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D-League Report: Antoine Walker, New Assignments, and Pace of the Game

Hi all,
Thanks for all your support on last week’s post. Here’s another look at the D-League as we head into the last couple weeks of December:

Antoine Walker to Have a Sort of Homecoming

I’ll get into this in better detail below, but one of the big games this week features Antoine Walker’s return to the East Coast as the Idaho Stampede play the Maine Red Claws. The Red Claws are affiliated by the Boston Celtics, which will give Walker his best opportunity so far to impress. Unfortunately, Walker has had to rattle of some game rust so far in his comeback effort.

He’s averaged 10.7 PPG and 6.3 RPG in his first three games, and shot only 2-8 from the field in his last game against the Utah Flash.

Still, as reported in the Boston Herald, Walker looks to have embraces the challenges facing his comeback, and is happy just to be playing basketball.

“That’s fine if it’s not glamorous,” [Walker] said. “That doesn’t bother me. The travel and everything — riding buses — will not bother me. It gives me a chance to chase a dream to get back. The one thing about this level is that everyone is looking for a better job — there’s a great competition level every night. Everyone plays for a better livelihood.”

Collins and Carroll Assigned to the D-League

Sherron Collins and DeMarre Carroll were assigned to the Maine Red Claws and Dakota Wizards this last week. Collins struggled in his first game, shooting 2-11 with four turnovers on December 10th, but improved to 6-13 for 15 points the following night.

DeMarre Carroll will make his D-League debut on Friday night for the Dakota Wizards. The former Missouri standout has seen extremely limited minutes so far this season (5.0 MPG, 1.5 PPG) in his second year. Carroll was picked 27th overall by the Grizzles in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Stats Show that D-League is Syncing Pace with NBA

Statheads will appreciate this piece from Ridiculous Upside, detailing a variety of non-conventional stats on the quality of D-League play in general. One of the bigger discoveries here is that the D-League, which has run a faster paced style of offense in recent years, is actually slowing to a pace similar to the NBA. Moreover, teams offensive efficiency has improved from last year.

Last season, the D-League averaged 104.5 possessions a game and an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 97.0. This year, the league is averaging 97.3 possessions a game while their offensive efficiency has improved to 106.9.

To put that in context, the NBA pace average this year is 92.6 with an offensive efficiency of 106.7.

At the moment, there have been no players called up from the D-League to join the party in the NBA, but what these numbers suggest is that players who are doing well in the D-League may have an easier time transitioning to the pace of the NBA. It may prove to provide NBA GMs with added comfort to call guys up rather than stick with under-preforming guys on their roster.

Games to Watch

Thursday, December 16th – 7:00 PM ET
Idaho Stampede (3-6) vs Maine Red Claws (3-6)
As I mentioned earlier, the key story line to tonight’s game is the return of Antoine Walker to the East Coast, and particularly to play against the Celtics D-League affiliate.

Idaho is averaging 96.2 possessions a game with a offensive efficiency of 105.9, while Maine is averaging 99.9 and 102.9. Neither team is exactly lighting the league ablaze, but the Stampede is seeing a good year from Walter Sharpe and Luke Babbitt while the Red Claws are enjoying a balanced offense with seven guys averaging 10 PPG or better.

Friday, December 17th – 8:00 PM ET
Erie Bayhawks (6-3) vs Iowa Energy (8-2)
Erie is the 2nd best team in the Eastern Conference, Iowa is the 1st. Friday’s game will be the second match up of their series this season. Erie has been exceptionally successful at running a slow paced team (93.2) while enjoying a high efficiency rating (107.2). They’ve also been able to spread points around to a collection of guys, with 8 guys between 9.3 and 15.8 PPG.

Iowa runs a faster pace (98.9) and an even higher efficiency rating (111.2). They’ve also featured strong seasons from Othyus Jeffers (19.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and Courtney Sims (18.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG). This series may prove to be a battle of which team can best control the game. It’s a good test of where these teams are, and a clear means to determine who has the power in the Eastern Conference.

Hardwood Paroxysm