Monday, January 10, 2011

15 More Ten Day Contract Candidates (Because Apparently 101 Wasn't Enough After All)

Newest Phoenix Sun, Zabian Dowdell.

A mere 48 hours after the Top 101 Ten Day Contract Candidates list was completed, the Phoenix Suns went and signed somebody that wasn't on it. Clearly, 20 would not have been enough.

With the second signed ten day contract of the season - the Clippers used the first to re-sign Jarron Collins - Phoenix called up guard Zabian Dowdell from the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League, re-signing a player they had only recently cut in training camp.

Dowdell did not make the initial list, perhaps in part due to an oversight, but because his numbers thus far this season had not been overwhelming. Playing on the incredibly deep 66ers roster, Dowds averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.8 turnovers in 29 minutes per game, shooting 41% from the field and 31% from three, with 261 points on 230 shots. The assist to turnover ratio was nice, and the defense as present as ever, yet Dowdell's individual scoring ability has not been there. Nevertheless, Phoenix now gives a regular season look to this long-coveted player for them, who should fit in nicely with an up-tempo game, and defend better than the Nash/Dragic point guard combo (which, while awesome, only impacts one end).

In a bit to avoid another such occurence, here are some more names for the call-up list. Players who can be removed from the original list, however briefly, include Collins, Damien Wilkins (re-signed with Atlanta), Patrick Beverley (signed in Russia with Spartak St Petersburg) and J.R. Giddens (signed in Spain with Valencia). New players again listed in no order but alphabetical.

Marqus Blakely - Blakely went to camp with the Clippers, despite interest from Atlanta, and picked up $35,000 for doing so. That's more than he's currently getting in the D-League, where he is averaging 12.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocks for the Bakersfield Jam in only 23 minutes per game. Blakely still does not have an outside jumpshot, and remains a 6'5 defensive specialist with a scrappy power forward's game in an average shooting guard's body. But there's always a couple of 6'5 defensive specialists that find their way into the NBA, so while improving his perimeter offensive skills would help, it need not make the man.

Andre Brown - Brown landed his usual training camp contract this season, making it five years in a row that he has found one, and his sixth time in the last seven years. He rejoined the Nets, with whom he landed his first contract in 2004, but had absolutely no chance of making the roster and didn't even survive a week. Brown then went to Greece to play for Panellinios, but the team has had a truly terrible season, flumping out of the Eurocup early and getting off to a terrible 1-8 start in the A1. As a big name, big money import, Brown's performances (10.2ppg/5.0rpg in the A1, 4.7/2.3 in the Eurocup) were deemed insufficient, and he was cut last month as the team sought a more conventional centre. Brown is a solid but unspectacular athletic 6'10 face-up power forward; he'll score through athleticism and effort, and rebound reasonably, but he turns 30 in May and has not really added to his game. He has enough game to keep getting NBA looks, but not enough to stick in it.

Derrick Byars - Byars was Brown's team mate at Panellinios, yet he too left after the team's terrible start. He played better than Brown, putting up 15.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in A1 play, but left the team due to the quality of Greece's economy and returned to the D-League, where he has joined the Bakersfield Jam. Byars can shoot, Byars can defend, Byars will rebound, and Byars has good size for the wing. But Byars is an average athlete without a whole lot of ability to create his own shot. He could potentially be a solid role player at the NBA level, but adding some Landry Fields to his game would help greatly.

Justin Dentmon - Dentmon scores wherever he goes. He averaged 14.4ppg in only 28mpg in his senior season for Washington, and then last year led the whole of Israel with a 19.8ppg average. This season, with the D-League's Texas Legends, Dentmon is putting up 18.8 more points per game, and he's doing it on 51% shooting. And he's 5'11. You wouldn't normally look at 5'11 scorers, but when they score big and score efficiently, you have to.

