

Honorable mention awards should have also been handed out to Dakota Wizards swingman Edwin Ubiles, former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry and Andre Emmett along with Los Angeles D-Fenders big man Brandon Costner. Quite a few players were impressive in one game of the Showcase, but that’s the reason a lot of guys are in the D-League — because they can’t play at an NBA level on a consistent basis.

DeMarcus Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior is a monster jam

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LOS ANGELES — DeMarcus Cousins sure looked his hops are back on this throw down.

Cousins started for the Warriors Friday night after missing almost a full year with a torn Achilles, and on the Warriors first possession they fed him the rock in the post. Cousins faced up on Marcin Gortat, drove baseline with a nice first step, but got caught under the basket and couldn’t power it up through the Clipper big, getting his shot blocked.

Nobody was blocking his next shot.

It was a side pick-and-roll where Gortat had to cut off Durant’s drive, but Danilo Gallinari didn’t tag into the middle to cut off Cousins’ roll (or, made the business decision not to). The result was an impressive first bucket for DeMarcus as a Warrior.

Cousins’ first shift was three minutes long. He’s on a minutes restriction for a while.

D’Angelo Russell drops 40 on Magic including shot that put Nets up for good

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D'Angelo Russell is playing like a guy in a contract year. And that’s just fine with Brooklyn.

Russell tied his career best with 40 points Friday night against the Magic, including hitting the shot that put the Nets up for good on the night with 27 seconds remaining. Russell was 16-of-25 shooting, including 8-of-12 from three, and he was an analytics dream — Russell took all but one of his shots either in the paint or from three.

The Nets — now 24-23 on the season and the sixth seed in the East — came from 21 back to get the win and that included their guards hitting the big shots at the end.

First up was Spencer Dinwiddie.

Then came Russell’s shot that proved to be the game winner.

With the Nets extending Dinwiddie during the season, it’s unlikely Russell returns to Brooklyn next season, but a number of teams are interested in him as a free agent (restricted, the Nets can match if the offer is low).

Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break

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The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.

And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.

The Nuggets are hoping Thomas will make his debut next month, right before the All-Star Break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.

There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….

The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.

Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.

Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).

If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.

Report: Kings’ Buddy Hield in 3-point contest

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Players who’ve attempted more than seven 3-pointers per game while making more than 40% of them this season:

Sharing company with only the greatest shooter of all-time will earn Hield a spot in the 3-point contest.

Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140:

Sacramento getting three players into the Rising Stars Challenge for the second straight year speaks to the team’s nice collection of young talent. Bogdan Bogdanovic (who won MVP last year) and De'Aaron Fox return to the game. No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III replaces Hield, who ages out.

Hield has a chance in the 3-point contest, though the league is better from beyond the arc than ever. He’ll certainly have plenty of competition.