Several players who weren’t on everyone’s notepad make a name for themselves every season, from the now-famous Jonathon Simmons via Raphiael Putney to Coty Clarke, Malcolm Miller or Jabril Trawick.
5th & last day at the Showcase (games 20, 21, 22). Westchester-Canton in the dreaded 10AM tip off. pic.twitter.com/y8YyRUevQh
— Simon Jatsch (@sJacas) January 22, 2017
Here’s this year’s crop of breakthrough performers headed by Alfonzo McKinnie, whose improbable rise to relevance made the news recently.
Surprise Players of the Year
AlfoNZo McKinnie (4.0, 17-Sep-1992, Windy City BUlls)
High-motor four who was one of the Showcase’s best athletes. One of many in college ball, averaging 8 PPG as a senior for Green Bay1 in the Horizon League before moving to Luxembourg Division 2 as a rookie, then on to Mexico. Went to a 3×3 tryout where Randy Brown was present, was invited to the Windy City Bulls training camp and exploded for 14.9 PPG & 9.2 RPG this past season. Active, long, wiry athlete. Crashes the offensive glass like a maniac; incredibly quick 2nd jump. 9th in putback PPG.2 Is a decent ballhandler & slasher but below par shooter; drilled just 29.3% of his jump shots this season. Cuts, finishes in transition. Has a near 50-50 roll/pop balance on ball screens. Is a fairly decent roll finisher; if you involve him in ball screens, he’ll reward you. Average ball IQ; forces some low percentage shots, not a passer. Is slender and doesn’t defend the post well. Still outplayed numerous former college ball stars & draft picks in Toronto.
Jordan Loyd (1.5, 27-Jul-1993, Fort Wayne Mad Ants)
Long, intriguing rookie combo guard with defensive potential who wasted no time making his mark early in the D-League season. Played NCAA D2 for Indianapolis. Really went after it at the Showcase. Had a tense PG battle with one of the league’s best playmakers (Munford) where he held his ground. Occasionally gambles and isn’t mistake-free on D, but is long, gets into stance, gets deflections, draws charges, can make a difference defensively. Average feel & decision-making on offense; tends to force bad shots. Defenders tend to go under the ball screen. Loves to attack, hang in the air for the runner (35/82 on runners for the season); always looks for the foul call. Attacks the basket hard off the catch. Legitimately plays either guard spot.
David Nwaba (2.5, 14-Jan-1993, Los Angeles Defenders)
Came into the D-League as a little-known 193cm/6-4ft Cal Poly swingman who averaged 12.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.5 APG in the Big West. Had been just 4/24 from long range in his entire three-year career there. Ended the season playing 20 NBA games for the L.A. Lakers (6.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 58.6% FG). For the D-Fenders, Nwaba spent most of his time in the corners or roaming around the baseline and was one of their main offensive rebounders. Pure off-ball player: scored 10.6 of his total 14.1 PPG on putbacks (2.1), cuts (3.5) and in transition (5.0). Has energy & motor but ordinary size & frame. Doesn’t play on the ball and generally doesn’t look like he’d transition easily into a standard halfcourt-dominant setting. A niche player.
Devondrick Walker (2.0, 11-Jul-1992, Delaware 87ers)
D-League MIP. Clean no-nonsense shooter who doesn’t take risks. NCAA D2 for Texas A&M Commerce, then two unspectacular years in the D-League. Drew oohs and aahs from the Showcase scout section with his shooting. Drilled 29/60 pull up- and 67/169 catch-and-shoot jumpers this season; is a plus-90% free throw shooter. Knows his game, doesn’t turn the ball over, doesn’t take any risks, doesn’t create offense other than his own jumper. Smart, moves well off ball, makes the defense pay. Solid defender who executes but doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary.