Amidst the aftermath of the Kyrie Irving trade, the D-League – still finding it difficult to call it the G-League – held an expansion draft tonight for its four new franchises for the 2017/18 season.
In a D-League expansion draft, incumbent teams are allowed to protect the returning player rights to nine of their players, with all unprotected players put into the pool, able to be selected by the four newbies. Selecting a player’s rights does not mean that that player will play for that team next season; that player will need to sign in the D-League next season, and these rights ensure only that if they do, this will be the team they must go to. Many have or will sign elsewhere, including the NBA in a couple of cases, and of course it is certainly normally the case that the best D-League (G-League, whatever) players will have their rights protected if there’s any realistic chance that they will return.
Nevertheless, some will. And for the 44 players drafted tonight, these will be the teams they now have to join if they sign in the next two seasons [after which they will have no returning rights and will enter the player pool, from which they can be acquired by any team]. Returning player rights can be, and often are, traded.
It therefore behoves the drafting teams to prioritise not only those whom they think are best, but also those with the best chances of returning to the D-League. And with all that in mind, here are the picks.
The beauty of following the D-League back in the day was the absolute WTFness of many of the players in it. As the standard has picked up over the years, though, this does not happen much any more. But then there’s Keith Steffeck. Now this is a weird career arc. Steffeck spent two years at Division II school Upper Iowa, then transferred to NAIA school William Penn, from which he graduated in 2013 with senior season averages of 15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. He then went to the Czech Republic for a year, averaged 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for SLUNETA Usti nad Labem (nope, me neither), then went to Luxembourg to play for Sparta Bertrange and broke his foot. And then randomly last summer, after a self-funding campaign that raised about 14,4% of its intended target, he appeared on the Memphis Grizzlies’s summer league team.
Once on it, he and his John Stockton jump shot looked quite good!
Totalling 34 points and 12 rebounds in five summer league games is better than many players on this list have managed. It got Steffeck drafted in last year’s D-League draft, 66th overall by the Warriors, but he managed only one game and four fouls before being released, not playing again for the rest of the season
Beech was signed by the big league Brooklyn Nets as an undrafted free agent out of North Florida, as a confident 6’8 shooter whose headiness it was hoped could offset his lack of NBA athleticism. Beech is a shooting specialist, somewhat limited to the catch-and-shoot three with the up-fake into a long two being the only other consistent option. He has probably never dribbled all the way to the basket in his life. Nevertheless, in always spotting up, looking to shoot, doing so remorsely and efficiently, finding open spots, making good defensive reads, a decently quick release, NBA size, the occasional handle in transition and probe off the wing, the constant trailer threat and some good passing vision makes for an intriguing enough package. At the moment, Beech is recovering from ACL surgery – when he does so, the D-League is a plenty logical place to return and again prove his health.
Putney is something of a D-League success story. He started his professional career at age 24 as a local tryout player of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and had to make some summer money going to places such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and the Australian regional leagues. Yet a couple of years with the Vipers saw him develop from fringe piece to featured player. Putney became a more capable shooter and more confident offensive player, all the while retaining his length, athleticism, rebounding and free-roaming shot-blocking abilities. It’s amazing what consistent aggression can do. For next season, Putney is signed with Chalon in France having played in Italy with JuveCaserta the year prior, averaging 10.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Nearing 30, he is probably right to make money while he can. Nevertheless, he is suitably close to making the NBA nowadays that a D-League stint remains plausible.
Since his NBA days, Gody has put together a good European career. While admittedly at the back end of the rotation, and increasingly a jump shooting specialist (albeit a good one), he spent last season with the rejuvenated Turkish EuroLeague side Darussafaka, and is already signed with German team ratiopharm Ulm for next season. Gody has not played in the D-League since the 2012-13 season and does not look to be coming back any time soon, if ever; his returning player rights only exist in the first place because he was also selected in both the 2014 and 2015 D-League Expansion drafts as well.
The only player on this list to have played in the Developmental League back when it was still called the NBDL, Bynum spent half the season last year with the Windy City Bulls, trying to make it back to the NBA after two years away in China. In the sense that he is still a fairly dynamic point guard who can get to the rim and finish, as well as handle the ball with increased dependency, he could have a role. “Experience” – that is to say, age – is also on his side. But Bynum never was, and still isn’t, a defender or a shooter. You would require one of those two things in a backup NBA point guard, and ideally both – see also, Ronnie Price or Norris Cole. With time against him, another D-League season as a valuable veteran (especially now the money has increased) might be a good idea for Bynum. However, being drafted this late suggests the team does not think this too likely.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.