Which D-League Players Should the Wizards Look At?



(This article was originally written for WizardsXtra)

It is clear that the Wizards are going to be making some changes this off-season. Last summer, the front office failed to build a team that could run with John Wall and somewhat resemble the modern pace-and-space game. Instead, they opted to re-sign their veteran players and add others that were already past the prime of their respective careers. It hurt the team and, as a result, the Wizards did not make the playoffs. This summer is already looking to be different. With Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris, who are all under the age of 26, making up the team’s core, it seems as if the Wizards might finally be shifting towards a youth-centered identity.

However, they need to add some other fresh talent to fill up the remaining roster spots instead of adding more, to put in bluntly, “washed up” veterans.

If they really want to add fresh talent, they should look at the NBA’s Development League (D-League). It is the perfect place try and find new pieces since its purpose is to groom and develop players, coaches, officials, trainers, and front office staff for the next step into the NBA.

Here are four D-League players that I think the Wizards should strongly consider.

Andre Ingram: Ingram played in all 50 regular season games this year. In 26.4 minutes of play, he averaged 10.4 points while shooting an impressive 49.0 percent from the field and 49.6 percent from three. Back in February, Ingram competed in the D-League’s three-point contest during the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Canada. Through two rounds of the contest, Ingram hit 39 of 50 attempts (78.0%), scoring 27 points in the final round to defeat Westchester Knicks guard Jimmer Fredette and match Klay Thompson’s, a member of the 2015 Champion Golden State Warriors and one of the best shooters in the NBA, score in the NBA’s version of the contest later that night.

Ingram would be a great addition to the Wizards because of his shooting ability. He’s one of the best shooters in D-League history, as evident by the fact that he is the all time D-League leader for made 3 point field goals with 583 and counting. Even though at 30 years old he might be considered too “old” to earn an NBA call-up, he has the experience and the skills that would make him a great teammate for the Wizards’ young core.

Jarnell Stokes: Stokes began the 2015-2016 season with the Miami Heat, playing 16 games on assignment with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, before being traded to New Orleans on February 18 and waived by the Pelicans one day later.  He joined the Skyforce’s roster permanently on February 27. In his 28 total games with the Skyforce, Stokes averaged 20.6 points in 30.7 minutes of play while shooting an exceptional 67.0 percent from the field and 44.0 percent from three. He also earned some accolades this season as he was selected to be a 2016 NBA D-League All-Star and was named the 2015-16 NBA Development League Most Valuable Player by the league’s 19 head coaches. 

Stokes would be a great addition to the Wizards because he’s a big man with impressive offensive skills. He’s able to use his body inside the paint to command a double team. But, his finesse allows him to slip past a double team for a basket or set up a teammate for an open shot. While at 6’ 9” he is a bit undersized for a center, he would make a great backup for Marcin Gortat on this squad.

Cory Jefferson: Jefferson joined the Bakersfield Jam this season after being waived by the Phoenix Suns and then later leaving the Suns after not being offered a contract following two ten-day contracts with them. In 19 games with the Jam, he’s averaging 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds on shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. His play helped lead the Jam to a 10-6 record after they were just 12-19 before he joined them.

Jefferson would be a great addition to the Wizards because he provides front court depth. At 25 years old, he’s a young, versatile player which makes him the perfect addition to the young core the Wizards already have. This season he has added a workable jump shot into his game while also getting back to his roots as a scorer in the post, both of which would be useful for the Wizards as they move towards a more pace-and-space centered offense.

Vander Blue: Since he joined the D-Fenders in the 2014-2015 season, Blue has been a two-time NBA D-League All Star. In 48 games this season, Blue is averaging 26.3 points on 44.0 percent shooting from the field and 33.0 percent shooting from the three in 38.3 minutes of play.

Blue would be a great addition to the Wizards because he has become the most dynamic scorer in the D-League. Night in and night out, he either looks for his shot by moving without the ball or creates his own shot if one is not available. At the same time, his play is not selfish; he also uses his creativity to help create opportunities for others. Just take a moment to watch some clips of him on Youtube. Then, picture him out on the floor with John Wall. Yeah, that would be a lot of fun to watch.

