By Brian Kotloff, NBADLeague.com
SANTA CRUZ, CALIF. — After a five-day, 19-game sprint, the NBA Development League’s top prospects have stated their case to NBA scouts and GMs with contracts on the line.
The scene shifted to Santa Cruz, Calif., the Showcase Cup added an extra layer of motivation, and NBA talents arriving just days before the event raised the level of play.
Here are five takeaways from this year’s NBA D-League Showcase, the marquee event of the minor-league season:
NBA teams are looking inward for prospects to call up.
There’s a common thread between the three prospects who signed 10-day contracts mid-Showcase — Quincy Miller, JaMychal Green and James Michael McAdoo — other than their top-five standing on NBADLeague.com’s Prospect Watch entering the event.
Each was called up to their D-League team’s NBA affiliate, a sign that: 1) organizations are most comfortable with their own guys who’ve developed under their coaching staff and system, especially players like Green and McAdoo who spent training camp with the parent club; and 2) the teams felt the need to temporarily lock up their hot prospect before another franchise swooped in (prospects are free agents available to be signed by any NBA team).
Twelve of this season’s 20 GATORADE Call-Ups have occurred within the same organization, the result of this year’s all-time-high 17 one-to-one affiliations.
Winning remains the best way to get noticed.
You only needed to watch this week’s Showcase Cup to see why the cliche rings true.
Players simply look more appealing when they’re part of a winning culture: They’re buying in, they’re fitting into a role and they’re playing smart on both ends — the same intangibles they’d need to bring to an NBA bench.
Showcase Cup finalists Bakersfield and Grand Rapids not coincidentally had the players playing hardest, filling their responsibilities defensively and acting most invested on the bench. Title game point guards Lorenzo Brown and Joe Jackson, among others, are on the rise as a result.
The roster turnover is just beginning.
January is crunch time for NBA D-League prospects, with 10-day deals available, NBA teams releasing players before their contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season, and talent returning from overseas.
In the days before Showcase alone, young wings Glen Rice Jr. (Wizards/Vipers, Toure Murry (Jazz/Vipers), Andre Dawkins (Heat/Skyforce) and Jared Cunningham (Clippers/87ers) infused the minor league with talent after being cut from the NBA.
It’s safe to say the player pool is about to get deeper as January flies by.
A handful of NBA D-Leaguers appear ready to step onto an NBA floor right now.
Who’s next up after three of the league’s top talents got the call?
On the wing, look out for Erie BayHawks guard Seth Curry, who’d already proven to be a deadly shooter, a savvy player on and off the ball, and an improving defender even before Showcase. Grand Rapids Drive power forward/center Willie Reed played like the best remaining big in the league in Santa Cruz with his ability to guard ball screens, stay straight up to protect the rim and finish inside offensively.
Wings Chris Johnson (RGV), Chris Babb (Maine) and Damion James (Texas) are among the reliable options to fill out a roster, while point guards Bryce Cotton (Austin), Tim Frazier (Maine) and Lorenzo Brown (Grand Rapids) are strong upside plays.
The Rockets may have found a steal in Clint Capela.
It’s time to buy Clint Capela stock, because among the players who stepped on the floor over the past five days, his future looked brightest.
His fluid athleticism and timing on alley-oops and blocks stood out, especially since he’s just 20 years old.
The Swiss big man entered the NBA as a mystery man, who the Rockets nabbed with the 25th overall pick. Now he’s unraveling that mystery: After posting 42 points (18/24 FG), 28 rebounds and 8 blocks in 52 total minutes at Showcase, he’s now averaging 27.2 points, 16.2 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per 36 minutes for the RGV Vipers this season.