By Bobby Giller

While much of the attention this week has been focused on big name rookies such as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, as well as past lottery picks such as Demar Derozan and Hasheem Thabeet, the participants with the most to prove may in fact be the members of the NBA Development League. By my count there were 49 players in Las Vegas who spent last season in the D-League and are not currently signed to NBA contracts, 11 were named to the D-League Select team while 38 others were able to secure invitations by NBA teams.

D-Leaguers have been called up and have made immediate impacts on NBA rosters in the past, some of the more recent examples are Reggie Williams for the Golden State Warriors and Alonzo Gee for the San Antonio Spurs. Each player was a late season call up but in their short time with their respective NBA team they were able to impress both the front office and coaching staff and signed NBA contracts for the upcoming season. Williams former teammate CJ Watson, another former D-League call up just inked a 10 million dollar deal with Chicago.

Each player from the D-League was here to showcase their skills and talents in hope of convincing a team that they could be a valuable asset and someone worthy of a chance to play in the NBA. Some of these players were former first rounder’s, some were undrafted, and some have even been included in trades for future hall of famers; here are the top ten D-Leaguers who participated in the Las Vegas Summer League.

1. DJ Strawberry, G, 6’5, 199 lb
D-League team: Reno Bighorns
Summer League team: Los Angeles Lakers

Strawberry, the son of former MLB star Darryl Strawberry was one of the most impactful D-League invites in Vegas this week. After enjoying a solid season for the Reno Bighorns, Strawberry received an invite to play for the Lakers summer league squad and he didn’t disappoint. Strawberry managed to score double digits in each game highlighted by a 17 point, 2 rebound, 4 assist and 2 block performance against the Sacramento Kings. With his solid offensive play along with his usual impressive defense; Strawberry is impressing not only the Lakers but other teams around the league as well. His versatility is also a plus as he played the role of swingman in college early on at Maryland but then shifted to point guard during his junior year. After being drafted with the 59th pick by the Phoenix Suns in 2007 and receiving little playing time Strawberry is looking to force his way back into the NBA. His size and versatility would fit in nicely with Phil Jackson’s triangle.

2. Deron Washington, SG/SF, 6’7, 215 lb
D-League team: Tulsa 66ers
Summer League team: Milwaukee Bucks

Washington, much like Strawberry comes from a bloodline of top athletes. His mother Denise was a collegiate basketball player and his father Lionel was a former NFL cornerback; he was also the 59th pick in 2008, whereas Strawberry was selected with the same pick the previous year. In his time at Virginia Tech he became known for his thunderous dunks and elite athleticism. Washington played respectably for Tulsa this past season averaging 11.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 1.9 APG but really turned it on once the playoffs started. In leading his team to the Finals, Washington improved upon his regular season numbers averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds. The Bucks took interest and invited him to showcase his skills for their summer league team where he averaged a solid 13.2 PPG along with 4.6 RPG. The high flyer also knocked down 50% of his 3 point shots. Washington was one of the Bucks best and most consistent players during the summer and could be an intriguing addition for this young playoff team should they choose to sign him.

3. Shane Edwards, SF, 6’7, 220 lb
D-League team: Albuquerque Thunderbirds 
Summer League team: Denver Nuggets

While Edwards may not be the most well known D-League participant in Vegas he played well for the Denver Nuggets. Edwards averaged roughly 13 points and 5 rebounds per game this past year for Albuquerque after coming onboard from Arkansas- Little Rock and his numbers were similar this week in Vegas posting averages of 11 points and 4 rebounds per game in 5 starts for the Nuggets failing to reach double digit scoring in only one game. Edwards however has no 3 point shot to speak of having not made one in Vegas or in the D-League. Edwards is an energy and hustle type of player that a team may look to off of the bench but he likely needs more time in the D-League to refine his game.

