Toko Shengelia has wowed the faithful in Springfield this week but is out Sunday with concussion-like symptoms and will be re-evaluated by the Nets on his return from the Armor. He traveled with the team to Portland. Tyshawn Taylor will play vs. Maine Sunday afternoon, then likely return to the Nets. The two certainly left their mark.
In two games, Shengelia averaged 31.5 points, 15.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and shooting 75.8 percent (not a typo) from the floor and 57.1 percent from three. His 39 points in his game tied an Armor franchise record and his 17 field goals in that game set one. Taylor is averaging only a slightly less impressive 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and shooting 44.4 percent from the floor, if only 25 percent from deep.
Other young players on the Armor have done well, too, recently and will take up the slack with Shengelia out. Carleton Scott and James Mays, the two Nets camp invites, have stepped up their game, as has Ben Uzoh, the former Net. But in recent weeks, the biggest improvement down on the farm has been Willie Reed, an athletic 22-year-old power forward from Kansas City and St. Louis University. After not playing competitive basketball for two years, he's learning and improving as the season goes on.
"Willie's been terrific for us," Bob MacKinnon, the Armor coach, said Saturday after Reed's 16-point, 13-rebound performance against the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Indeed. In the last four games, the 6'10" (he says 6'11") Reed has averaged 19 points, nine rebounds, 1.5 blocks, shot 65.4 percent (34-of-52) and improved his free throw shooting, hitting 57.1 percent from the line. It had been below 50 percent for a while. For the season, he's averaging 13.5 and 6.8 but has been inconsistent until recently. Immediately before his four-game run, he scored only eight points on 2-of-10 shooting against Canton. But in the D-League Showcase two weeks ago, with reps of all 30 NBA teams watching, he had 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting including a couple of candidates for D-League Dunk of the Year.
"Willie's done a great job for us this year," says Milton Lee, the Nets director of minor league operations who picked up Reed in the D-League Draft. "He's putting in the extra work and that's been reflected in his results. He's a great example of what the D-League offers players - a chance to improve against top flight competition. And it's getting noticed."
What's Reed's chances of being called up by the Nets? It's probably unlikely with the Nets glut of veteran players upfront, but if a trade or injury depletes that number and he keeps improving, that could change. Some in the Armor front office thought another NBA team would scoop him up after the D-League Showcase performance. He did get a shot in Kings camp this past preseason, being among the last players cut, and worked out for the Knicks in 2011.
While he has NBA-level athleticism and has overcome some baggage left over from his two years at St. Louis, he needs a better outside shot, better moves in the post and some strength. He's probably not as good a prospect as Euro-Stash Ilkan Karaman, who is a half inch shorter and was born three days before Reed in 1990. Karaman is a much better shooter and plays at a higher level of competition. But Reed is getting his chance with the Armor.
Reed and Taylor can be seen live on the D-League's YouTube channel at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.