Nick Fazekas - After being the first pick in the 2010 D-League draft, Fazekas has somewhat underachieved. He has averaged 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 26 minutes a contest, shooting 53% from the floor and somehow committing only 1 foul a game; good numbers, to be sure, but not what you would expect from your number 1 fringe NBA pick. Yet part of the reason why has been injuries; Fazekas has been hobbled by an ankle injury that has left him in a walking boot, and it's an ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2009/10 season as well. (Same injury, same ankle? Don't know. But it's a logical conclusion to make.) Fazekas has also had a cyst in his shoulder that required surgery, and is currently out of action recovering from these injuries. However, if he's able in the next few weeks to get healthy and put up the big numbers again, he's a late season call-up possibility.

Ivan Johnson - As described here, Johnson is a journeyman. Racking up the air miles, Johnson returned to the D-League after a two year absence and is putting up the best numbers of his career there. Playing for the Erie BayHawks and their tiny frontcourt, Johnson is averaging 17.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals in 32 minutes per game, shooting 50% from the field and 74% from the line. Johnson also plays good aggressive perimeter defense, and is significantly improved in that regard. The production is not flawed; Johnson turns it over 3 times a game, does not have three point range (despite being a face-up jumpshooting power forward), and is neither an interior defender nor a small forward at the NBA level. But size, athleticism and production make for an intriguing combination.

Kevin Kruger - UNLV graduate Kruger has tried not to sign in the D-League lately, picking up stints with the quickly bankrupted Martos Napoli, as well as a stint in Mexico with Soles de Mexicali a couple of months ago. Yet, inevitably, he wound up back for a fourth season with the Utah Flash, starting at point guard alongside Orien Greene's two guard. In 13 games with the team this season, Kruger is averaging 16.8 points and 5.0 assists, alongside only 1.9 turnovers, on shooting percentages of 41%/38%/89%. He is getting to the line over 7 times a game; in fact, he has taken 96 free throws, compared to 71 three point attempts, compared to 60 two point attempts. So it's an efficient 41% FG he's shooting. However, despite being a good shooter and solid half court point guard, Kruger is not big, not fast and not athletic, with no NBA physical tools to his credit and only a solid yet unspectacular playmaking ability. He ranks just behind Chris Quinn in every facet of the game.

Anthony Mason Jr - After underperforming at St John's, in large part due to injury, Mason landed a training camp contract with the Heat and has parlayed that into an extended D-League run. The early returns on his first professional experience are good; Mason is averaging 15.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks in 35 minutes per game for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, shooting 51% from the field and 74% from the line. He puts up this universal stat line as an athletic, hustling, aggressive 6'7 small forward. Such aggression leads to mistakes - overpassing, shot selection, running through people on offense, running away from people on defense, etc - and the outside shooting, ball handling and ability to create his own shot are far behind the athletic stuff. But Mason rebounds, runs, dunks, finishes, passes, hustles and defends, all sought-after commodities. Comparisons between Anthony Mason Jr and Patrick Ewing Jr are highly valid and run beyond things their fathers did.

Sasha Pavlovic - Several years of poor production finally took their toll, and Sasha was unable to take his 5.4 PER last season and turn it into a new contract. He has not played since, forgoing European basketball offers in favour of trying to get back into the NBA. Even if you don't like PER as a statistic, its uses become obvious when it is considered that Sasha's PER has been above 9.0 only once in his entire NBA career, and even the one "good" year was a below average 12.1. But he does offer size, experience, and the increasingly occasional good outside shooting night.

Marvin Phillips - Phillips is a journeyman and veteran of the US minor leagues, who has gone from being an also-ran D-League bench player to its current leader in double doubles. Traded from the Iowa Energy to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at draft time, Phillips has gone on to average 13.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks in only 28 minutes per game, shooting 58% from the field and 89% from the line. He does this while standing only 6'7; he is able to put up this production through a combination of athleticism and relentless, innate hustle. Of course, this hustle also leads to 4.2 fouls per game, which is why he only plays those 28 minutes per game. And in spite of his advancing age (27), Phillips's offensive skill is unspectacular, save for the free throw stroke (which, it must be said, is rather anomalous from the rest of his career). But this does not change the context, impact, and potential impact of his style of player. Grab me ten rebounds per 28 minutes while standing only 6'7 tall, and I'll let you foul as much as you like.

