Spurs recall Daye

The San Antonio Spurs recalled Austin Daye from the D-League after his one-game stint with the Austin Toros.

Daye finished with a double-double (27 points, 13 rebounds) in the Toros’ 15-point loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last night.

Daye will be available against the Utah Jazz tonight, though he may be inactive if the Spurs decide to play with a full roster.

Toros lose to Vipers, near playoff elimination

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers converted 21 3-pointers in the 128-115 victory against the Austin Toros.

Rio Grande scored 126 points in the paint, behind the arc and from the free throw line — the most efficient zones on the floor. The Vipers’ top-ranked offense is averaging 112.8 points per 100 possessions this season, all without a stingy defense. Rio Grande compensates on that end by hoisting a high volume of 3-pointers (they attempted 42 against Austin), pushing the pace and, subsequently, the opposition to their limits.

Rio Grande surpassed the 100-point threshold in the third quarter. The Vipers led 102-89 after three quarters.

Austin drew a tie in the final quarter, just about the only victory in a game Rio Grande led from the very beginning. Five Toros finished in double-figures, including Austin Daye, on assignment from the San Antonio Spurs, who finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Caldwell “Squeaky” Johnson chipped in with 20 points off the bench.

Austin is eight games behind the eight-seeded Iowa Energy. The Toros have eight games remaining, and they are teetering on the edge of playoff contention. They need to win each game and hope for help — a lot of help — just to stay alive.

Spurs assign Daye to Toros

The San Antonio Spurs assigned forward Austin Daye to the Austin Toros.

Daye will be available against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Daye, acquired in a trade on Feb. 20 for Nando De Colo, appeared in two games with the Spurs. In his three minutes, Daye shot 66.7 percent from the field with a 86.4 Player Efficiency Rating.

With the Spurs at maximum health, and the roster at full occupancy, Daye will have ample time to play with the Toros in the meantime. There will be better Dayes (sorry).

Scouting the Reno Bighorns

Tip: 9:00 p.m., Reno Events Center, Reno, NV
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record: 23-14, first in West Division
Off. efficiency: 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 9th
Def. efficiency: 103.3, 6th
Net rating: +1.8, 7th
Pace: 99.3 possessions per game, 15th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 52.0, 4th
Turnover pct: 18.8, 15th
Off. rebound pct: 31.2, 4th
FTA rate: .345, 3rd
Opp. effective FG pct: 50.7, 7th
Opp. turnover pct: 18.4, 3rd
Def. rebound rate 70.8, 12th
Opp. FTA rate: .320, 11th

The leaders

Points: K.C. Rivers, 17.0
Rebounds: Mo Charlo, 7.9
Assists: Sundiata Gaines, 4.6
Blocks: Mickell Gladness, 2.2
Steals: Charlo, 1.5

Summary

Prior to Jan. 1, the Reno Bighorns were 7-7, stuck in the uncomfortable malaise of the D-League. Since, they’ve won 16 of their last 23 games, putting them within two games of the top seed in the D-League playoffs.

In this stretch, Reno has been the best team in the D-League by any objective measure. Winning percentage? Yup, they are first with 69.6 percent in this span. Net rating? Yup, they are first with +6.3. Reno is just a few ticks behind the Sioux Falls Skyforce in defensive rating, otherwise they’d be leading in that facet as well. Reno has built a healthy lead in the playoffs, primarily by beating down the non-playoff teams. Of the nine games against current playoff teams in this stretch, Reno won four. They have completely demolished the lower rung teams of the D-League, though; those poor teams lost 14 of 16 matchups against Reno.

Where they excel

Creating turnovers. Reno creates a turnover on 18.8 percent of their opponents possessions, third in the D-League, and they score 22 points per 100 possessions off these turnovers. Turnovers typically create transition possessions and transition possessions are typically more efficient than half-court possessions; Reno is a top five team in effective field goal percentage, free throw rate and offensive rebounding rate because transition opportunities engender plenty of good chances to score.

