Lavoy Allen - Allen was the third part of the Danny Granger/Evan Turner trade, but has barely improved in three years. He is still one of the most inefficient scorers in the league - he can hit a mid-range shot, but he only takes them, and there's nothing efficient about a mid range jump shot. You have to hit 50% of them just to score a point per possession, with very few foul shots in the process, and Allen has yet to add the three point range to it. On the plus side, the rest of his game outside of scoring is very solid. He picked up his rebounding rate last year, still passes well, and defends through physicality, temperament and IQ rather than length or athleticism. Allen is said to already have agreed a deal to re-sign with the Pacers, which makes plenty of sense, because he is a very solid backup power forward. They can now waive Luis Scola, save money, and lose little.
Eric Atkins - Atkins is very hardy, playing huge minutes in almost every game. In those minutes, he is a very steadying presence, sporting an assist/turnover ratio of slightly over 2.5 to one and making very few mistakes. The trade-off is an absence of dynamic play.
Reasonably big for a point guard, but not especially fast or athletic, Atkins does not has the speed to consistently penetrate the first line of the defense and collapse it. He racks up his assists through feeding the post and moving it around without making bad passes, rather than through drawing the defense. Atkins is not a particularly bold or audacious ball handler, either, but he keeps the dribble alive and rarely loses it, partly because he rarely takes it into traffic but also because of the same attention to not making mistakes. He is a good shooter with good shot selection, who can shoot off a screen when off the ball or off the catch and shoot, albeit not being as good off the dribble. His lack of athleticism make it difficult for him to ever be a great slasher to the basket or finisher once he gets there, but Atkins plays within these limitations and exhibits strong discipline and good IQ. The same story carries over to the defensive end, where, despite being outquicked at times, Atkins uses poise, position and IQ to do a decent job of keeping opposing guards out of the lane, and where his size is more of a virtue.
This doth not an NBA player make. But it certainly does make a pro, and Atkins will make money somewhere.
Dee Bost - Waived by the Blazers out of last year's training camp, Bost went to the D-League to form an insanely dynamic back court with Pierre Jackson. He averaged 15.2 points, 8.4 assists and 2.1 steals in 40 minutes per game of all 50 contests, and did the majority of the ball handling that allowed Jackson to do what he did best. Bost has many faults - he is still a poor shooter, still acts like he isn't, is still a bit ineffective in the lane however well he can get there, is still sporadic defensively, and still gets very careless. But when he's on, he is incredibly dynamic, fast, impossible to stop in transition and a real nuisance. He's the opposite of Atkins, actually.
Jackie Carmichael - After summer league last year, Carmichael initially landed one of the few spots available to American rookies in the Spanish ACB when he joined Bilbao, but he rather struck out and came back to the D-League with the Iowa Energy. In 39 games there, he averaged 23.3 minutes, 9.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, shooting 49% from the field and 68.8% from the line. Carmichael plays in the paint on both ends, where he rebounds, posts, seals and finishes, and protects the rim quite well while wanting to step out as little as possible. He made quite a few mistakes with the Energy and was quite inconsistent, but another year there might do him wonders.
Frank Gaines - Gaines won the D-League Most Improved Player award last season, which unlike the NBA MIP documents improving within one season, not from season to season. He spent the year with the Maine Red Claws and started from the bench, but quickly showed he was too good to stay there, and was soon in a starting role getting as many minutes as he could handle. Gaines ultimately finished the season averaging 22.4 points in only 35.4 minutes per game, with some huge scoring nights along the way, including a 47 pointer. The pace of the D-League helped him there, especially the frenetic pace the Red Claws played at in the second half of the year, but it's not as though everyone else was doing this. The lefty 6'3 or 6'4 off guard is a bit undersized, but his scoring instincts are impeccable, his skills well developed, his aggression unrelenting. Gaines also does it while playing little isolation ball, and scores without the ball in his hands much - running the court unstoppably, cutting off the ball, spotting up and using some screen action to absolutely make the most of his touches. He wrong foots defenders on closeouts rather than breaking them off the dribble, drives both ways, hits tough ones, and has the athleticism to get where he wants go to. Hitherto overlooked, Gaines made himself unmissable last year, and although he has already signed for next year with JuveCaserta in Italy, this won't be his last rodeo.
