Blake Ahearn. Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images
Beginning Monday, NBA teams can sign players to 10-day contracts for what amount to big league auditions. Scott Schroeder provides scouting reports on the top call-up candidates from the NBA D-League at each position.
Players on 10-day contracts aren't often looked at as difference-makers when fans look at the roster of their favorite NBA teams. But for the players who choose to take a lower salary in the NBA Development League instead of fleeing for foreign shores for larger paydays, 10-day contracts can be difference-makers.
Beginning Monday, NBA teams are allowed to sign players to 10-day contracts. There are always a few veteran players sitting at home that are offered the shortened contracts, but the majority will come straight out of the NBA D-League and into your living rooms (via League Pass and the like, y'know) this week.
There are a total of 16 open roster spots in the NBA as the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls each carry the NBA's 13-man minimum. The Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks recently released players, too, to join the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings with an open roster spot that could eventually end up being filled by a D-League player on a test run.
Not all 160 players in the D-League have an equal opportunity at getting one of the sought-after agreements, however, so we surveyed a group of scouts and coaches that follow the D-League closely to try and get a sort of consensus on just who might be worthy of receiving a 10-day contract out of the D-League. It isn't likely that a re-creation of the Sundiata Gaines story happens again, but hey, it could happen.
There have already been six players called up during the first quarter of the NBA season and 12 others that were playing in the D-League prior to training camp opening, but that number will likely continue to gain steam now that 10-day contracts are a possibility. So, without further ado, the players below have been determined by the basketball scouting community as the next possibilities to jump on a flight from Sioux Falls to Salt Lake City as their dreams become a reality.
For full coverage of the D-League, please check out SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside.
Blake Ahearn, 27, Reno Bighorns
Season Summary: Ahearn recently ended his record-breaking free-throw streak at 110, but that isn't anything to hang his head about considering he's still leading the D-League in scoring with 24.5 points per game while posting a mind-blowing true-shooting percentage of 64 percent in 24 games played so far this season. He's also averaging 5.7 assists per game, but his turnovers are up a bit as well as he's currently averaging just under 3.5 per game.
Scout's Take: "Blake has been doing it all this season for Reno and his high basketball IQ and shooting ability should have in the NBA right now. The knock has been that he doesn't defend his position well enough, but but he can run a system, score and is very good in the pick-and-roll. One thing that's definitely NBA transferable is that you can count on him at the foul line."
Ben Uzoh, 23, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Season Summary: The former New Jersey Nets guard joined the D-League right before the annual Showcase and, even though he's let up a bit the past few games, he's shown he's capable of stuffing the box score through the 12 games he's played in this season. Uzoh is averaging 16.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists while starting quite a few fast breaks thanks to his bringing in around three offensive boards per game.
Scout's Take: "Ben made the NBA as an undrafted rookie last season and should get a look sometime soon again this year. He has good size for the NBA, he's very quick and has the ability to get in the lane and make things happen. He needs to improve his shooting and consistency, but he's physically ready to help a team today."
Justin Dentmon, 25, Austin Toros
Season Summary: Dentmon entered this D-League season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he attempts to prove he's a point guard instead of a 6-foot shooting guard. He's shown he has NBA skills by averaging 22.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc, but his Pure Point Rating is currently coming in at a disappointing -2.45 according to the statistics at Draft Express.
Scout's Take: "I know he's small, but he puts a lot of pressure on defenses with his shooting ability and craftiness. One of his best assets is his mid-range jumper, which the NBA is lacking, but there aren't too many 6-foot scoring point guards in the NBA that turn the ball over as often as he does."
Manny Harris, 22, Canton Charge
Season Summary: Harris would likely be enjoying his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers right now if it wasn't for a freak injury that saw the former undrafted free agent get released in training camp. He's acclimated himself quite well down the road, however, as the 6-foot-5 wing is averaging 18.6 points and a solid 7.4 rebounds in 13 games for the Cavs' D-League team so far this season.
Scout's Take: "Manny had a tough break in camp, but it doesn't seem to have affected his mindset too much since he's went to the D-League. He has the size and athleticism needed to play the '2' in the NBA and, even though he's not the most consistent shooter, I think he can make up for it by playing some at the point when needed."
Andre Emmett, 29, Reno Bighorns
Season Summary: There's a random breakout performance each season in the D-League from someone that didn't initially seem to be considered an NBA candidate and, a bit surprisingly, this former second round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics earned that distinction this season. The 6-foot-5 wing is averaging 23.4 points and 5.8 rebounds while averaging nearly two steals per game.
Scout's Take: "There's no doubt that Emmett is too talented on the offensive end to continue playing in the D-League, but his skillset and size make it difficult to see his game transferring smoothly. He has a good motor and is always aggressive on the offensive end, but doesn't get after it as hard on defnese and sometimes struggles with selfishness."