Where they struggle

Fouling. Reno has improved a tad since Jan. 1, but they still foul way too often, at least for a respectable defense. They’ve found a healthy middle ground apparently, and they still are sixth in points allowed per possession, despite a high foul rate. But Reno’s defense is still very contingent on turnover creation, and along with being poor on the defensive glass, Reno’s defense could fail miserably against the better teams in the D-League.

Player to watch

Sundiata Gaines. He has some NBA experience in his pocket, though he’s 27, and he doesn’t have much time to find a career in the NBA before the wheels fall off athletically.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

Toros score season-high in win against Iowa

The Austin Toros scored a season-high 131 points in their 33-point victory against the Iowa Energy.

Through three quarters, Austin led by 43 points. They shot 56.8 percent from the field, along with 10 3-pointers. Austin exceeded 30 points in three consecutive quarters.

Iowa scored 29 points in the final frame, cutting the final margin to 33 points.

Six Toros reached double-digits, and the entire roster scored at least six points in the win. Flip Murray’s 20 points led the team. Jazwyn Cowan (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Dexter Pittman (17 points, 11 rebounds) recorded a pair of double-doubles. Austin outscored Iowa by 35 points in Courtney Fells’ 24 minutes.

Prior to last night, Austin had lost 10 of their last 13 games. The Toros, last in the Central Division, sit seven games behind the eighth-seeded Santa Cruz Warriors.

Scouting the Bakersfield Jam

Tip: 7:30 p.m., Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record: 13-23, fifth in East Division
Off. efficiency: 102.9 points per 100 possessions, 12th
Def. efficiency: 105.8, 10th
Net rating: -2.9, 15th
Pace: 104.1 possessions per game, 5th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 51.6, 5th
Turnover pct: 21.0, 17th*
Off. rebound pct: 32.6, 2nd
FTA rate: .347, 4th
Opp. effective FG pct: 50.9, 9th
Opp. turnover pct: 15.7, 13th
Def. rebound rate 73.2, 4th
Opp. FTA rate: .297, 5th

The leaders

Points: Terrel Harris, 17.3
Rebounds: Ike Diogu, 8.6
Assists: Jerel McNeal, 5.0
Blocks: Damion James, 1.1
Steals: McNeal, 2.5

Summary

Bakersfield is 2-8 in their last 10 games, and they have allowed 109 points per 100 possessions in this span, equivalent to the Texas Legends’ 16th-ranked defense. But, oddly enough, Bakersfield has improved two spots in defensive efficiency, limiting opponents to 26.2 attempts per game in the restricted area, the second-lowest mark in this span. The Jam have been decimated from the perimeter though; the opposition is averaging 30.7 3-pointers per game — seven from the corners, the second juiciest spot on the floor — in the last 10 games, a disparaging amount enough to make up for any gains in the paint.

The Jam have the third lowest winning percentage in the D-League, but they are not a complete black hole akin to the Erie Blackhawks and Delaware 87ers. They have some things going for them, namely their rebounding proficiency (tops in the D-League) and shooting percentage. Their net rating (-2.9) is 15th, in line with their current record, but they are much closer to the 23-14 Fort Wayne Mad Ants than the 11-30 Delaware 87ers, in terms of net rating.

Where they excel

Rebounding. Individually, they do not have an elite rebounder. Collectively, Bakersfield is a handful on both ends of the floor. The Jam corral 32.6 percent of their own misses, the second-highest percentage in the league, and 73.2 percent of their opponents misses, good for fourth.

Where they struggle

Taking care of the ball. Bakersfield mitigates the extra possessions they create on the offensive glass — and, subsequently, limits the opponents possessions on the defensive glass — with turnovers. They have turned the ball over on 21 percent of their possessions, the worst rate in the D-League. Opponents score 23.4 points (per 100 possessions) off turnovers, also the worst rate in the D-League. It’s a problem big enough to hurt a defense that otherwise fares well in most statistical categories.