4. Morris Almond, SG/ SF, 6’5, 210 lb
D-League team: Maine Red Claws
Summer League team: Chicago Bulls

Almond, like D-League teammate Maurice Ager is a former NBA first round pick selected by the Utah Jazz 25th overall in 2007. He graduated from Rice University where the smooth wing player was named Conference USA player of the Year after finishing third in the nation in scoring at 26.4 PPG. Almond played sparingly with the Jazz but has dominated the D-League over the course of his career where he scored 51 points in just his fifth game. In his time in the D-League he has led the league in scoring and has recorded multiple 50 point games, over a span of 90 career games he has torched the league to a tune of 24.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG while shooting 48.1%, 37.4% from long range and 81.9% at the line. This week in Vegas Almond impressed off the bench for the Chicago Bulls, a team desperate for outside shooting. He was able to score 13.2 PPG while shooting a crisp 48.8% and knocking down 45.5% of his three point attempts. Almond saved his best for last scoring a team high 22 points while grabbing 5 rebounds. Almond is instant offense and is a scoring talent that has nothing left to prove in the D-League, he will be on an NBA roster again and my bet is sooner rather than later.

5. Dwayne Mitchell, SG, 6’5, 210 lb
D-League team: Los Angeles D-Fenders
Summer League team: San Antonio Spurs

Mitchell is a dynamic scoring guard from Louisiana Lafayette with good size at 6’5. Mitchell is the only player on this list who did not play in the D-league last year as he was signed by Hapoel Holon of the Israeli League but in the previous year he was a D-League standout. During the ’08-’09 season with the D-Fenders, Mitchell started 49 games averaging 18.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.3 APG with 1.9 SPG. This summer he reported to Vegas with the Spurs and in his first game came out on fire scoring 12 points along with 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 3 steals knocking down each of his 4 shots and each of his 3 free throws in a mere 9 minutes of play. While Mitchell only received 16 minutes per game he averaged 9 PPG on an excellent 61% shooting. Mitchell is an electric player who is looking to move back to the states if the NBA comes calling.

6. Cartier Martin, SG/SF, 6’7, 220 lb
D-League team: Iowa Energy
Summer League team: Washington Wizards

Martin has actually spent a good amount of time on NBA rosters recently including 33 games for the Bobcats, 10 for the Warriors and 8 for the Wizards over the past two seasons. He has performed well in the D-League over 52 games he has averaged 18.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.6 APG shooting 47.6% and hitting 107 of 252 three point attempts at a 42.5% clip. However, he has not been able to consistently play well in the NBA where he has managed to only shoot 36.6%. The inconsistency continued in Vegas where he had a few mediocre games mixed in with two impressive performances (24 points against the Knicks and 23 against the Mavericks).  Martin has the size and talent and it should only be a matter of time before he gets his next look from an NBA team.

7. Larry Owens, SF, 6’7, 205 lb
D-League team: Tulsa 66ers
Summer League team: D-League Select

Owens a 6’7 forward from Oral Roberts enjoyed a successful rookie season in the D-League. He started 50 games for Tulsa and averaged a solid 15.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.5 SPG and 0.6 BPG while shooting 49.2% from the field, 38% from three (52-137) and 77.5% from the free throw line.  Owens, like Benson elevated his game once the playoffs began highlighted by a 23 point per game average in the Finals, unfortunately his performance was not enough to bring the title home to Tulsa. As a member of the D-League select team in Vegas, the lanky forward averaged double digit scoring at 10.5 PPG highlighted by a 15 point, 5 steal performance in a narrow loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

8. Maurice Ager, SG, 6’5, 203 lb
D-League team: Maine Red Claws
Summer League team: New Orleans Hornets

Ager, the former star SG at Michigan State and first round pick of the Dallas Mavericks enjoyed a solid all around season in Maine where he posted 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1 SPG while shooting 47.6% from the field, an excellent 42.3% from long range and 72.4% from the line. Ager, known for his athleticism and shooting ability was never able to crack the rotation for the Mavs after being drafted 28th overall in 2006. On February 19th 2008 the Mavericks included Ager, along with others in a trade to the New Jersey Nets for future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. Once his contract ran out Ager was not retained and looked to the D-League to re-establish his value. This summer he was invited to play for the Hornets and with the draft day trade of Morris Peterson they may have a need for another option at SG. Ager started slowly in Vegas but as the week went on his minutes increased and he began to play extremely well. In his last two games he tallied 23 points along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists in a buzzer beating loss to the Wizards followed by a 21 point, 5 rebound, 3 assist performance against the Raptors. Ager showcased his talents and will now hope he impressed enough to find a job back in the league.