JamesOn Curry, 26, Springfield Armor
Season Summary: Curry is another player that was nearly overlooked by the scouts -- and your's truly, too -- before this D-League season began. He's been one of the main catalysts in new coach Bob MacKinnon's offense, however, on his way to averages of 16.9 points, 6.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc following a training camp invite from the New Jersey Nets. His defense has been better, too, as he ranks third in the league in steals.
Scout's Take: "Curry's playing more consistent than he has in his entire pro career this season. He makes open shots, posts quite a few assists without being the primary ball handler for his team and is defending his position much better than in the past."
Gerald Green, 26, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Season Summary: The former first round pick has been pretty under the radar the past couple of seasons, but that likely won't last for long. Though he hasn't always been given consistent minutes on a relatively loaded D-Fenders team, he's stepped it up when given the opportunity and is currently averaging 23 points and 5.4 rebounds over the past five games while shooting a ridiculous 56 percent from three-point land (44 percent on the season).
Scout's Take: "He definitely opened some eyes at the D-League Showcase. There's no questioning his NBA athleticism and he has the length to get his shot off whenever he wants, but he's a streaky shooter and doesn't have a good reputation when it comes to his basketball IQ."
Edwin Ubiles, 25, Dakota Wizards
Season Summary: Ubiles is probably the oldest rookie in quite awhile as he had to sit out last season while dealing with a leg injury, but the Siena product has shown plenty of upside this season on the way to averages of 20.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists as the main scoring option of the Dakota Wizards.
Scout's Take: "Ubiles has the size and skill set that he should have to play in the NBA, but he's not a great athlete and has struggled with his shot from beyond the arc at times this season. He's always in control, smooth and smart with the ball, though, so it wouldn't be crazy to see him somewhere in the NBA this year."
Elijah Millsap, 24, Los Angeles D-Fenders
Season Summary: Millsap has an NBA name considering his older brother (Paul Millsap) has done quite well for himself in the NBA, but the younger brother is trying to prove he has the game to make it as well. He's done a solid job of it this season, too, as he's averaging 20.9 points per contest to go with 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Scout's Take: "Millsap can score in a lot of different ways in the D-League, making him a hard cover. He's a capable defender with good size and athleticism, but once again consistency comes in to play ... luckily he has a good attitude to make up for it."
Marcus Lewis, 25, Tulsa 66ers
Season Summary: Lewis doesn't exactly look the part when it comes to an NBA call-up candidate, but he's certainly acting the part as he attempts to make the jump from being a player that made the D-League by way of a local tryout in 2009 to making an NBA roster in 2012. In between a stint with the Milwaukee Bucks in training camp, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 14.5 points and 13.3 rebounds through 24 games this season.
Scout's Take: "Marcus might be the most improved player in the D-League ... and considering it's supposed to be about development, that's saying something. His sheer relentless mindset to rebound is something any NBA team could use from a twelfth or thirteenth guy and is developing on the offensive end, too."
Lance Thomas, 23, Austin Toros (Update: Signed by the Hornets)
Season Summary: Thomas was actually with the Hornets to start the season, but that didn't last long and he returned to the Spurs' affiliate. In 19 games this season, Thomas is averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds while helping the Toros to the best record in the league.
Scout's Take: "Lance is just a winner. He won a national championship at Duke and was the best big for Team USA at the Pan-Am Games this fall. He's not exceptional at anything, but he could fit in a lot of places considering he has the right attitude."
Greg Smith, 21, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Season Summary: Smith left Fresno State early planning to get drafted, but that obviously didn't work as he's found his way to the D-League following a training camp stint with the Houston Rockets. He probably won't last long in the D-League, however, considering he's averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while making 68 percent of his shots as a just-turned 21-year-old rookie.
Scout's Take: "Smith had some nice moments for the Houston Rockets in training camp and his age definitely makes him a prospect. He's got good size and athleticism, but needs to develop more on the offensive end so he can go to work further from the basket."
Mikki Moore, 36, Idaho Stampede
Season Summary: Moore was one of the last "big name" players to join the D-League before the annual Showcase, but he didn't acclimate himself as well as he had probably planned there considering he sat the first game and ended up being ejected with a second technical foul -- from the bench -- in his only action in front of the entire scouting community. The NBA vet has rebounded well from that, however, and is currently averaging 10.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in nine D-League games.
Scout's Take: "Mikki's the best true center in the D-League, but he doesn't have a lot of 'ridiculous upside' left. He can still rebound the ball, though, and stays active on the defensive end so it'd make sense for a playoff team to give him a look."
Jeff Foote, 24, Springfield Armor
Season Summary: There aren't many legitimate 7-footers in the D-League, meaning Foote probably has a leg up on the majority of his competition. He's taken advantage of it, however, as he's currently averaging 14.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in 21 games for the Armor.
Scout's Take: "Foote's the best center prospect in the league when considering his size, ability to run the court and soft hands for a guy his height. He's definitely not a finished product, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him on an NBA bench later this year."
Other centers mentioned in the survey: Keith Benson