Player to watch

Ike Diogu. He has plenty of NBA experience, and he registered 13 points and 22 rebounds against Texas in his last outing. The Toros are the third-worst rebounding team, in terms of percentage. Diogu could have a field day, especially against a team bereft of frontcourt players.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

* There are only 17 teams in the D-League.

D-League players on “draft list” can be acquired by affliate

Beginning with the 2014-15 D-League season, NBA D-League players on a NBA teams’s “draft list” can be directly acquired by the affiliate of the NBA team that holds his draft rights, the D-League announced.

The rule allows D-League players to forgo the D-League draft and waiver wire, while giving them the opportunity to immediately play for the D-League affiliate at any point of the season. If they join the affiliate during the season, the team has 24 hours to claim or renounce his draft rights.

The old rule only protected a few players, specifically the ones cut from a NBA team’s training camp, and even so, the NBA team could not own their draft rights to protect them. The new rule safeguards the affiliate, and perhaps incentives NBA teams to utilize their D-League team effectively.

“More easily enabling an NBA D-League player on an NBA team’s ‘draft list’ to join that team’s NBA D-League affiliate is a very important step in the continued evolution of our development system,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “As more and more NBA teams are investing in their own exclusive NBA D-League affiliate, this rule change will lead to improved development opportunities that will benefit our players and the league as a whole.”

The NBA plans on adding D-League teams in the future, ideally expanding it to 30 teams, and giving each NBA team an individual affiliate. Until then, the D-League will not be a “true” minor league system, but they are making inroads every year.

Perhaps in the near future, a superstar kid will seriously consider entering the D-League and forgoing a traditional college basketball path.

Scouting the Maine Red Claws

Tip: 3:00 p.m., Portland Expo Building, Portland, ME
Streaming: YouTube, CBS Sports Network

Background

Record: 15-21, fourth in East Division
Off. efficiency: 99.9 points per 100 possessions, 16th
Def. efficiency: 101.0, 3rd
Net rating: -1.1, 11th
Pace: 101.8 possessions per game, 10th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 49.4, 14th
Turnover pct: 18.6, 14th
Off. rebound pct: 28.0, 9th
FTA rate: .337, 5th
Opp. effective FG pct: 48.2, 1st
Opp. turnover pct: 16.3, 11th
Def. rebound rate 71.0, 12th
Opp. FTA rate: .314, 10th

The leaders

Points: Frank Gaines, 20.1
Rebounds: Chris Wright, 7.6
Assists: Abdul Gaddy, 4.4
Blocks: Ty Walker, 3.5
Steals: Chris Babb, 1.2

Summary

The Maine Red Claws are 3-7 in their last 10 games, dropping to third in the East Division and 5.5 games behind the eight-seeded Los Angeles D-Fenders. The D-League’s third stingiest defense, allowing 101 points per 100 possessions this year, has allowed 106.5 in this stretch.

A deeper look at the schedule reveals a startling truth: Maine, a below .500 team prior to Feb. 1, was never an especially good team to begin with. The Red Claws played five playoff teams (three against Canton, two against Reno) and another against a team on the cusp of playoff contention, the Idaho Stampede. Perhaps Maine’s defense isn’t good enough to clamp down on the best teams in the D-League.

Where they excel

Maine’s defense gets by while ranking in the bottom half of turnover percentage, defensive rebounding and free throw rate, particularly because they limit the best shots on the floor — shots at the rim and the restricted area. Maine is first in effective field goal percentage, the most important factor of the “Four Factors”, and they allow the fewest 3-point attempts in the D-League.

Where they struggle

Maine’s 16th-ranked offense is rough around the edges, but it isn’t completely terrible. The Red Claws take a lot of 3-pointers, which in itself is a good starting point if you want to build an efficient offense. The problem lies in their ball security or lack thereof; the Red Claws turn the ball over on 18.6 percent of their possessions, the fourth-highest percentage in the D-League. Turnovers inhibit any well-meaning offense, especially one that doesn’t do many other things well.

