The NBA Development league has taken on an importance that no one could have imagined upon its inception. There are more players than ever coming out of that league and contributing on the NBA level.
More and more teams are embracing having a developmental affiliate. The biggest franchises in the sport are using their D-League teams as test kitchens for offensive tweaks and grooming productive players that will be able to contribute on a larger stage.
There are a group of players that have accelerated the move to paying more attention to what is going on down in the minor leagues. Finding these diamonds in the rough is crucial for every team as salary cap maneuvering can be a game changer for franchises on the bubble.
Here are the three best players to come from the NBA Development League:
Green was originally drafted with the 46th pick overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009 draft. He was rarely used by Cleveland in his first stint with the team. I remember him mostly for his pregame dance routines with LeBron James.
He found himself in the development league soon after that. The 29-year-old was rediscovered by the San Antonio Spurs and things took off from there. He was a sharpshooting option on the wing and a decent on ball defender.
In his first four seasons with the Spurs, he shot over 40 percent from deep. That more than justifies their adoption of him as a project. He has morphed into a crucial part of their team and will figure to be more necessary after Tim Duncan’s retirement this offseason.
Linsanity has been well discussed at this point. He got to New York and helped make the Knicks a super entertaining team for a spring in 2012. Before that moment in the spotlight, he was a Reno Bighorn and an Erie BayHawk.
Lin was originally drafted by Golden State. Imagine how stacked that team would be on top of their “Big 4” if they had managed to spot the point guard’s potential. But, he did pretty well for himself when you consider the big picture.
Now, the 28-year-old is the starting point guard in Brooklyn. He will run the show a short distance away from where his fairytale ascension happened. The former sensation has learned that the road to success is anything but predictable.
Hassan Whiteside’s journey is well documented at this point. There were stops in the D-League along with China and Lebanon. Usually players with his career arc are confined to a cup of coffee in the NBA and nothing more.
The young big man has been nothing short of a revelation for the Miami Heat after his signing in 2014. The 27-year-old was a double-double machine. He also showed an aptitude for blocking shots at an impressive clip.
Now, the former Marshall center is the centerpiece of the Heat’s rebuilding effort after losing Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. He is the ultimate underdog story because he went from the minors to a max contract.