Prospect Watch: Stars Win Double-OT Thriller Against Skyforce

January 3rd, 2017 | by Spencer Wixom
By Spencer Wixom

By Spencer Wixom

The SLC Stars had their most exciting game of the year on Friday night, a double-overtime thriller against the D-League’s best team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

The Stars were down by 20+ throughout the game but came surging back and forced overtime with a three by Jermaine Taylor.

 

Marcus Paige then came up HUGE with two back-to-back threes.  The first came with 14.4 seconds left to tie the game.

 

After Paige’s first three the Skyforce made a two-point basket and Coach Cooper decided to go for the win and drew up this beautiful play that got Paige a wide open three for the win.

This couldn’t have been a more exciting game and it was played in front of 1,579 Stars fans who loved every minute of it.  I haven’t seen a Stars crowd get this into a game. It was incredibly fun to watch.

The game itself was full of great prospects.  Many prospects from the NBA D-League Prospect Watch: Top 25 Rankings list were featured, as well as two great affiliate players.

Joel Bolomboy, Stars, F

18 Points, 12 Rebound,  4 Assists,  1 Steals,  0 Blocks, 7-17 FG, 0-3 3p, -5 +/-

Bolomboy continues to dominate the D-League.  He went up against some of the better players in the league and gave them all they could handle.  Bolomboy continues to show signs of work on an increased range, as he attempted three shots from the three point line and though he missed them he showed the confidence to take them. His athleticism continues to allow him to haul in rebounds and get putback dunks.

I was impressed with Bolomboy’s offensive awareness. He continues to make the right play and not force shots, which is something a lot of players will do in the D-League. When doubled, he makes the right pass to the open man, which allowed him to rack up four assists.

Defensively, Bolomboy still has some learning to do.  He has the athleticism to stick with just about any player in the NBA, but he can blow a rotation from time to time, something that is normal from a rookie. The former Weber State Wildcat is also currently adjusting to learning how to defend both the center and power forward positions. There is a great deal of difference in the way these two positions defend in the Jazz/Stars system and he’s still learning to adjust from play to play depending on what positions he is guarding.

Overall, Bolomboy continues to improve and impress.  He is a fantastic case of why having an affiliate D-League team so close is valuable.  It is really hard for any rookie to get minutes on a team contending for home court in the playoffs.  With the Stars being in Salt Lake City, Bolomboy can practice with the Jazz throughout the week, yet get the chance to play games with the Stars.  The Jazz have had staff members at every single Stars game to watch the players’ development, something they could not do if the team was still in Boise. It is a beautiful basketball marriage that will continue to foster development.

Diamond Stone, Stars, F

17 Points, 9 Rebound,  2 Assists,  0 Steals,  1 Blocks, 7-14 FG, 0-1 3p, -24 +/-

Stone is not ranked on the NBA D-League Prospect Watch as he is on assignment from the Los Angeles Clippers.

Stone was one of the most underrated prospects in this years draft class because critics said he had an “old man’s game.” Responding to this criticism, he referred to a recently retired legend. “Tim Duncan has an old man’s game and he was probably one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history, so old man’s game, young kid’s game, [it doesn’t matter] as long as you get the basket.”

Stone put up and impressive line for only playing 22 minutes.  He would have played more down the stretch, but he fouled out, which he credits to being unfamiliar with the defensive system of the Jazz/Stars that is very different than the Clippers.  The forward out of Maryland looked agile and powerful as he got anywhere on the court that he wanted to.  He also displayed a new trick that he didn’t have in college: a three-point shot.

The young forward has taken to learning the game like a humble student, unlike many proud rookies.  He said that he has embraced being mentored by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. However, The biggest mentor to him has been Paul Pierce. “I work out with Paul every day, he drops knowledge on me every day, and he’s a great role model.”  Coach Cooper was impressed with his willingness to learn. “The guy’s had two practices, and he’s 19 years old.  It was amazing he asked a question in every timeout, literally every time out.  He’s very inquisitive which is a good quality to have as a 19 year old.  Most guys would go through the game and figure it out on their own.”

