In the D-League this season there were 51 call-ups among 38 players. That’s a lot. And usually even one 10-day contract is enough to keep a player around another season to try to make an NBA team out of training camp and if not return to the D-League. Who gets a D-League call-up is varied, wings are always in need so they are constantly being tried out. Teams will call-up a shooting role player just to get some spacing on their bench. And of course big men and potential back-up PG’s also are in the mix. But call-ups can often depend on the role the NBA team is trying to fill, how a player fits, and their level of experience. So it’s not always just the most talented and best players who get those 10-day calls. Below is a list of talented players who certainly are better than some players that got called up but didn’t fit into an NBA role.
Alex Caruso (1.5, Oklahoma City Blue, 23.2 years)
Why No Call-Up: A 6’5″ PG, Caruso doesn’t necessarily have the speed to be a translatable NBA guard. One of his big questions coming out of college, his jump shot, did improved (39% from 3) but often in the D-League those shots are not under pressure and sometimes the percentages are misleading. Caruso with his Rubio-esque vision still made some passes and decisions that can’t happen with an NBA back-up PG. Needs to get rid of those live-ball turnovers.
Euro Role: In those trendy dual-playmaker lineups Caruso has a serious role to play. Has size and a good defensive acumen. With those undersized ‘baller’ type scoring guards roaming all around Europe, Caruso is a nice compliment. He’s an excellent facilitator but also isn’t a ball-dominator. Never going to be a big scorer or shooter. Great for a strong team looking to add another fluent piece.
Damion Lee (2.5, Maine Red Claws, 24.5 years)
Why No Call-Up: Pretty simple, he was injured. In the 16th game of the season Lee tore his ACL. Before 10-day contracts are allowed to be given out. So basically he missed the call-up window and likely would have gotten an NBA chance if healthy.
Euro Role: Scorer. Lee can put the ball in the basket. And he does so extremely efficiently at 6’6″. Can shoot from the mid-range or 3. Doesn’t have elite speed but is smart, shifty, gets to his spots. Really he’s a tough cover and not only because he’s a scorer, but he makes good decisions. Can see him sticking around the NBA/D-League to give it another try or jumping right over into a playoff team in a top European league.
Alfonzo McKinnie (4.3, Windy City Bulls, 24.5 years)
Why No Call-Up: Definitely the coolest story of the D-League season and probably the most impressive rise of any player. McKinnie was a found at a 3v3 tournament this summer by a Bulls coach and was given an opportunity to tryout for the team. After playing for a 2nd division Luxembourg team last season, it took till at least the Showcase for McKinnie to pop onto the NBA call-up radar. He’s a little undersized for NBA standards and doesn’t stretch the floor consistently yet. But his biggest problem was probably changing the mindset of many scouts to think he actually could be in the NBA considering where he came from.
Euro Role: Athletic, extremely hard-working 4-man who has shown some ability to shoot. He can really finish around the rim. Has a high motor. Super efficient player, he’s not hanging on to the ball for very long. But with his athleticism and the way he works, he’s an easy fit for a lot of teams around the world.
Jalen Jones (4.3, Maine Red Claws, 23.9 years)
Why No Call-Up: A 4 or an occasionally undersized 5 (6’7″), Jones didn’t really show enough consistent outside shooting or decision making to be on an NBA bench. And he doesn’t have a great impact off the ball. Even having a huge year for Maine, putting up some crazy stat lines, it was tough for NBA teams to see the fit with Jones. But surely he must have been close to a call-up.
Euro Role: Jones needs freedom, not overly structured basketball. The best thing he does is take his strong, athletic, and rugged frame right into the heart of the defense and draw a foul. He was exceptional at doing this in the D-League. He drew the third most foul shots in the D-League this season and made them at a 74.6% clip. So if given space and some ability to make mistakes (not every forced drive is fruitful), Jones can be a tough 4-man for opposing defenders to stay in front of. Not a consistent shooter but Jones takes and makes 3’s, it’s a threat the defense has to be worried about. The biggest growth for him was his decision making on drives, really starting to look for kick-out passes before another defender helped. For a team willing to live with some mistakes, Jones is a tough to find athlete/bulldozer type forward.
Eric Moreland (5.0, Canton Charge, 25.3 years)
Why No Call-Up: Moreland who had two years of NBA money from the Kings, likely fell into the rut players get into who had an NBA chance but didn’t make the most of it. Prospect fatigue, many scouts have seen Moreland and already have an idea of who he is, their minds are made up. But considering the big men who got call-ups, Moreland stands right with them talent wise. He’s really a difference maker at the rim defensively, high level shot blocker. But Moreland can look low energy at times and would really benefit from a harder working mindset. He’s also a horrendous foul shooter (37.4%) and that alone might scare off some Euro teams too.
Euro Role: If he ever goes to Europe, Moreland will ask for a high sum of money to start. He’s certainly not even close to the athletic freaks Khem Birch or Anthony Randolph are, so don’t jump to there. But he provides some increase in athleticism and a defensive force in the middle. He blocks shots plane and simple. And offensively he finishes on either side of the rim and offensive rebounds. Not a post-up player and really not much of a dunker either, prefers the touch finishes. Besides the low energy and FT shooting, the other gripe with Moreland is he’s light, he can block shots but can he handle the physical load of meaty European centers?