For some reason, the NBA Development League expansion draft hasnt gotten much attention. OK, it hasnt gotten any attention. That didnt stop us from listening in to the conference call out of the D-League office as the Los Angeles D-Fenders were born.
Were also sure there are Lakers fans out there who care (at least a little) about what their junior varsity team will look like. The Lakers are the first NBA team to own and operate a minor-league affiliate, with the D-Fenders playing home games at Staples Center this season.
A couple of things to remember:
First of all, the D-Fenders drafted only the rights to these players should they choose to play in the D-League. The top players in the expansion draft could return to the D-League just as easily as they could opt to play overseas or make an NBA roster out of training camp. The top salaries in the D-League are a fraction what they are in Europe.
Second of all, the D-Fenders players are just as likely to be called up to the other 29 NBA teams during the season as they are to be called up to the Lakers. Jerry Buss might be signing the checks but the Clippers or Kings could come calling if they need a guard for a 10-day contract.
The Lakers will be able to sign a maximum of four players from todays expansion draft. The D-League has a Nov. 2 draft – - after NBA rosters are finalized – - for all of its teams to select players who have signed contracts with the league. Training camp opens Nov. 12 and the regular season begins Nov. 24.
There were two priceless moments during the draft. The first came when the league needed to clarify that a D-Fenders pick named Kevin Johnson is better known as Butter Johnson. Thats the type of thing youd just love to hear David Stern have to say.
The second came as Colorado tried to draft Kevin Lyde for a second time in the ninth round. The league office noted that Lyde already had been taken: Selected by your team, I must add.? A career lowpoint has to be getting selected TWICE in the D-League expansion draft.
Its hard to find a ton of info about some of these guys, but here are the D-Fenders picks. They started in the first round with Duane Erwin, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward who played last season for Florida and Fayetteville, averaging 7.7 points and 7.6 rebounds.
They selected three players with NBA experience, although theres no guarantee any of them will decide to play in the D-League. The first of the three was forward Hiram Fuller, who played on a 10-day contract once with the Atlanta Hawks.
Fuller was one of the last players cut by the Washington Wizards in training camp last October. He played with Florida in the D-League before finishing last season with Pau-Orthez of the Euroleague.
The D-Fenders took Brian Chase, a 5-foot-10 guard who played three games with Roanoke but spent most of last season with Gary (Ind.) of the CBA. Chase scored 47 points in one game with the Steelheads.
The previously mentioned Butter Johnson was their fourth-round pick and Josh Gross was their fifth-round pick. Of course, Mitch Kupchak had to select a former North Carolina player, so the D-Fenders took guard Jackie Manuel in the sixth round.
Manuel played on the Tar Heels 2005 national championship team and has a reputation for being an aggressive defender. He played for Fayetteville last season and went to Orlando as part of the Chicago Bulls summer-league team.
In the seventh round, the D-Fenders drafted forward Erik Daniels, who played 21 games with the Sacramento Kings in the 2004-05 season. He averaged 17.6 points and 8.1 rebounds with Fayetteville last season and played for the Orlando Magic summer-league team.
The eighth-round pick was forward Isiah Victor, an all-league selection in 2005 who played for the Lakers summer-league team in 2001. Victor averaged 18.8 points for Roanoke last season but might not be interested in returning to the D-League.
Forward Reed Rawlings, taken in the ninth round, is familiar to former Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Rawlings went to training camp with the Houston Rockets after he was not drafted out of Samford. He played 10 games with Florida last season.
For their final pick, the D-Fenders took Crenshaw High product Tremaine Fowlkes, who has played in parts of four NBA seasons with three teams. Fowlkes played in the CBA, the IBL and Venezuela before getting his chance with the Clippers in the 2001-02 season.
The complete expansion draft can be found on the D-League Web site.