The Barclays Center portion of All Star weekend wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with the Developmental League All Star game. For the fans at the game and watching on television --or YouTube, it was a great opportunity to see players they weren't familiar with. Here, we're going to take a look at some players we should keep an eye on as the second half of the NBA season begins.
The 6'7" Thomas was with the Nets for a short while, but was waived before the start of the 2013-2014 season. He ended up joining the Springfield Armor before the Magic called him up. He eventually rejoined the Armor before finishing the year up with the Sixers. Thomas signed with the Grand Rapids Drive and has been playing well. The 41 percent from the field overall isn't the greatest, but 36 percent from three point range will be a draw as he tries to join an NBA roster. The weekend is a showcase opportunity for everyone invited and Thomas is no exception. He's also thinking big picture, saying:
I want to come out and compete and continue to showcase my talents. There will be scouts there
Although Thomas hasn't signed a contract with a team as of yet and didn't have a memorable display in the game, there's still plenty of time for him to join a team. He was a highly touted prospect at the University of Memphis before an ankle injury slowed his ascent. Teams such as the Miami Heat need perimeter help and a player like Thomas can address those needs.
Miller has two years of experience with the Denver Nuggets, but was cut right before the season started. His pro numbers aren't impressive, but it should be noted that he tore his ACL in late 2010 and has been working his way back to full strength. Through 15 games with Reno (the Sacramento Kings' affiliate), Miller has found his groove. Miller is averaging 25 points and seven rebounds on 50 percent shooting. More importantly, he's shooting a respectable 35.2 percent on six three point attempts a game. Miller is 6'11 and can play either the small or power forward positions. In between making comparisons to Indiana's Paul George, Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw had this to say about Miller's game:
Having that length and having his ability, his versatility, when he does rebound to be able to push the ball out and make plays down at the other end is great for our team.
All Star Game jankiness aside (although I should note everyone was playing hard), it felt as if Miller was the most ready NBA player. He made some impressive pull up three pointers in transition and led the game in rebounding even though he wasn't the biggest or bulkiest player on the court. That should help him out if/when he reenters the NBA. He is rumored to enter negotiations with the Kings for a contract that will last the rest of the season (NBA rules state that after a player signs a second ten day contract with a team, they can either sign him for the rest of the season or release him). With George Karl coming in and the Kings playing for next year, now would be the perfect time for Miller to reunite with his former coach. The forward position is pretty thin outside of Rudy Gay, so if Miller does join them, he should get an extended try out period.
The All Star Game MVP, Emmett has been around the block a bit. He played some with the Memphis Grizzlies ten years ago, and most recently was in New Jersey with the Nets in the post lockout 2011-2012 season. Now 32, the 6'5" Emmett was the second oldest player on the court yesterday. The oldest player, Damien Wilkins, we can safely assume, was speaking for Emmett and everyone there when he told Scott Caicola of the New York Times:
I want for those people to see the improvements I've made as a player, and to show that I can still help a team win. That’s all I want."
Emmett is widely regarded as one of the D-League's best players. He's fifth in the league in scoring at 21.3 points a night and shoots 51.8 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three point range. He can also post smaller guards up and that will serve him well. Winning the MVP has helped D-League players out in the past. Gerald Green won the award back in 2012 and was on the Nets a few days later. Green was able to parlay that success into a great run in Jersey before signing a three year, $10 million contract with Indiana that offseason. He's currently with the Suns and will be a free agent this summer.
When I initially started writing this, Emmett hadn't signed anywhere. However, since then, news came out that he has signed with the Meralco Bolts of the Philippine Basketball Association. He will be on their roster for the Governor's Cup, which is scheduled to begin in May. That would seem to preclude Emmett from signing with an NBA club at least for this year.
If you remember back to the preseason, Reed was signed as a training camp invitee but was waived one week before the season started. Since then, Reed signed overseas with an Israeli team, then changed his mind and joined the Grand Rapids Drive (the Detroit Pistons affiliate). In 28 games, the big fella --he'll tell you he's 6'11"-- is averaging about 15 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes a night. Where Reed can stand to improve is from the outside. He's only made and is shooting 53.9 percent from the free throw line.
Teams are always in need of good big men, and D-League players like Reed are always in need of good work. Naturally, the #CallWillieUp hashtag was born. As someone who's been around the block some, Reed understands what teams are looking for when they examine a player in developmental. When asked if D-League players are focused on getting numbers, Reed said:
I don't think [such a mentality] really exists. With them having to play in the team aspect, I think if you play hard and you do what you do best, the NBA is all about what [teams] need, filling a position," the big man said. "They love guys that play hard and defend. I think that should be everybody's role. Whether you can score the basketball or not you still have to be able to play defense to make it to the next level.
Reed's size ought to draw some attention from teams in need of a big man. He's somewhat limited offensively and needs to become a better free shooter, but his inside scoring and offensive rebounding will make up for that in the mean time.
Although the D-League showcase in January brought out the big names, Sunday's game was a great opportunity for the All Stars to display their skills for a national audience that may not be familiar with them. For players as old as Wilkins (35 years old) and as young as Jabari Brown (22 years old), they're all chasing the same goal.
One final note
With the D-League All Star Game being played at Barclays, it must be mentioned that the Nets no longer have a D-League team of their own. Brooklyn is one of 13 teams that share a single affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Having a D League team is a great option for teams to properly train and develop players who aren't with the main club. For a team that is lacking in assets and draft picks (Atlanta
will can swap picks this year while Boston can do the same in 2017. Next year's and 2018's picks are unprotected with both of them going to the Celtics. ), the D-League is a great opportunity for the Nets to replenish their roster and take flyers on players who may not be on everyone's radars. They've got nothing to lose at this point.
...And an update
Xavier Thames, the 6'4" point guard the Nets drafted at No. 59 last June, joined the Mad Ants over the weekend after leaving Sevilla in the Spanish League. He will debut Tuesday night in Maine vs the Red Claws and play in the area Friday night when the Mad Ants play the Westchester Knicks in Westchester. The Nets retain his NBA rights. He's not an All-Star, but he is part of the Nets.