Player to watch

Ty Walker. He’s a 6-foot-11 center blocking 3.5 shots per game. Maine’s defense is 4.3 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats

Toros acquire Ben Strong

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The Austin Toros acquired center Ben Strong, who will be available tonight against the Springfield Armor. Strong will wear the No. 23.

Strong, a 6-11 center, has appeared in 114 D-League games. He’s averaged 6.8 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes per game over three seasons. Strong averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in his recent stop with the Delaware 87ers.

Strong, the NCAA’s Division III Player of the Year in 2006-07, averaged 25.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game with Guilford College.

The Toros, with Josh Howard on the inactive list, have nine active players, including Strong.

Austin begins a three-game road trip tonight against the Armor. Live streaming of every Toros game is available on YouTube.

Scouting the Springfield Armor

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Tip: 6:00 p.m., MassMutual Center, Springfield, MA
Streaming: YouTube

Background

Record: 13-21, fourth in East Division
Off. efficiency: 103.2 points per 100 possessions, 10th
Def. efficiency: 107.4, 14th
Net rating: -4.1, 15th
Pace: 98.3 possessions per game, 16th

Four factors

Effective FG pct: 50.2, 12th
Turnover pct: 16.5, 8th
Off. rebound pct: 27.9, 10th
FTA rate: .315, 9th
Opp. effective FG pct: 52.1, 14th
Opp. turnover pct: 15.6, 13th
Def. rebound rate 72.4, 7th
Opp. FTA rate: .291, 3rd

The leaders

Points: Darius Johnson-Odom, 23.5
Rebounds: Willie Reed, 8.4
Assists: Johnson-Odom, 5.4
Blocks: Reed, 1.6
Steals: Larry Anderson, 1.9

Summary

Prior to the February, the Springfield Armor and Delaware 87ers were vying for D-League un-supremacy — both had seven wins, and ranked in the bottom half in offensive and defensive efficiency. The tides have turned in February, favoring Springfield.

Springfield is 6-4 in February, while Delaware is 4-4, impressive given their inability to defend. There’s a caveat: Springfield is 0-3 against current playoff teams and 6-1 against non-playoff teams. Another caveat: Seven of their 10 games have resulted in a “clutch” situation and they’ve been crushed by 15.7 points (per 100 possessions) in the 23 minutes … and they’ve won four of the seven games. Wonky stuff. Not to take away from their best stretch of the season, but Springfield still looks very much like the doormat they were in November, December and January.

Where they excel

Mid-range shooting. Analytics has devalued mid-range shots — they are just worth two points, but they are converted less often than shots in the paint and, while they are closer than 3-pointers, their return on investment is much lower — but there is some value in forcing the defense to, well, defend the mid-range area. It opens up other more efficient shots on the floor. Springfield doesn’t generate the more efficient shots very often, ranking in the bottom five in restricted area, corner 3-pointers and above-the-break 3-pointers, but alas. At least they convert mid-range shots at a 41.3 percent clip, the highest percentage in the D-League.

Where they struggle

Protecting the rim. Opponents average 33.6 shots in the restricted area against Springfield and, once they arrive at the deadliest spot on the floor, they convert on 62.9 percent. Springfield allows 51 points (per 100 possessions) in the paint, the third-highest rate in the D-League. The rest of their defense isn’t particularly good either, but protecting the rim is perhaps their most glaring weakness. But, hey, at least they don’t foul very often? I guess?

Player to watch

Darius Johnson-Odom. He’s second on the D-League’s prospect rankings, behind Los Angeles’ Manny Harris, and he leads the team in points and assists. Springfield’s offense is 8.1 points (per 100 possessions) better when he’s on the floor.

Stats: NBA D-League/Stats