(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.