Last year, the D-League really began to gain its footing with some big-name teams. The Heat jumped on board the single-affiliate team bandwagon this year after a good experience shuttling Jarvis Vanardo and Dexter Pittman back and forth from the D-League to the main team — and that was in Sioux Falls.
The Thunder sent Jeremy Lamb back and forth from Tulsa last year, and it is paying benefits for them this year thanks to Lamb's 10.0 points per game in that key bench role for the Western Conference hopefuls.
The D-League is becoming a tool more and more NBA teams are using. Even rumors of Rajon Rondo doing a rehab stint with the Maine Red Claws has made the rounds. The D-League is becoming a tool more and more.
Teams around the league have begun shuttling their young players at the end of their bench back and forth. Sacramento second round pick Ray McCallum has gone up and down from Reno where he has averaged 22.0 points per game in three appearances. Detroit has shuttled promising rookies Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell back and forth from the team's affiliate in Fort Wayne. Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad has begun his D-League assignment.
There are plenty of former NBA players — Manny Harris leads the league in scoring with 30.6 points per game all but assuring some team will pick him up very soon — and young players whom NBA scouts will be looking to in order to fill minutes the rest of the year. That is the advantage of the D-League, they are right there if a team needs the help in the pinch.
Last week, the D-League's teams descended upon Reno for the annual D-League Showcase. With almost every NBA general manager in attendance, the league's best players had the chance to make their NBA statement.
Anthony Oliva of NBADLeague.com named his top players from the weeklong run of games and there are several names that should be on NBA rosters very soon.
Former Baylor guard Pierre Jackson had questions about his size and ability to run a team. No one ever questioned his scoring ability. So it was no surprise when he dropped 33 points in his first game and then 28 his next. This is a guy who is a Nate Robinson-type energizer of instant offense.
It will be no surprise too when Magic second round draft pick Romero Osby makes it to the NBA soon. The Magic opted to let Osby go after training camp when he struggled to perform in preseason against Solomon Jones. The tweener forward known for his work ethic has flourished with the Maine Red Claws. At the Showcase, he posted 20.5 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game in two appearances.
Osby will not be returning to the Magic but could be joining the Celtics very soon. This is a guy that WILL BE an NBA player in 2014.
The biggest surprise of the Showcase was from little-known Mo Charlo. The Bighorns guard scored 39 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the two games. Charlo is a 6-foot-7 forward from Nevada who is literally playing in his hometown of Reno, Nev., for the BigHorns. Charlo is averaging 13.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Guards Ray McCallum and K.C. Rivers have dominated the offense, with McCallum going to the Kings every once in a while for their home games. Charlo has been consistent.
Some team is likely to take a chance at him at some point. But he will have to continue proving himself beyond the Showcase. Two games in one week are not going to change many minds, just pique interest.
That is what the D-League Showcase is all about. And there are plenty of highlights to see. Plus, all the games are on YouTube streaming live.