Ingram Continues to Make D-League a Stable Career Option

School, Sports

Andre Ingram(This article was written as an assignment for my Sports Journalism class)

Andre Ingram’s path in the NBA Development League has been the road less traveled.

Typically, the NBA D-League, the NBA’s official minor league, is not a stable, long-term gig. Players in the D-League only sign one-year contracts with the league compared to the multi-year deals that NBA players are able to sign with the individual teams. The D-League prepares players, coaches, officials, trainers, and front office staff for the NBA and acts as the NBA’s research and development laboratory, implying that things are constantly changing.

At 30 years old, Ingram has played with only two teams over the course of eight seasons. Ingram was drafted in the 2007 NBA D-League Draft by the Utah Flash with the 94th pick.

The number of teams is not what makes Ingram’s journey unique; it’s the number of years that he has played in the league without ever receiving a call up from the NBA or taking his career overseas.

Despite the typical instability of building a career in the minor league, Ingram has made the D-League his.

Ingram’s Previous Road

When he came out of American University in 2007, Ingram did not have a lot of buzz. Part of this is due to the fact that despite being a former Patriot League Rookie of the Year and earning other awards and forms of recognition from the Patriot League, he did not play at school that is known for producing future NBA players.

As a result, he went undrafted. He did not even receive that many overseas deals. This left Ingram with questions about the path his career might take.

“I thought the D-League was my best route,” Ingram said. “One, from a financial standpoint, I thought it would be the best way for me to get a deal overseas that would be worth going for. Two, loving basketball and loving the NBA period and [me] wanting a shot at that.”

In his rookie year with the Utah Flash, Ingram had a decent season. He played in all 50 games that season and shot 49.4% from the field and 44.8% from three.

Ingram’s production on the court was enough for Utah to sign him for a second season. During this sophomore season, his production increased significantly. His playing time was almost doubled, going from 14.9 minutes per game to 27.5 minutes per game in the 2008-2009 season; this helped his production in all other aspects of his game double as well.

Ingram’s second season gained him some attention from the NBA; the Utah Jazz took notice and offered him a spot on their Summer League team in 2009.

“Going into that third season was probably the most critical season because if you want to make an overseas push at all, that is around the time you want to do it,” he said.

After his stint with the Jazz’s Summer League team, Ingram had to make a decision regarding his road in the D-League.

He received a “really good” offer to play for a team in Australia. But, at the same time, the Jazz told him that there was a good chance that they would call him up during the upcoming season, meaning that he would have to go back and play for the Utah Flash one more time in order to give it a shot.

Ingram, in the end, turned down the overseas offer. “I chose to stay in the D-League and I don’t regret it,” he said.

However, even after a another great season in which Ingram shot 45.6% from the field and 40.3 from three in 34.0 minutes per game, Ingram still did not get called up to play in the NBA.

Ingram said that the possibility of a chance to play in the NBA is one of the things that drove him, not only then, but now too. “Not all guys do [get a chance] and so when I had a shot, I wanted to take it,” he said.

His love of basketball also has pushed him to keep trying to make it to the NBA.

“I love playing ball and so I kind of decided that I was going to go until the wheels fall off,” he said.

Ingram’s Current Road

Ingram’s current season has by far been his most impressive. So far, he’s played in 41 games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and started 11 of them. He’s averaged 9.2 points on 48.0% shooting from the field and 48.9% from three in 24.5 minutes per game.

His shooting abilities even got him selected to participate in the D-League’s three-point contest at the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Canada. He made headlines when he not only won the contest by hitting 39 of 50 attempts (78.0%) in both rounds, but scored 27 points in the final round.

For reference as to how impressive that actually is, Klay Thompson, a member of the 2015 Champion Golden State Warriors and one of the best shooters in the NBA, tied that score later that night in the final round of the NBA’s version of the contest to beat his backcourt mate, reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, for the title.

As a result of his three-point contest victory and his performance on the court during the regular season, people have started to notice Ingram more. He’s had some contact with overseas teams about the possibility of playing as early as this summer once his current D-League season is over.

If this season has done anything, it has proven to Ingram that, at 30 years old, he can still significantly contribute to a team, something he hopes an NBA team will take note of.

“I still feel pretty good. I feel like I have many more years left in me,” he said.

Ingram does not know what future road his career will take him down. But, jut like his time in the D-League so far, he will make that future road his.