Gabe Pruitt - Since being waived out of the NBA in the 2009 offseason, Pruitt has struggled. In fact, he struggled even before then. Pruitt played last season in the D-League, spending a lot of time backing up the aforementioned Kruger, but averaging only 11.0 points and 2.8 assists. Pruitt also put up 2.2 turnovers per game, alongside shooting percentages of 45%/26%/60%. To begin this year, Pruitt signed with Israeli team Ironi Ashkelon, but he again struggled, averaging only 8.5 points and 2.2 assists in 27 minutes on 38% shooting. More importantly, he was involved in yet another drink-driving incident, roughly two years after his first, and was released two weeks ago. At age 24, Pruitt still has time on his side. But he is more flair than production, and simply has not improved.

Walter Sharpe - Sharpe's comeback after a year out of the game has involved stints with two D-League teams, and combined averages of 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 turnovers in 25 minutes per game on 41% shooting. The man who was a 31st overall pick two short years is back playing, but not playing especially well. Sharpe's struggles may be in part attributable to the Dakota Wizards' spacing problems, briefly described in the previous post. Then again, by not hitting a single 3 for the team, Sharpe isn't helping to alleviate those problems either. He remains a project.

Jawad Williams - An accidental omission from the previous list, Williams re-signed with the Cavaliers this offseason and began the season in the team's rotation. Unfortunately, all this resulted in is the second worst PER of anyone to have played more than 200 minutes. Williams was waived to avoid his contract becoming guaranteed, and he remains unsigned. As he ages, Williams is becoming increasingly reliant (confident) in a jumpshot that just isn't brilliant, and his defensive intensity isn't trending upwards. However, on certain nights, he can be a useful bench scoring threat.

Jeremy Wise - Wise went undrafted this summer, and returned to the D-League with the Bakersfield Jam. Unfortunately, his numbers are almost exactly what they were last season, with but one exception. Wise is averaging 15.8 points and 5.8 assists, but he's also averaging 4 turnovers per game, up from 2.6 last season. He's also shooting 47% from the field; good for a 6'2 scoring guard, but down from last season's 52%. Wise looked like an interesting prospect last season, and earned a stint with the Warriors in summer league, but this is not a good time to stagnate.

Qyntel Woods - Woods started the season with Russian team Krasnie Krylya Samara. However, for some reason, Samara barely played the guy who was the second leading scorer in the Euroleague last season. Woods averaged only 5.3 points in 4 games of Eurocup play before being released, and is currently unsigned. Since leaving the NBA, Woods has become a high quality (and expensive) player at the upper echelons of European basketball. The wild child is now a grown man (he turns 30 next month), and has realised some of the potential he once carried. If an unlikely NBA return is going to happen, now would be the time.

Three years in Poland saw Qyntel Woods's beard realise its lottery potential.

In some additional related bookkeeping, the reason for many of the players listed in the previous list was due to the NBA's contract guarantee date. All players on NBA rosters on or after January 10th have their contracts guaranteed for the remainder of the season (future seasons are unaffected); this also includes waivers. In-season waivers are 48 hours long and do not include weekends; therefore, with the 10th of January being a Monday, players had to be waived by close of business on Wednesday 5th in order to have cleared waivers before the deadline date.

Eleven players with not fully guaranteed contracts were waived in the hours before that deadline: Steve Novak, Damien Wilkins, Jarron Collins, John Lucas III, Ime Udoka, Lester Hudson, Ronald Dupree, Brian Skinner, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Sundiata Gaines and Rodney Carney. Twenty seven unguaranteed players survived; Delonte West, Von Wafer, Brian Scalabrine, Samardo Samuels, Manny Harris, Alonzo Gee, Brian Cardinal, Melvin Ely, Gary Forbes, Jeremy Lin, Ish Smith, A.J. Price, Ike Diogu, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Ben Uzoh, Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Shawne Williams, Malik Allen, Garret Siler, Patty Mills, Sean Marks, Darnell Jackson, Chris Quinn, Sonny Weems, Jeremy Evans, Cartier Martin and Hamady Ndiaye. Players with contracts who had already become guaranteed due to specific guarantee stipulations in their contracts were Sherron Collins, Derrick Brown, Josh McRoberts, Willie Warren, Derrick Caracter, Luther Head and Joey Dorsey.

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