This season, we have seen 46 call-ups between 32 NBA D-League players. There have been a few success stories with players getting the call-up. Hassan Whiteside spent time with the Iowa Energy before signing long-term with the Miami Heat, Sean Kilpatrick from the Delaware 87ers to the Brooklyn Nets and Danny Green from the Reno Bighorns to the San Antonio Spurs are just a few of the many examples in years past of current NBA players who were called up mid-season.
Here is a list of the five best call-ups this season, in my opinion. Guys who have made an immediate impact with their respective call-ups and look to have a long-term future with the team. Only guys who have been called up during the 2016-2017 season are eligible for this list, so guys that were on the teams training camp and made the teams opening night roster will not be on the list unless they were waived in the preseason and signed on with another team during the season.
5. David Nwaba
- Team: Los Angeles Lakers
- D-League team: Los Angeles D-Fenders
- Date called up: February 28, 2017
- Season stats: 18 games (two starts), 5.6 points & 3.2 rebounds
David Nwaba started off his college career at Pacific Hawaii, but redshirted his freshman year and transferred to Santa Monica College. He transferred yet again this time California Polytechnic State University (or Cal Poly for short).
Nwaba ended up going undrafted this past year and joined the Reno Bighorns then traded to the L.A. D-Fenders of the NBA Developmental League. Nwaba was a big part of the team, showing off his athleticism. He averaged 14.1 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He has been receiving some decent playing time in the Lakers recent stretch and he can be a good defensive stopper for the team down the line. If he can develop a jump shot, he can be another successful D-League call-up story.
4. Archie Goodwin
- Teams: New Orleans Pelicans/Brooklyn Nets
- Dates called up: NO – November 7, 2016, BKN – March 15, 2017
- Season stats: 11 games, 6.8 points, 1.5 rebounds & 1.5 assists
Archie Goodwin had a decent start to his NBA career. He started his first three years with the Phoenix Suns after being selected 29th overall in 2013. As the years went on, the Suns brought in a lot of guards and Goodwin was released earlier this season. He signed a 10-day deal with the Pelicans but was not re-signed after playing in only three games with the team.
So far he has done well in his short time with a star-less powered Brooklyn Nets team. The athleticism is there, but much like David Nwaba, he needs to develop a more consistent jumper. He recently signed a multi-year deal after playing through two 10-day deals. Look for him to work on his shooting form to avoid being released for a third time in the calendar year.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie
- Team: Brooklyn Nets
- Date called up: December 8, 2016
- Season stats: 56 games (17 starts), 7.3 points, 2.8 rebounds & 3.2 assists
Spencer Dinwiddie was drafted with the 38th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He spent two years with the team, a majority of the time sitting on the bench and was traded to the Chicago Bulls at the beginning of the season but was let go before the season began.
He was one of the first few call-ups in the beginning of the year and has stuck with the Nets throughout the season and has been getting a lot of playing time. Between signing Sean Kilpatrick last year, to Archie Goodwin and Dinwiddie, Brooklyn has been able to find gems in the D-League. Not having draft picks for the next few seasons can help bring in talent from the minors. I am not saying Dinwiddie is the answer at point guard for the Nets, but he has to produce and can be a valuable role player going forward.
2. Jordan Crawford
- Team: New Orleans Pelicans
- Date called up: March 6, 2017
- Season stats: 16 games, 13.8 points, 1.8 rebounds & 2.8 assists
Jordan Crawford was last seen in and NBA uniform with the Golden State Warriors in 2014. He has spent time overseas and with a few teams in the D-League and has been on a scoring tear since joining New Orleans.
With the departure of Buddy Hield and the massive contracts, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have, New Orleans is looking for a cheap scoring guard and they might have found it with Crawford. He was determined to get back into the league and after bouncing around D-League teams, he has received one more shot in the NBA.
1. Yogi Ferrell
- Teams: Brooklyn Nets/Dallas Mavericks
- Dates called up: BKN – November 9, 2017, DAL – January 28, 2017
- Season stats: 43 games (26 starts), 9.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists & 0.9 steals
One of the feel-good stories in the NBA. After a great career at Indiana University, Ferrell was surprisingly undrafted. He spent the beginning of the season with the Long Island Nets and was called up by the Brooklyn Nets but was waived after his two 10-day deals were up. After spending more time back with the Long Island Nets, he was signed by the Dallas Mavericks and did not look back.
In his Mavericks debut, he scored nine point and four assists. He then followed up with 19, 11 and then exploded for 32 points. Immediately after his 10-day deal was up, he signed a multi-year deal with the Mavericks. Ferrell was one of the reasons why the team bought-out Deron Williams’ contract. The guard combination of Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell have been decent and with a full offseason with the team, we could see more things out of Ferrell next year as the team starts looking at a future without Dirk Nowitzki.
The D-League has been a key tool for some NBA teams in the recent year. For some, it is the last chance to prove to NBA teams that they can make an impact with whoever they sign. Let’s hope that these guys here prove to be valuable players for their respective ball clubs in the future. Teams are starting to notice more talent in the D-League and next year we could see a longer list of successful NBA call-ups.