As always the D-League is a fertile ground for young, developing bigs. Mainly rookies and a fair amount of NBA assignment players, get their game reps in the D-League. Large interior bodies are needed around the world and usually it doesn’t take much production to lead to a decent payday. Long and Poythress were scooped up on end of season contracts by the Philadelphia 76ers. Tobey (Valencia) and Tarczewski (Milano) both signed for high level Europe to provide some depth till the end of the season. Not to mention all the non-rookie D-League bigs who got some NBA time this season. Below is a list of the noteworthy rookie inside players and how they performed this season.
Shawn Long (5.0, Delaware 87ers, 24.2 years)
As Simon coined pre-Showcase, Long is like the D-League Bourousis. His offensive talent is immense. He’s really big, in better shape than in college, and has great ability with the ball in his hands. Can shoot, is a face-up threat, driver and finisher. Can pass. Long’s biggest knocks, motor and inconsistency, were somewhat straightened out in the D-League. The motivation of making the NBA has serious power. And he really learned to work the offensive glass, had multiple 11 offensive rebound games. 11 offensive rebounds in a game, says something about D-League boxing out too. But the inconsistency did show sometimes, settling for outside shots and not always attacking.
He, like his Greek comparison, is a woeful pick and roll defender. He doesn’t have the agility or activity to make an impact there. Long got a fair NBA shot, getting 17 games with the 76ers and averaging 8.7 points and 4.9 rebounds. Easily was the most talented offensive big in the D-League.
Alex Poythress (4.5, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 23.6 years)
Poythress is a former big wing at Kentucky who has transition to playing mainly center or as a combo big for Fort Wayne. Super leaper, hard worker, and runs. He’s willing to be coached but still learning to be a pure big man. Can fall too in love with his jump shot. Did shoot 40.7% from 3 but still isn’t nearly close to being a consistent outside shooter. Poythress is really an athlete and has to be given credit for the role he embraced this year and the steps he took to being more of a big man. In his six NBA games at the end of the season he got almost 27 minutes a night. There’s potential but also needs a lot of development and more time. Has some James Gist to him.
Mike Tobey (5.0, Greensboro Swarm, 22.5 years)
By far the youngest player on this list, Tobey probably still has the most room to grow. Like many University of Virginia players he was limited to what he could do offensively in school and Tobey being younger than much of his classmates was even more limited. But in the D-League he was able to expand his game. Tobey has really smoothed out his play after looking very mechanical in college. For being almost 7′ and 250 lbs he runs well. Can finish with power and touch. Just a smart player, makes passes. Really runs. Is fairly nimble. He’s going to have a face-up game, can slash and is a good FT shooter (72.9%). He tried showing off a 3-point shot and it didn’t work, went 11/56. But when Valencia signed Tobey it made sense as a fit. He’s a no nonsense player who’s really improving. Not ready for full-time duty at the level of fringe Euroleague and top of the ACB yet but the type of profile Valencia looks for.
Kaleb Tarczewski (5.0, OKC Blue, 24.2 years)
A body and an athlete. Tarczewski is always going to look like a prototypical modern center and he really showed some explosive bursts in OKC. Just rim running, Tarczewski is long, rangy, and moves quite smoothly. He’s a robot on offense, screen and roll as hard as you can but he looked better at it in the D-League. Anywhere has better spacing than in college and he really benefited from that. Doesn’t have much offensive skill. Still not the force you want him to be defensively. Guards challenged him in the paint. Milano needing just some bench help to get through the end of the Italian season picked him up. Was a surprising move but he has real size and that’s hard to find.
Jameel Warney (5.0, Texas Legends, 24.5 years)
He’s a scorer. Feed it into the left or right block and Warney uses his ambidextrous ability to shoot jump hooks from either side. He’s got a nice wide frame and great touch. Warney really got rolling in the second half of the season. He needs offensive touches to be effective so the more balls he’s fed in the post the more valuable he is on the court. Defensively showed some improvement, looked in better shape than college and moved laterally well. Even though he’s undersized and wide Warney is a decent shot blocker, he has great timing and equal strength in both arm/hands.
Matt Costello (5.0, Iowa Energy, 23.7 years)
Unfortunately for Costello he broke his foot in December and missed almost three months of games. So really it was like half a rookie season. And he really didn’t get rolling till the last couple games of the season. Still showed his ability to just roll hard to the rim and suck up a bunch of defenders. Costello hits defenders and pushes hard for offensive rebounds. He did show a better finishing repertoire, with reverses, hooks, and dunks through defenders. His scoring ability is still developing and that’s good but it will never be the reason he’s signed. Costello even had some perimeter face-up drives. He unsuccessfully tried to show that he can shoot from 3 (7/37). Costello is damn big and damn active. Lunch pale, hard hat, blue collar big man.