Whiteside is the quintessential D-League success story. While he wasn’t completely off the NBA radar when he left Marshall for the NBA Draft (selected by Sacramento Kings with 33rd overall pick in 2010), it was evident he needed more time to develop.
Whiteside spent most of his first four professional years in the D-League with stops in Reno, Sioux Falls, Rio Grande Valley and Iowa (also played overseas). It only took four D-League games in 2014 for NBA scouts to notice how much he had grown as a player. Whiteside averaged 21.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 5.0 blocks with the Energy and Skyforce combined that year before joining the Miami Heat.
Gobert was an unpolished and raw 21-year-old when he was drafted into the NBA. Nobody really knew what to expect of him and whether he would be able to secure a spot in the league. It didn’t take long after getting assigned to the Bakersfield Jam that Gobert would help scouts realize he was a worthy first round draft selection.
In eight D-League games in 2013-14, Gobert averaged 13.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
Lin is the diamond in the rough that every team dreams of capturing. Off the radar almost completely during his high school (Palo Alto) and college (Harvard) playing days, Lin had to prove he belonged in the NBA during summer workouts.
The Golden State Warriors decided to give Lin a chance by signing him to a non-fully guaranteed two-year contract n 2010. It was there that the D-League became the center of Lin’s growth. He was assigned to the Reno Bighorns multiple times and in 20 games he averaged 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals.
The very next year while with the New York Knicks Lin transformed into “Linsanity.”
Not too long before helping the San Antonio Spurs reach back-to-back NBA Finals (2013 and 2014), Green was tearing it up in the D-League . He was acquired by Reno in 2011 and in 16 games with the Bighorns averaged 20.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
The Spurs, who had already had Green on their roster earlier that season, felt he made the progress they were looking for and re-signed him. Green did play one more game in the D-League with the Austin Toros before securing his spot in San Antonio.
While his name was familiar to many because of his older brother’s accomplishments, Curry was far less coveted when he graduated from Duke in 2013. He went undrafted and had to prove he deserved to play in the same league as his superstar sibling.
NBA teams started to take notice after his stint with the Santa Cruz Warriors. The Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers each signed him to temporary contracts. Then, while with the Erie BayHawks, Curry showed how much he had improved and was named a two-time D-League All-Star. He averaged 23.8 points and 4.3 assists in 43 games for Erie in 2014-15.
Curry has now found a home in Dallas with the Mavs after stops in Phoenix and Sacramento.
Green was another player that didn’t get drafted and was pretty much off the radar after starring at Alabama. Many assumed his power, athleticism and agility in college wouldn’t translate in the pros. The D-League made the skeptics reconsider.
Green averaged 23.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in 20 games in 2014-15 with the Austin Toros and was named a D-League All-Star. He also had played for the Toros two seasons earlier. Green then took advantage of his opportunity with the Grizzlies when injuries started piling up and now’s he a consistent starter.
Many forget that Gortat spent some time in the D-League while with the Magic. He appeared in five games with the Anaheim Arsenal in 2007 and averaged 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. This opportunity helped him become a more reliable backup to Dwight Howard in Orlando.
Well before he transformed into a quality role player and journeyman in the NBA, Watson was an All-Star in the D-League. He shined for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in 2007-08 and averaged 26.3 points, 5.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 16 games.
Capela spent most of his rookie season in the D-League with the Vipers. He played in 38 games and averaged 16.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. It’s especially helpful for guys coming from overseas to get acquainted to the NBA culture in a setting with far less pressure and expectations.
The D-League helped resurrect Green’s basketball career. After failed stops in Boston, Minnesota, Houston and Dallas during the early stages of his time in the NBA, Green relied on experiences overseas and in the D-League to get his game back on track.
While with the Los Angeles D-Fenders in 2011-12, Green averaged 19.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 22 games and was named a D-League All-Star. Since then, he has become a very dependable role player in the NBA.
Kilpatrick went from averaging 13.9 points in his first year in the D-League to 26.8 points the very next season. He was a D-League All-Star last season while playing for the Delaware 87ers and now he’s one of Brooklyn’s most promising young players.
Ferrell has been one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises this season. Before signing with the Mavs, Ferrell flourished in the D-League with the Long Island Nets. In 18 games, he averaged 18.7 points, 5.8 assists and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.
Earlier this season the Heat won an incredible 13 straight games. During that streak, McGruder scored in double figures five times. The D-League gave McGruder an opportunity to show that he belonged in the NBA. Last season with the Skyforce, he averaged 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 48 games and helped lead Sioux Falls to a D-League championship.
Jose Juan Barea
Barea was a huge factor in Dallas’ championship run in 2011. A few years earlier he was in the D-League. In 2006-17 after getting assigned to the Fort Worth Flyers, Barea averaged 27.3 points, 7.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds.
Mills is expected to play a major role in this year’s playoffs with the Spurs. He’s a terrific 3-point shooter and very crafty. In 2009-10 while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, Mills was assigned to the Idaho Stampede to help rehab a foot injury. He posted 38 points and 12 assists in his first game with the Stampede and averaged 25.6 points and 5.4 assists in five games.