The NBA D-League’s regular season ended on April 1 – with the D-League playoffs in full-swing, PopGates Editor-in-Chief Noah Perkins is handing out the first annual PopGates’ D-League Awards – think of them as you would the Dundies.
*Note 1 – because of the nature of the D-League (minutes restrictions, lineups influx because of callups and demotions, development as the focus instead of winning — as Will Bynum said, basketball that goes against the nature of basketball) I won’t be delving into things like ‘Most Valuable’, DPOY or ROY.
*Note 2 – because of the league’s heavy skew towards guards, the all D-League team has three guards and only one forward.
*Note 3 – for a player to be considered for an award, he must’ve played in a minimum of 18 games.
All D-League Team
Of the five spots available this was the easiest call. The D-League has very few dominant centers – in fact it really only has two: Shawn Long and Dakari Johnson. Johnson would be the easier decision based on physical tools – Johnson is 7’ compared to Long at 6’9.” He’s also more of load around the basket and defensively has more of a game changing impact in terms of team defense.
Still, Long is more polished, and put up better numbers across the board. Beyond outscoring Johnson, Long has a higher rebound percentage (20 compared to 15.4) as well as a slightly greater Player Impact Estimate (16.5 to 14.4)
Johnson can take consolation in the fact that he is likely to see playing time in the NBA at some point in the future.
Forward – Jameel Warney, Texas Legends
I admit, I may be a little biased when it comes to Warney; PopGates has been covering Warney since he was a freshman at Stony Brook University and we only existed in the glimmer in the eyes of our predecessor One-Bid Wonders. Still, facts are facts: Warney was the best forward in the D-League this season, especially when it comes to one very important facet of basketball: offensive rebounding.
Only one forward collected more offensive boards per game, Derek Cooke Jr (3.4 to 3.3), but Warney’s 4.3 second chance points per game jump off the page compared to Cooke’s 2.2.
Warney also compares favorably in second chance points to Eric Moreland who led the league in rebounding at at 4.3 to 2.1. (Warney also averaged slightly more offensive rebounds per game –at 3.4 to 3.3)
Offensive rebounding is an art, and Warney is Picasso.
In addition to his rebounding prowess, Warney is a capable passer and load around the basket who scored 17.3 points per game on less than 30 minutes.
Since 2013, Vander Blue has played in exactly five NBA games – how is that possible? All Blue has done in 171 career D-League games is average 23.5 points, 3.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals, while limiting his turnovers to just over 2 a game.
Blue, the third highest scorer in D-League history, has been the greatest factor in the D-Fenders offensive success this season. When Blue is on the floor, the team scored 114 points per 100 possessions, compared to 105 per 100 possessions when Blue was on the pine.
At 6’5” Blue is a long guard capable of meeting the NBA’s standard of efficient play.
The D-League is a run-and-gun league, though not as bad as it was in the early 2000s when it was basketballs wild west, it is still prone for lengthy stretches of iso-hero ball. As Will Bynum told PopGates earlier in the season “It has a long way to go before it’s the second best league in the world.”
Josh Magette earned a spot on the all-league team for his ability to impact the game as a passer. His 9.4 assists per game led the league – and his command of the pick-and-roll is second to none.
As he said earlier in the year “I know I’m not going to pass the eye-test, a six-foot white kid who’s 170 pounds, but you just have to look at the results.”
Quinn Cook is maybe 6’2” and weighs 175 pounds. Quinn Cook was un-defendable this season, leading the league in scoring at 26 points per game. He was unselfish, dishing nearly seven assists per game, and he was efficient shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from deep.
For good reason Cook is in the NBA now.
The Billy Hoyle Award
On the basis of crushing it as a pro-basketball player, but looking like a dude who would be picked last for pick-up run at Venice Beach, Scott Wood of the Santa Cruz Warriors is our Billy Hoyle Award winner.
Wood was draino from deep this year connecting on 43 percent of his treys. He, like Josh Magette, also has a deeply enduring Opie quality.
Runner Up(s): Troy Devries/Josh Magette
The I don’t belong here Award
The best inch-for-inch offensive rebounder in the world (see above) Jameel Warney of the Texas Legends is our I-don’t-belong-here Award winner. Warney is too much of a beast near the basket to be getting paid 26k a year. He destroyed Thon Maker on the glass at Summer League – he mauled everyone on the glass in the D-League, it’s time to get this man into the league.
Runner Up: John Holland
The #Ballislife Award
The oldest player in the D-League, having nearly a decade in the NBA, Damien Wilkins of the Greensboro Swarm passed up big money overseas to spend the season in the D-League. Earlier this year, he explained his decision, saying:
“I have two little boys, I tell them all the time “don’t be afraid to chase your dreams,” you know, most of the time everyone else is afraid.”
Runner Up: Troy Devries
The Doomsday Device Award
Maine Red Claws forwards Abdel Nader and Jalen Jones earned our Doomsday Device Award by savaging the rest of the D-League for a combined 42.3 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting; 15.3 rebounds; 6.1 assists.
Runner(s) up: Quinn Cook/ John Holland
The Herb White award*
*Wilt Chamberlain once called White the best dunker he’d ever seen – we doubt many of you know who Herb White is (just as our award winner is an unknown).
The D-Leagues best in game dunker – often in front of empty seats at the Barclays Center — Trahsohn Burrell of the Long Island Nets is our Herb White Award winner.
Burrell is a nice mix of both power and finesse.
Runner up: Troy Williams
The Aliens Invaded Your Body and then Drastically Changed your Game Award
Over the course of his entire career at UMass Amherst, Stephane Lasme did not attempt a single 3-pointer. This year in the D-League, Lasme drilled 18 threes at a rate of over 40 percent.
Who are you, and what did you do with Stephane Lasme