Vipers Shrink In The Showcase
Last week was one of the premier events in the NBA D-League season, the annual league Showcase. It features a full slate of games in one city, and increased exposure to NBA, and more mainstream sports fans. Unfortunately, the Vipers did not play their best basketball on the national stage. They did not have a single player placed on the All-Showcase First Team, Second Team, or Honorable Mention.
Cold three point shooting was partially to blame, including a 4/26 night against Texas and 10/40 vs. the Iowa Energy. The scoring has been well distributed, but no single player was able to put the team on his back and hit that extra gear. Jarvis Threatt and Joshua Smith were pleasant surprises in the scoring department. Gary Payton II (Check out his sick, pre-Showcase highlight reel below) showed his crazy athleticism. But, the Vipers were outscored in the fourth quarter of each of their three consecutive losses, and never exceeded 110 points.
The team needs its high-tempo attack and three-point shooting to beat teams. Joshua Smith is a good player down low, and Chinanu Onuaku’s effective offensively, but the Vipers offense is not one predicated on dropping the ball into the post. Without Isaiah Taylor’s explosive scoring and consistent finishing at the rim, the team will continue to rely on a balanced scoring attack, an opportunistic defense and some above-average nights from beyond the arc.
The Three Most Venomous Vipers:
Joshua Smith: The slimmed down, but still giant, center for RGV was a handful to deal with over the past week. He went for 27 points and 12 rebounds in the Vipers’ last win.
Chris Johnson: The No. 17 ranked player on the D-League’s Prospect Watch has been a versatile offensive threat since joining the team early in the season. He can knock down threes, or attack the basket, and is the type of veteran presence the Vipers need.
JP Tokoto: Many would have assumed Gary Payton II would be the best defender on RGV this season, but JP Tokoto has stated his case time and time again. Totaling 15 steals over only four games last week, the former Tar Heel is a game-changer on that side of the ball. He’s also been pretty consistent offensively lately, putting up two 20-plus point games last week.
Rental Rockets Report:
Chinanu Onuaku: 15.6 PPG & 10 RPG over the past four games. He had a great game against Austin, finishing with 20 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, all despite having five personal fouls.
Kyle Wiltjer: Did not play with the Vipers last week.
Upcoming Must-See Matchups:
1/27 vs. Reno Bighorns
The Vipers visit Reno and the No. 5 scorer in the league, Lamar Patterson.
2/2, 2/10, 2/11 vs Sioux Falls Skyforce
Three chances in two weeks to see the No. 1 prospect in the D-League, Briante Weber, if he hasn’t been called up by then.