When Jeremy Lamb, Kendall Marshall, John Jenkins and Perry Jones heard NBA Commissioner David Stern call their names during the NBA Draft last June, they probably didn’t expect this bump in the road.
On Thursday, Lamb, out of UConn, and Marshall, from North Carolina, were among the latest in a parade of 2012 draft picks sent to the NBA D-League.
On Saturday, the Atlanta Hawks assigned both Jenkins, the No. 23 pick in the draft out of Vanderbilt, and Mike Scott of Virginia, the No. 43 pick, to the D-League.
And on Monday, the Oklahoma City Thunder sent down Perry Jones, the former Baylor star picked No. 28 in the draft.
All told, seven first-round picks from last year’s draft have been assigned to the D-League, and 13 drafted players overall. Only one of the seven first-rounders — Duke’s Miles Plumlee — spent four years in college.
“We’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of assignments this year,” Chris Alpert, Vice President of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel, told SNY.tv by phone.
“It certainly says a lot about the philosophy [of NBA franchises]. They see that the NBA D-League is a great place, a very competitive environment for players to accelerate their development as basketball players.”
Alpert said more first- and second-round picks could still be sent down to develop their games.
“I think they definitely could,” he said. “It’s just a question of each individual NBA team’s situation and whether they can afford to send them down. And when I saw afford, I mean is the team going on the road, is the player going to be playing at all over the next couple of weeks. And every NBA team’s situation is a little bit different.”
Earlier this year, the Boston Celtics sent No. 22 pick Fab Melo and No. 51 pick Kris Joseph, both of whom played at Syracuse, to the Maine Red Claws. (Joseph was recalled by the Celtics on Friday.)
Tony Wroten, the No. 25 pick out of Washington by the Memphis Grizzlies, and Plumlee, the No. 26 pick out of Duke by the Indiana Pacers, were also sent down.
In addition, former Santa Barbara star Orlando Johnson, the No. 36 pick of the Sacramento Kings; former Baylor star Quincy Miller, the No. 38 pick of the Denver Nuggets; former Tennessee Tech standout Kevin Murphy, the No. 47 pick of the Utah Jazz; former Marquette star Darius Johnson-Odom, the No. 55 pick of the Dallas Mavericks; and Robert Sacre, the No. 60 pick of the Los Angeles Lakers, were all sent down.
The Nets are also reportedly planning on sending rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas, the No. 41 pick, down soon.
The Knicks sent several of their training camp invites — Oscar Bellfield, Mychel Thompson and Henry Sims — to the Erie Bayhawks, but none have been recalled.
There is good news for guys in the D-League.
Last season, the D-League generated 60 NBA call-ups among 43 players, both records.
Some NBA teams have single-affiliation relationships with D-League teams, meaning they can assign and recall players as often as they want.
On Nov. 14, the Celtics assigned the former Syracuse stars Melo and Joseph to the Maine Red Claws, and Joseph recently told ESPNBoston.com he has benefitted from the experience.
“It’s cool, real cool,” he said. “It’s real good, going there, giving me an opportunity to play and work on some game-time things, not just practicing, playing in a real game under the whistle, so it’s been a great experience so far for these past two games.
“I’ve been through the process of being patient and waiting your turn, and right now I’m just really learning. I watch every game the Celtics play when I’m away, and when I’m here, I’m either at a game or here at practice or just trying to learn and keep getting better.”
Joseph averaged 25.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in his first two games, both wins, but told ESPNBoston he underestimated the talent in the D-League.
“You know, those guys down there are really good,” Joseph said. “Because even if you think about the guys on my team, I have Shelvin Mack who played with the Wizards and Chris Wright who got called to Golden State, Xavier Silas with the Sixers, so there’s a lot of talent in that league, and a lot of people, myself included — I didn’t know how good of a league it was before actually being a part of it. So, it’s been great. Being here and playing against these guys every day and going there definitely gave me a slight advantage, because I’m playing against some of the best in the world.”
Former Iona star Scott Machado, who went undrafted, was recently called up by the Houston Rockets after getting sent down and said he, too, benefitted.
In two games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Machado averaged 16.0 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.
“It was great,” Machado told the Houston Chronicle of his experience in the NBA D-League. “Something new. Something I had to get accustomed to. I made the best of it. I feel like going down there, since you haven’t played in games, you have to get the rust out. You try to get in game shape and try to develop so you can come back up here ready to play.”