The NBA Development League is often looked upon as a downgrade when players receive an assignment to places like Delaware, Springfield, Rio Grande Valley or Sioux Falls rather than playing in Los Angeles, Chicago, or Detroit. While it may be underwhelming, most NBA fans miss the whole point of the D-League or the benefits it can have on a player.
The D-League can be described as a dark place that players never want to step foot in, but there is no doubt that the D-League gives players the opportunities to hone skills that can’t be worked on sitting at the end of an NBA bench. Instead of sitting on the end of that bench, these players are given the opportunity to play 30-plus minutes per game against other players fighting for their NBA lives. It’s the proverbial Hunger Games of the NBA.
The worst thing someone can do is talk down about the level of competition in the NBA Development League. Sure, you won’t find a Kobe Bryant or LeBron James there. But you’ll find a roster full of ambitious young athletes trying to make their dream become a reality. You see the grit, the guts and the glory that can be lost in the magic of the NBA. I love the underdog mentality and that’s something that EVERY player in the D-League has. They play in venues that have more empty seats than people, trying to play a team oriented game when they know they have to value individual success over team success for them ever to take the jump to the NBA.
Sometimes we all take for granted the stars we watch night in and night out. For now, lets give some praise to these 10 D-League players that deserve to be playing in front of thousands before the season is over.
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10. DEE BOST
After playing four years for Mississippi State (13.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists), Dee Bost started his professional basketball career by playing in Montenegro for a short time frame in 2012-2013. Bost was signed by the Portland Trail Blazers in August, but was waived in late October, when he was acquired by the Idaho Stampede.
The D-League’s leader in assists at 7.6 per game (2.17 AST/TO ratio) has started off his season on a tear. Playing with Pierre Jackson, who leads the NBA D-League in scoring and has four 40-point performances on the season probably helps too. But Bost is also capable of putting points on the board too, averaging 15.6 on the season. Bost needs to work on his shooting percentage (34 percent on the season), but that’s why he’s in the D-League right now. He’s still shown the ability to distribute the ball at a high volume, which is rare in a league where most players are concerned about points over everything.
Bost’s best performance this season came on December 27, when he recorded 19 points, eight assists and a whopping 16 rebounds. Nice numbers for a 6-2, 176-pound guard. He’s still extremely young, which is why right now is a great time for NBA teams to call Dee Bost and sign him to a contract. He’s scoring at a high volume, along with distributing. His numbers are comparable to the explosion Kendall Marshall had in the D-League before the Lakers signed him, but Dee Bost doesn’t have the name that Marshall does. If Dee Bost keeps performing this season, then he deserves a second look from NBA teams.
9. OTHYUS JEFFERS
Othyus Jeffers is the story of a man that won’t give up to achieve his dream. Jeffers has been chasing the NBA since 2008 after he went undrafted. He’s been on multiple NBA rosters during training camp and summer leagues, usually being waived before 12-man rosters were announced. The closest success for Jeffers came in 2011, when he was signed to a couple of 10-day contracts with the Washington Wizards midseason, before they signed him for the remainder of the season. In 13 games with the Wizards, Jeffers produced 5.7 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13 games (including a 15-point performance and a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double). When Jeffers became a restricted free agent the following season, the Wizards extended a qualifying offer. Unfortunately, the lockout struck and stopped Jeffers from being able to sign the offer. During the lockout, Jeffers tore his ACL, which caused the Wizards to remove the offer and just like that, Jeffers dream went from being in reach to seeming millions of miles away again.
Fast-forward to the 2013-2014 NBA D-League season and you can find Othyus Jeffers playing for the team he’s been playing with since 2008, the Iowa Energy. The swingman combo is putting up fantastic numbers like always. To date, Jeffers is averaging 23.2 PPG (sixth in the D-League), 11.5 RPG (third in the D-League) and 3.4 APG while shooting 49 percent from the field. Jeffers only has three performances this season where he’s scored less than 19 points. What might be more impressive is that Jeffers, up until this past week, didn’t have a game this season where he grabbed less than eight rebounds. He also has nine double-doubles on the season.
Jeffers can literally impact the game in every way possible. Recording an average of 2.5 steals per game, Jeffers has had a seven steal game this season and also an eight steal game. Othyus Jeffers has been a D-League standout since being undrafted in 2008 and he’s having his best season. There are plenty of teams in the NBA that could use someone as skillful as Othyus, especially as he’s right in his prime. Hopefully someone scoops up Jeffers and we start to hear his name on a regular basis.