9. Curtis Jerrells, PG, 6’1, 195 lb
D-League team: Austin Toros
Summer League team: San Antonio Spurs

Jerrells spent this past season as one of the best all-around players in the D-League posting averages of 20.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.9 SPG while shooting 47% from the field, hitting 70 three pointers at a 37.6% clip and 78% at the free throw line. The Spurs took notice of Jerrells talents early on as they invited him to training camp in 2009 and while he didn’t immediately make the roster the Spurs offered him a spot on their D-League team the Toros and once again wanted to see his talents up close as he was invited to play for them in Vegas. Jerrells continued his impressive play as he averaged nearly 11 PPG with 2.4 RPG and 4.4 APG, his week was highlighted by a 20 point outbreak where he also snatched 2 rebounds while dishing out 4 assists along with 4 steals against the Hawks. With his standout performance in the D-League to go along with his solid showing in the Summer League, Jerrells likely has earned himself another invite to training camp and perhaps a spot on an NBA roster.

10. Russell Robinson, PG, 6’1, 190 lb
D-League team: Maine Red Claws
Summer League team: D-League Select

Robinson, like Owens was a member of the D-League Select team in Las Vegas and was one of the teams’ best performers scoring 10 points and recording 4 assists against the Grizzlies, 20 points and 3 assists against the Cavaliers and 17 points, 2 assists and 4 steals against the Suns. The crafty point guard played his college ball at Kansas where he was a member of the 2007-2008 National Championship team, however he was not among the players to hear their names called on draft night and after playing professionally in Turkey he decided to try out his chances in the D-League. After a midseason trade to the Red Claws started 24 games averaging 16.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.6 APG, and 2 SPG while shooting 47%, 37% from long range and 81% at the charity stripe.

Honorable Mention

Courtney Sims, C, 6’11, 245 lb
D-League team: Iowa Energy
Summer League team: Los Angeles Lakers

The 6’11 Sims split last year between the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League as well as the Capitanes de Arecibo in Puerto Rico. While his numbers were solid in 14 games for Iowa (12.4 PPG and 6.6 RPG) it was his previous season that really opened eyes in the NBA. In 32 games Sims dominated to the tune of 22.8 PPG, 11 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.6 SPG and 2 BPG while converting 60.5% of his shots on his way to D-League MVP. Sims has received looks from the Hornets, Suns and Knicks in the past and clearly has the potential to be an NBA big man. In Vegas Sims played well for the Lakers averaging 8.6 PPG while pulling down 5.8 RPG highlighted by a dominant 13 point, 14 rebound performance against the Kings and DeMarcus Cousins. Sims has shown his ability to dominate the D-League, now he’s looking for a shot to show off his skills at the highest level.

Rod Benson, PF, 6’10, 225 lb
D-League team: Reno Bighorns
Summer League team: Los Angeles Clippers

 "Too Much" Rod Benson, the 25 year old power forward graduated from the University of California, and has made his mark as one of the funniest athlete bloggers around. He missed 11 games in his final season due to injuries and was passed on during draft night. He joined the D-League in 2006 and has played there for four years hoping to get his shot in the NBA. Over his time in the Development League, Benson has steadily improved his game and this year averaged 14.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.9 BPG while shooting a very efficient 52.3% from the field. Benson however does not have a 3-point shot having attempted only one in his four years and shoots a poor 58.8% at the free throw line. While he performed very well during the regular season, NBA teams need only take notice of his performance when the pressure is on. Once the playoffs started Benson really began to shine, granted his team was eliminated in the first round he averaged an astounding 24 points and 16.3 rebounds. This week he was added to the Clippers Summer League roster but unfortunately only received substantial minutes against the Mavericks, he did however manage to post 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks.

