Yesterday marked the Bakersfield Jam's first D-League draft as a hybrid affiliate with the Phoenix Suns.
The D-League draft differs wildly from the one the NBA uses. Players who signed a D-League contract but are not retained by their previous teams are eligible for the NBA D-League Draft, along with new players who sign with the league. So when you see a D-League draft result, it's not about the best and brightest but more about who is the most available.
Last season, the Jam finished 24-26, a respectable record but good for only the last spot in the talented West Division. New head coach Nate Bjorkgren along with veteran Suns scout and new Jam General Manager Bubba Burrage are hoping for a better outcome this season for the team.
It remains to be seen exactly how the Suns plan to use their new hybrid affiliation with the Jam, but one thing is clear from the players that were drafted today: experience and winning are going to be important.
And, family. The Phoenix Suns already employ two pairs of brothers on their 15-man active roster - Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, and Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic. Now, a conspiracy theorist could conclude that their D-League affiliate is laying the groundwork for another brother pairing in the coming year. On top of that, they drafted the Blur's nephew.
The first move of the draft actually came a few days ago, when the Jam orchestrated a trade for D-League stalwart and occasional NBA player Elijah Millsap. Millsap is the younger brother of current NBA player Paul Millsap, who plays for the Atlanta Hawks. In exchange for Millsap, a 2014 6th round pick and a 2015 5th round pick, the Jam sent the Los Angeles D-Fenders Dennis Horner, two 2014 second round picks and a 2015 second round pick.
Millsap is a coveted asset in the D-League. He was one of the final roster cuts this off-season of the Milwaukee Bucks, and he has three years of experience playing for the D-Fenders, with career D-League averages of 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game. His last consistent minutes came for Maccabi Ashdod in Israel in 2013-14, where over 8 games he put up 12 points and 6 rebounds in 25 minutes per game.
In the draft itself, the Jam prioritized veteran experience over youth and potential.
With their first overall pick, the Jam selected Robert Vaden, while prominent younger players such as Fuquan Edwin, Marquis Teague and Chane Behanan remained on the board. Vaden is a 29 year old shooting guard picked by Charlotte in the late 2nd round in 2009, before he was traded to the Thunder. Vaden has never played any NBA games, but has been a constant participant in NBA Training Camps, Summer Leagues and private tryouts. Last season he played in Belgium, where in 51 games he averaged 11 points and 3 rebounds on 42% shooting from beyond the arc, where he took about 2/3rds of his shots.
The Jam's next pick came in the 4th round, when the team selected 33 year old guard/forward Michael Haynes, who played his college ball at Fordham. Haynes played in Europe and has bounced around the D-League, but his most recent playing experience came in 2011-12, when he played for Optima Gent in the Belgian League. He put up 14 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He apparently has not played professionally since then.
In the 6th round, the Jam had two picks. The first they used on 30 year old big man Mohamed Tangara, a native of Mali who played for four seasons at the University of Arizona. Tangara most recently played as part of a touring team in China, coached by D-League veteran and current Nets assistant coach Jay Humphries. He has also bounced around the Middle East and North Africa, playing in Morocco, Libya, and Qatar. In the 2013 FIBA Africa Championship, Tangara started for Mali, and averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes per game.
The second 6th round pick was used on Bill Clark, a 26 year old guard/forward who played college ball at Duquesne. Clark has played in Europe the last few years, including stints in France, Turkey, Ukraine and Cyprus. Last season, in appearances split between Ukraine, Cyprus and France, he averaged 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 26 minutes per game.
In the 7th round, the Jam selected perhaps their most intriguing player, the 20 year old, 6'3 combo guard out of Brazil Ricardo Barbosa. Barbosa is the nephew of longtime Sun and current Warrior Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa was a teammate of Bruno Caboclo and Leandro (before his signing with the Suns) at Pinheiros last season, but did not get any playing time. He is apparently a pretty raw player, but has reportedly worked significantly with his uncle to improve his game.
With their final pick, the Jam selected 22 year old 6'4 guard/forward John Petrucelli out of Molloy. Molloy is a small NCAA Division II school in New York. Petrucelli was among the active NCAA leaders in points, steals and steals per game last season at all NCAA levels. In his senior season he averaged 23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals per game. He was named the All-Met Division II Player of the Year by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association.
The finalized roster for the Jam is still taking shape, and more information will be provided as it becomes more concrete.
Here is a rundown of how players are acquired for D-League teams.
- The Draft
- NBA Assignments: NBA teams can assign players who are in their first three years of their NBA career to their D-League affiliate. Players can stay with the D-League affiliate for as long as the NBA team wishes, and be recalled back to the NBA at any time. NBA teams can assign players as many times as they choose. For the third consecutive year, players beyond the first three years of their NBA careers may be assigned to their NBA D-League affiliate with their consent and the consent of the NBA Players Association. Last season, the NBA D-League saw veterans Amar'e Stoudemire (New York Knicks, Erie BayHawks) and Keyon Dooling (Memphis Grizzlies, Reno Bighorns) take advantage of NBA D-League assignments to rehabilitate injuries or further develop their games. Suns players most likely to spend time in Bakersfield this season are Tyler Ennis, T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin and Zoran Dragic.
- NBA Training Camp Allocations: Up to three players released from the roster of an NBA team before the D-League Draft can be allocated to that team's D-League affiliate provided they sign the standard D-League contract. They are known as "affiliate players." Eligible players from the Suns training camp include PG Joe Jackson, SF Casey Prather and SF Jamil Wilson.
- Open Tryouts: All D-League teams conduct local tryouts in late October of each year, from which players can be invited to training camp with a chance of making the team's roster. The Jam held their tryouts the weekend of September 29, but names of players who made the team have not been released.
- Returning Players: Teams can invite a limited number of players who played for that respective club during the previous season. No returning players have been confirmed for the 2014-15 Jam. Ike Diogu was the Jam's best player last year, scoring 18 points and pulling down 7 rebounds a game. He was named the D-League's Impact Player of the Year but has since signed in China for the 2014-15 season.
NBA D-League rosters must consist of 10 NBA D-League players, but may not exceed a total of 12 players, including NBA assignments. If more than two NBA players are assigned at once, a team must reduce its roster to avoid going over 12 players.
Teams are limited to 12 roster moves a season, although additional moves can be gained in certain situations, such as a player being signed by an NBA team or leaving to play in Europe. Training camp roster cuts do not count against the 12 moves.