Don't Call It the D-League.
It sounds so downgraded, like an actor that was bounced from playing Ray Romano's brother on Everybody Loves Raymond and ended up starring in a TBS bromance pilot that got cancelled after five episodes.
But it's not on the D List. So as the NBA will tell you, stop calling it the D-League. NBA officials say it's just the Development League. It's the NBDL. That's it. And now the D-League - ahem - the NBDL is starting to imprint a significant mark on the NBA.
The Development League is turning into its own sort of minor league system. Each year, a few sleepers rise from the NBDL to the NBA and provide legitimate fantasy value. Without the NBDL, last year wouldn't have had Linsanity, Ivan Johnson, or even Gerald Green.
A 2013 repeat of Linsanity seems unlikely, but who will be this year's Gerald Green? What current D-Leaguer might be as scary as Ivan Johnson? (Actually, probably none considering few human beings are as horrifying as Ivan.)
It's still too early to tell which players might unexpectedly make their marks, but here is a quick run-through (in no particular order) of some of the D-League- I keep doing that - Development League players who are putting up big numbers and are making a push to dethrone Brad Garrett.
Jeremy Lamb - The Thunder sent Lamb down to the Development League last week and he immediately lit up the scoreboard in his first game. His 33-point, 10-rebound, four-assist display seemed like a breakout performance at first glance, but in actuality, it wasn't.
The first thing a D-League novice has to take into account is that first-round picks tend to take loads of shots. It just works that way. It's a different style from the NBA, one of the reasons that a standout D-League performer does not necessarily translate to a standout NBA performer.
In Lamb's first game, he perfectly exemplified why you have to take some of those numbers with a grain of salt. He took 33 shots and made only 13 of them, while also shooting 3-for-11 from long range.
Lamb probably won't hold much fantasy value this season regardless of how he plays. That means bulky NBDL numbers will never be a reason to pick him up. The only way he holds fantasy value later in the year is if he improves his efficiency.
Kevin Jones - If you're looking for efficiency, look no further than Jones. Through five games and 205 minutes, he sits second in the NBDL with an efficiency rating of 28.0.
Meanwhile, last season's Big East Player of the Year runner up (he should have won) is averaging 23.6 points per game and 12.6 rebounds per game on 53.3 percent shooting.
These types of gaudy numbers aren't necessarily new for Jones. He averaged 20.0 points per game and 11.2 rebounds per game at West Virginia last season. He isn't particularly athletic, but he's one of those players that always seems to be in the right spot. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are the type of team that might be more prone to playing a young, potential up-and-comer.
Watch out for the 6-foot-8, 23-year-old Jones later in the season when Cleveland inevitably decides to go into tank mode. That's when he may end up getting his shot.
Darius Johnson-Odom - The Hyphen has been nothing but stellar in his three D-League games so far this year. He had 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including sinking five of seven threes, in his first ever NBDL game last Wednesday.
This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to Marquette fans. Johnson-Odom just seems to have "it", whatever "it" may be.
The biggest criticism of the guard: He's got point guard size, standing at 6-foot-3, but he may never end up being a full-time point guard.
But, you know what? That's fine.
Johnson-Odom can have success in the NBA as a combo guard that comes off the bench. That's a type of player we are seeing more and more as the league continues to develop into this style of play that favors hybrid players. Big, athletic fours can be successful centers. And undersized twos can shift around between dominating the ball and playing off it, while also still having a positive effect on the game.
Johnson-Odom is an efficient, smart, tough guard that mainly exemplifies the type of Big East Conference he has played in for the past three years. He will be an NBA player. But for now, we don't know when that will be.
Scott Machado - The man who is tenth in the Developmental League in assists per game might be the best passer in the league all together.
Machado led the entire NCAA last season in assists while at Iona and that title came well deserved. The 6-foot-2 point guard was probably the best passer in the nation and tended to show that off in each game.
But the NBDL has been a slightly different story for the collegiate stud, who absolutely should not have gone undrafted. Finally, his shooting has been exposed.
That was the big question about Machado heading into the NBA Draft last summer:
Can he shoot from the perimeter?
So far, the NBDL's small sample size theater has spoken and the answer is no.
Machado shot 40.7 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three in his first three seasons at Iona, only to improve those percentages to 49.5 percent and 40.4 percent respectively in his senior season. Now in the NBDL, he finds himself at 38.8 percent from the field and 2-for-11 from three.
Machado hardly needs to shoot at such an efficient rate. In fact, he doesn't even need to consistently hit threes. Hanging out on the perimeter isn't his game. He likes handling the ball and creating for others off the dribble. The fact that he may not be able to consistently knock down a long-range shot from the corner probably won't affect him that much - considering you can't dribble straight to the corner and chuck up the ball.
Once he gets more comfortable with the jump in talent from the MAAC to the pros, those 5.8 assists per game will climb and you might start to hear the name "Scott Machado" in Houston.