Solomon Hill - Hill's rookie year wasn't great. Per 36 minutes, he averaged only 7.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, shooting 42.5% from the field and 30.8% from three for a 7.6 PER. Some of his main virtues include his IQ high play, his unselfishness, his recognition of his limitations and his discipline to play within them. But he's not going to survive if he's THAT passive. Improving the catch and shoot jumper will stand him in great stead, as long as he's willing to take them.
DeQuan Jones - Jones spent last year with the Reno Bighorns of the D-League, unable to get another season in the NBA. He shot 40.4% from three point range on his way to 13.6 points in 30 minutes per game, and finally showed some signs of being the athletic three-and-D role player Orlando seemingly thought he could be. It still doesn't explain why they signed him so early, long before he had evidenced this, but Jones did half of what he needed to do. Now he really needs to commit to his man-to-man D.
Kevin Jones - Jones spent most of last year with the Canton Charge of the D-League once again, averaging 16.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 fouls per game, and then went to the Philippines after being unable to get an NBA call-up in order to get some money. For some reason, Jones - who shot 40% from three as a sophomore and was a real stretch four threat - has put the outside shot away, hitting only one three pointer in the D-League last season on six attempts. This would be fine if he made up for the efficiency in other ways, but Jones rarely gets to the line, shooting one free throw for every 4.5 field goal attempts. Jones is offensively very talented and very smooth - a finisher around the basket, a transition player, a finesse post man with touch and a pick-and-pop option, who for some reason these days only pops from two. He rebounds well, is athletic and plays with a motor, but is not strong nor a rim protector and needs that offensive efficiency to maximise all his talent. Take a step back, Kevin! Stretch fours who rebound as well as you do are coveted these days!
C.J. Leslie - In 34 games last year for the Erie BayHawks, Leslie averaged 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in only 24.5 minutes per game. He also recorded two turnovers per game and insisted on taking 41 three pointers, even though he still can't shoot them. This is the frustrating thing with Leslie - an athletic specimen, Leslie just wants to be an alpha scorer, a shooter and a perimeter player, an isolation player, a wing threat. And he isn't. If he could settle for occasional driver and defensive disruptor, this would be grand, but he has yet to embrace a role other than 'star', and he hasn't star talent.
Roger Mason - Mason's presence on this roster is an odd one. It's strangely pleasing to see him be willing to do what it takes to get back into the NBA, rather than wait for the phone to ring and slowly becoming forgotten, but the book on him is well established - he'll catch and shoot threes, has pretty much lost his defense, and that's about it. Mind you, it worked for Rasual Butler, who fell out of the NBA for the entire 2012/13 season but who made it back for 2013/14 after joining a summer league team. And where did he do that? Indiana.
James Nunnally - After a year and a half with Orlando Johnson, the Pacers are bringing in another UCSB Gaucho in the form of Nunnally, who played in the NBA last year with both the Hawks and Pacers. Nunnally has developed a strong all-around game - efficient, versatile, a scorer and passer, a defender and decent athlete. He stands out in no one facet of the game, perhaps, but he contributes everywhere. Indiana might be a tough spot to get minutes, however, given their wing depth. They already have Solomon Hill and Chris Copeland, they're bringing in CJ Miles and Damjan Rudez, and Nunnally is not replacing Lance Stephenson any time soon. Nevertheless, Nunnally remains in the conversation of a midseason call-up, because he is good.
