New D-League Stats Website Helps Fuel Debate
As my first year covering the NBA D-League, (and more importantly, the Santa Cruz Warriors) what's caught my attention the most is the sheer level of talent the D-League contains that in previous years it simply did not have. There have already been three GATORADE call-ups this season (not Powerade, ask Cam Jones about that), and with Malcolm Thomas reportedly being courted by the San Antonio Spurs, this season is already proving the quality of players participating this year in the NBA's 'minor-league system', (a stigma that is slowly fading away as more teams take the D-League seriously, assigning talent as opposed to 'sending them down') is better than that or previous seasons.
What's great about the D-League is their prospect watch, where you can track your favorite players and see just where they rank amongst the other talent vying for an NBA contract. The prospect watch has the top 30 players ranked in just a week of regular-season play, but while lists are always fun as they create/spark debate and discussion, surely there's a better way to compile rankings, right?
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of knowing just who to watch out for when players come to town, it definitely makes my job easier. If humanly possible, I would watch every single D-League game, no question (or at the very least, aside from the Santa Cruz team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers who rain down three-pointers like there's no tomorrow).
When I read a list that has Seth Curry ranked no. 13, what does that mean to me as a writer and a fan? How am I able to quantify that in a discussion with another prospective fan?
Me: 'Hey, Seth Curry is ranked the 13th best player in the D-League currently, isn't that awesome?'
Them: 'Cool, I guess. Hey, didn't he have a ton of turnovers that last game?'
In a league with over 170 players, being the 13th best is nothing to scoff at, but it's not a number that fans can relate to so easily. There has to be a better way to watch out for prospects, as well as keeping fans engaged while still creating discussion and debate. A few simple changes can go a long way to make the rankings much more exciting.
First, drop the number of players listed from 30 to 25. Obviously by dropping the number of players listed relegates some players to be dropped off, but at the same time it increases the value of those already on the prospect watch. No disrespect to those players at the bottom, but when nearly 32 players are called up on average over the last three seasons, most of those will find a way on the list, one way or another.Second, let's get rid of a straight list of just 30 players. Why not break it down by position? Let's have the top five players for each position. Why compile it that way? Two reasons; first, is easier accessibility to prospect information. If a fan's team needs to replace a point-guard, then they are going to want to know just who is the top point-guard of the D-League and thus more likely to obtain a call-up.
Second, who doesn't love a good debate? Imagine if it happens the two point-guards ranked on the prospect watch are facing off? Wouldn't that catch the attention of the fans to decide just who is better? What happens when the no. 2 center gets called-up over the top prospect? As a fan of sports, debate is at the epicenter of any discussion, and changing the format of the prospect watch can only spell good things for the league.
The adjustment of the lists will make it easier for fans to follow, let's change that discussion from earlier, again hypothetical.
Me: 'Hey, Seth Curry is ranked as the second-best PG in the D-League'
Them: 'Cool, who is number one?'
Me: ' Isaiah Canaan of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, according to the new stats page, his numbers are very similar but he's averaging more assists per game.'
And there's the discussion. Again, all hypothetical, especially when you look at the run-and-gun scheme of the Vipers (24 three-pointers made last night), allows for more opportunities for assists. The D-League's brand new stats page can help fuel that discussion as well. It's really a stats nerd's wet dream. You can compare a number of players side-by-side, bring up shot charts as well as efficiency ratings on the floor minute-by-minute. Let's remember, numbers never lie.
Again, the prospect watch creates debate already, why not improve on that debate given the new stats page? The possibilities are endless, and to engage the fans even more, the prospect watch format should change for the better. After all, what does Seth Curry ranked as no. 13 really mean in the big picture?