The NBA Development League serves as just that, a place for players to develop their talents so that they may one day rise up, and take the leap into the NBA. Recently, a few players in the D League have stood above the rest.
Rookie Pierre Jackson of the Idaho Stampede broke an NBA D League record as he scored 58 points in a 136-122 victory over the Texas Legends. Now, it should be noted that the D League is notorious for not involving much defense in their games, as players are all trying to showcase their offensive talents in hopes of being brought up to the big leagues.
Nonetheless 58 points is an impressive feat in any league. Jackson shot an impressive 24 of 33 from the field for his 58 points, including 27 in the fourth quarter and 12 points over a two-minute stretch in the final frame. Jackson also added eight assists to his impressive stat line on Tuesday night.
While 58 points is a spectacular game, it is likely not going to automatically propel the former Baylor star into the ranks of the NBA. Morris Almond and Will Conroy both scored 53 points in the D League in recent years; both had short stints in the NBA, before continuing their playing careers overseas.
Jackson’s NBA rights are currently owned by the New Orleans Pelicans. However, he is not signed to a contract with New Orleans, which is why he has not been called up to audition for the Pelicans. One of the main reasons New Orleans is hesitant in signing Jackson, is because of his size. The Idaho Stampede guard stands at a modest 5’10″ with a wingspan that matches his height. While Jackson seems to be a capable scorer, his size and length would likely prove to be a defensive liability for his team in the NBA.
There is such a deep pool of talent in the NBA that it is rare for a rising D League player to come into the big league and receive enough minutes to truly showcase what they are capable of. However, in some cases it is just a matter of being on the right team at the right time. The Los Angeles D-Fender’s guard, Manny Harris, was selected to play in the D League all-star game as he has averaged over 30 points and 6 rebounds per game for the D-Fenders. However, recently he has been spending his time playing in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Lakers recently signed Harris to a second ten-day contract and on his tenth day, he played some big minutes for the Lakers. On a night where Steve Nash and Steve Blake both returned to the Lakers line up, it was 6’5 guard Manny Harris who provided key minutes and offense for LA. Just two minutes into the Lakers game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jodie Meeks landed awkwardly on his ankle and left the game. This opened up the door for Harris to showcase his talents.
Harris played over 20 minutes for the Lakers on Tuesday night as he scored 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting and pulled down 8 rebounds. Of course, the Lakers still went on to lose the game 109-99, but perhaps with the injury to Jodie Meeks the Lakers will sign Harris to a contract for the remainder of the season.
There is no doubt that the D League is a notch below the NBA in terms of overall skill, but if given a chance, some of the rising talent in the D League would certainly be able to contribute to an NBA club. Perhaps not nearly at the all-star level that they would in the D League, but nonetheless sometimes players like Pierre Jackson or Manny Harris just need to be given the chance showcase their talents.
By Eric Kummel