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Dunk that Sh!t: Friday Edition

Published: May 20, 2011

John D’Oriocourt  (@Kibner on Twitter) : Can the D League be used to develop raw players or is there a lack of teaching NBA fundamentals down there?

Michael McNamara: When you talk about guys who have used the D League as a spring board for their NBA careers, the list is not overly impressive, but it is a nice collection of solid role players. The list includes (but is not limited to): Chris “Birdman” Anderson, Mikki Moore, Matt Barnes, Chuck Hayes, Kelenna Azukuke, Bobby Simmons, Aaron Brooks, Ramon Sessions, CJ Watson, Will Bynum, Shannon Brown, JJ Barea, and Reggie Williams.

In fact, at the start of last season, 63 players on NBA opening day rosters had D-League experience. Now, some of those guys were guys who were virtually guaranteed a spot from the get-go and merely went down to the D-League to work on their game or get some minutes (think Jonny Flynn). But many of the guys on the list I mentioned in the first paragraph might have never seen an NBA court if not for their time in the developmental league.

The problem with the Developmental League as a pipeline to the NBA with regard to developing players is that it is not a true minor league system, aking to what we see in baseball. Only three NBA teams own their D-League affiliates (Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs) and less than a half of a dozen others have single-affiliate partnerships. So, imagine being the head coach of a D-League team and the Warriors send down a few players to your squad on a Tuesday afternoon. Then, Wednesday morning the Hornets send down Quincy Pondexter.

The Warriors want their guys to work on conditioning because they are going to push the ball non stop. They want you to help their guys work on spreading the court, get their own shots off of isolation, etc. Meanwhile, the Hornets want Quincy to work on finding spots within a set offense to get his shot. They want him to learn how to pass of the guy he is covering to where the help defense is going to be, etc. How, as a coach, do you accomplish both objectives? That is the rub, and often times they can’t.

Teams have been more successful plucking players from the D-League than they have been in using it for their own developmental tool for this very reason. The players who seem to thrive are the ones who have one exceptional skill set that can translate to the league. In the D-League, they get a chance to get significant minutes against legitimate competition, which simply helps their confidence. At this level, it is one thing to be able to do something, it is another to believe that you can do it.

Even late second round picks were the stars of their high school and college teams. They most likely were All-State or even possibly a McDonald’s All-American. The NBA can be very humbling for somebody like that, and often times players do not develop properly because they relied solely on athleticism or size to get themselves to this point. The D-League is a nice proving grounds for young players, but as I said, they usually need to have one exceptional skill. Look at that list, nearly every guy except for perhaps Bobby Simmons is a specialist in one specific area. Not very many of them are “well-rounded” or good fundamental players.

This is why I get so excited about the potential of Patrick Ewing, Jr. He is an exceptional, top 2 percent in the league kind of athlete. He has that one exceptional skill set and has the passion and desire to get better. Ironically, I could see him as a smaller version of Chris Anderson if he puts it together. The Birdman rotated between the 4 and the 5, blocking shots, scoring garbage buckets, and energizing the second unit. Ewing, Jr. can do the same things at the 3 and 4 positions if he continues on his game. Scouts have already seen a remarkable improvement from the time he entered the D-League until last season when the Hornets called him up.

So, while I can blab on about this subject all day, perhaps Ewing, Jr. gives you the answer you are looking for in more concrete terms.

(To submit your questions, either hit us up via Twitter (@hornets247) or on Facebook (Hornets247). Or you can email Michael McNamara at:

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  1. 42

    May 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I think of the D-League as something other than a farm system as well.

    In racing, there are various levels in each brand, and they are not linearly ordered. Some folks are great at lower levels only, some great at upper levels only. There is all sorts of development going on, but they are not farm systems in that player development is not their primary objective. This is really unfortunate considering the name of the League in question.

    Still, it should be used more than we use it, at least in my mind.

  2. Hornet Seantonio

    May 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I love Patty EW! Seems like a great guy, and a great teammate. And i love his twitter comments about loving NOLA and the Hornets. I hope hes still around next year 🙂 Also like you said a phenomenal athlete, he looks like he could be one hell of a defender as well.

  3. chiefyoungblood

    May 20, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    should add the under utilized Anthony Tolliver to that d-league success story list. The D- league seems to be split between professional basketball players who have settled their and younger players who are trying to work their way somewhere ( at least try before settling in the D-league or overseas ) , But I’m very interested in the prospect of the D-League as a part of the rehabilitation process for players coming of injury.

    unrelated note , i’m watching game two of the 75 finals between the Warriors and Bullets ( Warriors shock them in 4 ) but CBS uses the entire halftime break to run an expose on backgammon , yeah backgammon . very strange

    • 42

      May 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      I wish we’d used him in his 10-day with us.

  4. Brazilian Hornet

    May 23, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Ewing Jr. is 27 years old. There is no young promising. He seems like a good guy, which encourages teammates. But I don’t believe he can add anything important to the Hornets inside the court. 27 YEARS OLD. The development time for Ewing Jr. has passed.

  5. paul

    May 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

    I have read posting here from others praising Jr., and I don’t know why.
    I have not seen anything impressive. Perhaps there is, but it hasn’t been shown.
    Not really sure what this means since a whole lot of players have skills that go unnoticed due to coaching call and the fact that they end up on well benched/stocked teams.

    D league…it is to me what SHOULD be the minor leagues of pro-ball instead of the awful use of our higher educational systems.
    I do not want to get off on this because I am a rarety and MOST like the fact that colleges and universitied allow for players to gain access to schools when they would never otherwise be able to get into the school based upon requirements.

    Like baseball, the NBA should have the guts to spend its money on its own minor league and develop its own talent. Using taxpalyer money to get your next generation of players is wrong.

    They call it higher education…not higher trade school.

  6. chiefyoungblood

    May 24, 2011 at 4:15 am

    does anyone know who the hornets interviewed at the combine ? I saw in a Shelvin Mack interview he mentioned he interviewed with the hornets any idea who else we interviewed

    • 42

      May 24, 2011 at 4:32 am


      I’ll poke around. They were to interview lots of players at various events . . . Like 50.

      Demps went to Turkey and Croatia.

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