Jake Odum - Odum is one of only two first year players on this team, fresh out of Indiana State and the beneficiary of hometown ties. But he is also here on merit. Odum averaged 13.1 points and 4.6 assists per game, alongside 1.9 turnovers per game, shot 8.6 field goals and 6.7 free throws per game, but made only 22 three pointers per game, and made only 74 in his collegiate career. He is a big point guard at 6'4, but not a fast one, which hinders him defensively along with the shot that hinders him offensively. What he can do is get to the basket and into the paint regularly off of screens, whereby he can kick to the corners, drop it off, and the get the ball to wherever it needs to go. He will take the contact, finish tough runners and high bankers even when smothered by size, and attack the rim at every opportunity. A true point guard with vision, unselfishness, creativity and the ability to get passes through the tightest of angles, Odum has big limitations and never did learn to shoot, but pick and roll play like that is great for certain European leagues. So if he gets any minutes, he'll be hoping the European scouts are watching.
Arinze Onuaku - Onuaku popped up briefly in the NBA with the Pelicans last year, and spent the rest of his time in the D-League. In 32 games with the Canton Charge, Onuaku averaged 14.8 points and 10.0 rebounds, good numbers that become brilliant when you consider he started only 11 games and averaged 24 minutes a contest. Onuaku always had amazing touch around the rim and was always a threat to catch, seal and finish with either hand, but he has spent the past two seasons rebounding the bejeezus out of the ball. He is undersized for the centre spot, turns 27 next week, is not very athletic and projects as a poor interior defender at the NBA level, not being a rim protector and exposable with his lack of lateral quickness. He is also exposable offensively with his lack of range and dreadful foul shooting. But my word he got productive lately. If you need extremely efficient layups and plenty of rebounds, this is your man.
Sadiel Rojas - Rojas spent his third straight season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and has improved in each one of them. Last season he recorded 12.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals in slightly more than 30 minutes per game, shooting 44.9% from the field and 36.3% from the field. He is a tough, aggressive and relentless wing defender who over time has been adding to his offensive game, most evidently by the addition of a catch and shoot three point shot. He handles little and still is not much of a creator, limited to fairly rudimentary drives, yet he plays within his limitations whilst constantly pushing back at them, and . Rojas is undersized for an NBA wing and not hugely athletic, and is still therefore unlikely to make the NBA as a three and D role player. But he's become a very good one at the D-League level, and won't be faulted for his toughness or energy ever. Very likable, if limited.
Donald Sloan - Sloan spent the whole of last season, having had $350,000 of his contract guaranteed for the season, but in his first full NBA season, he struggled considerably. Sloan played 48th games and finished fourth last amongst qualified players (434th out of 437) in real plus-minus, ahead of only Byron Mullens, Elliot Williams and Dennis Schroeder, and was last on the Pacers in net points by quite a long way. He played point guard exclusively, but he just cannot run an NBA offense - it was always the question about him, but now it's proven. And if he's going to possibly be a shooting guard, he needs to be able to shoot much better than that. Sloan can defend the point guard spot, but he can't play it on offense, and he doesn't defend it well enough to obscure this.
Tyler Stone - As a senior at SE Missouri State, the 6'8 230lbs Stone averaged 19.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game, shooting 54.4% from the field and 33.8% from three. He is athletic, with long arms and wiry strength, but slightly undersized for the power forward spot, and the three pointer is a new development to aid the transition to the combo forward spot. Stone also shoots mid-range jumpers, and, if he adds that range, projects nicely as a face-up smaller four. He handles the ball little and is caught between positions a little, very untested at this point, but his athleticism is ready to go. Summer league will be a good barometer for him, should he get much court time. Stone has already agreed to sign with Besiktas in Turkey for next season, but can nevertheless lay some ground work here for future years.
About The Author
- Mark Deeks
"The brain behind ShamSports could have been featured in a number of these Twitter lists, but because his website often spends our entire working day lodged in one of our browser tabs we decided to take the boring route and place Mark amongst the professors. Deeks might be the funniest man you've never met, he does exhaustive work with the NBA's salary minutiae and transaction follow-ups, and he's a stone-cold must-follow. Stone-cold fox, too, ladies. Or, some gentlemen."