Stone may not get time this season as the Clippers have the depth that they have not had in the past, but his development will allow them to make key decisions this offseason as he is looking ready to contribute.

Briante Weber, Skyforce, G

5 Points, 9 Rebound,  7 Assists,  1 Steals,  0 Blocks, 2-11 FG, 0-3 3p, -2 +/-

Weber is ranked first overall on the NBA D-League Prospect Watch.

There is a good reason that the league has ranked Weber so high on their list as he does just about everything well.  As a defender, Weber pressures the ball handler and forces turnovers — he’s averaging 2.9 steals a game.  In this matchup, he didn’t force as many turnovers as he normally does, but the Stars’ point guards went 14-42 from the field for 33.3% shooting.

As a facilitator, Weber is extremely intelligent.  He knows his limitations and knows how to best set up his teammates for success.  I think Weber definitely has the skills and smarts to run an offensive for a team in the NBA.  Weber also rebounds the ball incredibly well, which is extremely valuable at the point guard position. He is currently averaging 8.1 rebounds per game, and rebounding is a skill that almost always translates to the next level.

The only thing that Weber cannot, or will not do is shoot the ball.  It was very apparent in this game that every time he had the ball he was looking to pass unless he had no other option than to shoot.  At one point Weber was fouled and fans shouted, “Are you going to pass this shot too?”  Weber went 2-11 from the field and has an effect field goal percentage of 42.9% on the season.  He has to develop a willingness to shoot so that he can become a better shooter to be an effective point guard in the NBA.

Overall I thought he looked good and can see why he ranks so highly as a D-League prospect, but he had an off-shooting night that emphasized his flaw.

Keith Benson, Skyforce, F

33 Points, 17 Rebound,  0 Assists,  1 Steals,  5 Blocks, 13-24 FG, 0-0 3p, 5 +/-

Benson is ranked 13th overall on the NBA D-League Prospect Watch.

Benson is averaging 19.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks this season, which is a big reason why the Skyforce are currently the best team in the D-League.  He has good size and knows how to use it. He controlled the glass against three very good rebounders in Bolomboy, Riley, and Stone.  Benson is a great roll man in the pick and roll using his size and athleticism to finish in traffic.  Benson has also developed a jump shot that makes him a well-rounded scorer.

I don’t think it will be long before Benson gets a call-up.  He is 28-years old, which limits his upside and the teams that may take a shot with him, but he is a good player.  Benson should be at the top of the list of any contender that gets hit with big men injuries.

Okaro White, Skyforce, F

29 Points, 9 Rebound,  1 Assists,  0 Steals, 0 Blocks, 10-20 FG, 3-7 3p, 8 +/-

White is not ranked on the NBA D-League Prospect Watch.  White is having a really good season for the Skyforce and is their leading scorer this season with 17.6 points per game.  It was evident why as White was able to score from everywhere on the court.  He is long and athletic but is pretty skinny for a power forward.  If he wants to make it in the NBA it may have to be is a bigger small forward.

White is having a really good season for the Skyforce and is their leading scorer this season with 17.6 points per game.  It was evident why as White was able to score from everywhere on the court.  He is long and athletic but is pretty skinny for a power forward.  If he wants to make it in the NBA it may have to be is a bigger small forward.

 

Spencer Wixom

Spencer Wixom

Spencer graduated from the University of Utah and works in commercial real estate. Since the first time he saw Stockton dish to Malone, Spencer has had a passion for the Utah Jazz and the NBA. When he isn’t writing about the Jazz, Spencer spends time with his wife and daughter and cheers for the Seattle Seahawks.
Spencer Wixom
Spencer Wixom

One Comment

  1. John Jenkins says:

    Would love to see Joel have some time on the Jazz court. They have to be putting someone seriously away. He will definitely play next year.. His athleticism is off the chart. And he has the want. Kind of a Booker with more skill set. Hope he sticks. Athletes are really hard to find with his ethic and skill set.

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