Editor’s note: As the Utah Jazz continue their search for the next Danny Green, General Manager Dennis Lindsey and company plan to give looks to a wide variety of D-League players on 10-day contracts. From Dakota Schmidt, here are 6 contestants for such a contract at the guard position currently in the D-League that the Jazz could call up.
As the youngest member of the Curry family lineage, Seth Curry has had higher than usual expectations since his time in college. During his three-year career at Duke, he was never able to truly reach those lofty goals as he failed to create his own identity. As an undersized 6’2 guard, Curry was only looked at as a scoring threat, while his distributing abilities were non-existent. Even though NBA teams knew that they could rely on him for his scoring acumen, he still needed himself as a more well-rounded offensive performer.
With Seth Curry now in the midst of his second D-League season, the 6’2 guard has somewhat been able to evolve as an offensive player. During his current stint with the Erie Bayhawks, Curry is averaging four assists per game. While that average would appear to minuscule, Curry’s sharing the back court with Peyton Siva, who currently has a 36.2% AST ratio.
His limited role as a distributor notwithstanding, Curry has actually been able to progress as a scorer, which is an insane accomplishment in itself. At the time of this piece, Seth Curry is shooting 50% from the field. While that may seem like an exceptional shooting percentage for a player that’s utilized to the level of Curry (25.4% usage rating), that particular statistic shines brighter when you take a look at his work as a perimeter shooter. On nearly eight attempts per game, Curry has shot 52% from beyond the arc, which is more than 10% better than what brother Stephen Curry has done with Golden State.
While the vast majority of Curry’s perimeter offense comes from catch-and-shoot scenarios, he’s more than capable of being able to work around PnR screens, or occasionally make his own offense in ISO’s.
As far as Curry’s fit with the Jazz, he’d best suited as the kind of player that would be able to bring instant offense to the second unit. For a bench core that’s currently 29th in the league in points per game (24.2), having a player with the scoring prowess of Curry could instantly help that depleted core.
While on the topic of D-League talent that could help bring instant offense to Utah’s bench, there isn’t a more red hot option than Austin Spurs guard Bryce Cotton. Since the calendar turned to 2015, Cotton has been on an unbelievable stretch, averaging 26 points, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Similar to Curry, the majority of Cotton’s offense comes from his work from the perimeter. During that short 8-game stretch, Cotton has shot 50% from beyond the arc on eight attempts per game.
Although a lot of Cotton’s offense comes from the perimeter, he’s definitely proven himself as one of the more lethal cutters in the entire D-League. Starting out with a deadly first step, Cotton is able to get an immediate advantage over the opposition as he works his way towards the paint.
Even though there might be well-rounded guards than Cotton in the league, it might be time for the Jazz to strike while the iron (or player) is on fire.
Fresh off a stint with the Heat where he only played a grand total of 21 minutes, Dawkins has transitioned to the NBADL, where he hoped to get more of an opportunity to showcase his abilities. Those aspirations have come true as Dawkins has made an immediate impact since transitioning to the D-League. In the short three game span since being waived by the Heat (played 8 NBADL games while still being under contract by Miami), Dawkins has averaged 21.3 points and 5 assists per game, which includes shooting 48% from beyond the arc. When you pull back and examine his full D-League record, you can quickly see that Dawkins has been a consistent offensive threat.
Dawkins’ status as a perimeter maestro is evidenced by him eclipsing the 50% mark on nearly 10 attempts per game. Aside from that, Dawkins has exhibited some ability to break away from his comfort zone and cut to the paint. For somebody that has never really shown anything besides a perimeter jumper, Dawkins looks extremely comfortable with scoring while in the midst of heavy pressure, although his work from the perimeter will continue to be the focal point of his all-around game.
Similar to Dawkins, Cunningham is making his way to the D-League after having a stint in the NBA where he barely had an opportunity to see the court. While Cunningham did play a more significant amount of minutes than Dawkins (86 total minutes compared to 21), he’s never had a real opportunity to showcase his skills since being a first round pick in the 2012 draft.
Unlike the previous players who have thrived from the perimeter, Cunningham is most comfortable as a penetrator rather than a straight-up shooter. On a seemingly possession-by-possession basis, Cunningham is able to work his way to the rim, whether he’s working off-ball or actually in control of the ball. Once he’s inside the paint, he’s able to utilize his tremendous athleticism. While it’s still an incredibly small sample size, Cunningham is shooting 69% from inside the restricted area.
While Cunningham is positioned as a shooting guard, he’s shown some knack as a facilitator. During the prior season in the D-League, Cunningham averaged around 5 assists per game. Similar to the aforementioned description as a cutter, Cunningham is able to utilize his athleticism to become a pretty solid distributor. Cunningham can cut through the teeth of the defense and then kick it out to a waiting perimeter shooter, or a teammate that’s waiting in the paint.
While each one of the players profiled all have their own specific strengths, there hasn’t been an offensive performance that’s as well-rounded as Jabari Brown. The center-point of Brown’s well-rounded offensive arsenal would be his ability as a penetrator. Brown currently stands as one of the quickest players in the entire league. By combining that quickness with a solid first-step, it’s a constant challenge for defenders to be able to stop Brown from getting to the rim. That difficulty is evident by Brown averaging nine free throw attempts over the past 10 games.
Brown has been able to contain that stability as he moves away from the inside of the paint.. That stability is evident by Brown shooting a respectable 40% from the three-point, which includes a seven game stretch where he shot 34% from that same area.
Within the middle of Reno’s crazy Grinnell-style system, sits their current golden boy Brady Heslip. Inside an offense that relies solely on high-energy, perimeter play, Heslip has remained as a key focal point for the entire D-League season. On nearly 13 three-point attempts per game, Heslip possesses a 43% shooting percentage.
Whether he’s working around off-ball screens or in a simple catch-and-shoot, Heslip can effectively launch a perimeter jumper with his quick shot release.
Aside from his long-range expertise, Heslip has slowly developed into a relatively solid cutter, by utilizing a pretty quick first step. As someone whose been only looked at as a perimeter threat for his entire career, Heslip looks extremely comfortable with working around the paint. While he’s not comfortable with finishing in traffic, Heslip does possess a pretty solid running floater, which allows him to get a shot up without getting into the teeth of the opposition.