Rob Kurz, F, 6’9, 230 lb
D-League team: Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Summer League team: Los Angeles Lakers

Kurz, the former Notre Dame forward enjoyed an impressive year in the D-League as a member of the Mad Ants where he averaged a double-double at 17.5 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.8 SPG and 1.5 BPG while shooting 49.4% from the field, an outstanding 43.5% from three point land (50-115) and 80.8% at the free throw line. Kurz has solid size and plays an excellent “stretch 4” with his sweet outside shot along with his ability to crash the boards and average double digit rebounds. Due to his skill set Kurz has seen some NBA minutes in the past playing 40 games for the Golden State Warriors in the ’08-’09 season where he scored a career high 21 points against the Utah Jazz. Kurz is looking for his next shot to make an NBA roster and although he only played substantial minutes in one game for the Lakers this summer he managed to post 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals against the Pistons.

Curtis Stinson, PG, 6’3, 215 lb
D-League team: Iowa Energy
Summer League team: Toronto Raptors

Stinson is a D-League veteran who went undrafted out of Iowa State in 2006 but has worked extremely hard to improve over the last few years in the D-League. In his fourth year Stinson enjoyed a breakout season where he averaged 15.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, an astounding 10.9 APG and 2.2 SPG while shooting 46.5%. Although Stinson does not have much of a three point shot (21.2% for his career) he is solidly built at 6’3 215 lbs and this year showed elite vision and passing ability leading the league in assists. This week he received two games of solid playing time and while he was not outstanding he did play solidly, scoring 4 points and dishing out 5 assists in a win against the Knicks followed by an 8 point, 7 assist performance in another win against the Hornets. With such an outstanding season in the D-League he should get a long hard look come training camp.

Carlos Powell, SF, 6’7, 225 lb
D-League team: Albuquerque Isotopes
Summer League team: New York Knicks

Powell has the prototypical size for a SF and has flat our dominated in 81 career games in the D-League. The former South Carolina star has compiled averages of 22.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG while shooting 48.8% from the floor, 36.2% from deep and 77.2% from the free throw line. The best players are known to step up on the biggest stage and although it’s a very small sample size Powell recorded 25 points and 12 rebounds in his one career playoff game. In his time as a South Carolina Gamecock he received honors such as All-SEC and NIT MVP. Unfortunately his performance from his dominant D-League season didn’t carry over in Vegas, he received limited playing time with the Knicks and averaged a mere 3 PPG and 2.2 RPG. Powell has the talent; the drive and the ability to get a look from an NBA team and it should only be a matter of time before he does.



  1. I hope Morris Almond finds a
    I hope Morris Almond finds a team, he has too much talent to not play in the NBA…he’s proven his ability to put the ball in the basket at all levels

  2. Morris Almond
    From what I read, the thing that held Almond from joining an NBA team is his “selfishness”. Apparently, he took any shot he could get and played very selfishly, so teams didn’t want him because as a role player in the NBA, he cannot just keep chucking shots.

    I think if he fixes this, then he can certainly be a serviceable player in the NBA.

  3. Mike Gansey
    I can’t belive you didn’t show love for Gansey. He was one of the best D-Leaguer easily, played well in all but 1 game, and was the best shooter in the whole summer league. A shooter his caliber certainly has a place in the NBA, if Redick does, then Gansey too….

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  5. No Mike Gansey?
    This summer league was the first time I’ve seen Mike Gansey play since he played at WVU. The one game I saw he had 15 points and 10 rebounds. For a 6’4” guard that’s pretty good and looking at his stats from last year in the D-League he defiantly needs to get another chance in the NBA, after he got sick when he was with the Heat.

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