The Tulsa 66ers are on the Clock

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The D-League Draft will unfold tonight in Atlanta. Nobody is more excited than Ridiculous Upside, who has the full draft list published on the site. Nobody, that is, except the D-League's Vice President of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel, Chris Alpert. True Hoop had a chance to chat with Alpert ahead of tonight's big event:

Who are some of the real prizes in this year's draft?

Overall, we have many talented prospects...Some names that will potentially be called during the first round include Smush Parker, Jermareo Davidson, James White, Derrick Byars, Chris Richard, James Mays, Tierre Brown, and David Noel.

How is this year's talent pool different from previous years? More international players?

This year appears to be the most talented group of prospects we've ever had for the draft. Each year we seem to attract more and more international players. Players across the globe recognize that the NBA D-League affords players the ability to develop their skills in a highly competitive environment and to gain valuable exposure to NBA scouts to possibly get a call-up.

There are more D-League teams...and that means more roster spots. How is the league dealing with expanding the talent pool?

We are casting a wider net when it comes to identifying prospects. We scout year round and have included international camps to our yearly scouting trips. There are a large number of talented players in the world and we try to leave no stone unturned when it comes to identifying prospects for the NBA D-League.

About how many players are entering the draft this year with NBA experience?

We have approximately 15-20 players in the draft with NBA experience. This is encouraging as those players view our league as the fastest way back to the NBA.

What are the big challenges for the D-League's 2008-09 season?

One of the biggest challenges will be to increase the number of call-ups and assignments from last season. During the 2007-08 season, we set records for the number of NBA call-ups (29) and the number of assignments (54). NBA teams have shown a tremendous amount of confidence in the NBA D-League by assigning their first and second year players to our league to gain valuable game playing experience, while also calling up our players when they need NBA caliber players to add to their rosters.

There must be something a little bittersweet about call-ups. On one hand, it's great to see a D-Leaguer make it to the Association; on the other hand, it has to be tough to lose dynamic players and crowd-pleasers, yes?

One of the main functions of the NBA D-League is to develop players for the NBA. Losing a player to a call-up is bittersweet, as you say, since we are losing a top quality prospect. However, what we have found is that losing that player provides another player with an opportunity to step in and show what he can do.

In baseball, every drafted rookie almost without exception spends some time getting at-bats in the Minors. In the NBA, though, most drafted rookies get splinters riding the pine. Do you think we'll see a day where it won't be unusual for a stacked pro team to send their highly regarded mid-first-rounder to their D-League affiliate so he can get more minutes?

Our goal is to build the perfect minor league system for the game of basketball. We have already seen NBA teams that have drafted players in the first round and assigned them to the D-League. Gerald Green, Martell Webster, Daequan Cook are just some examples. As NBA teams become more comfortable with the assignment system, I think we will see more first round picks being assigned.

Mike Taylor has been dazzling Clipper fans this season -- present company included -- and has emerged as a real fan favorite.

Mike Taylor is a perfect example of what the NBA D-League can do for a player. He was a relative unknown last season and decided to play in the D-League. He developed his skills, learned to play the pro game and worked hard to become a NBA prospect. In just one year, he went from a relative unknown to a second round pick in the NBA. While the NBA D-League provided him the platform to showcase his skills, he put in the time and worked on his game and it paid off.

The D-League has emerged as a solid proving ground for players. Do you think we'll see more "call-ups for coaches"?

We have already seen over 20 former NBA D-League coaches go on to NBA coaching or front office positions. This is a trend we feel will continue. Our coaching staffs are developing just like the players and they will be provided NBA opportunities as well.

How have the crowds been in the D-League's mid-size cities? What would a courtside seat cost me?

Our attendance is up 20 percent, and our crowds have been great - for three reasons: The basketball as fantastic, the game experience is interactive and exciting, and our ticket prices are affordable. Tickets start as low as $4.00 in some cities. And, fans can get close to the action, sitting courtside for around $100.