The Nets’ two D-League assignees, Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike (Toko) Shengelia are continuing to play exceptionally well at a much lower level of basketball than the NBA. In Tyshawn’s most recent 3-game stint, he has had at least 21 points and 7 assists in every game and is averaging 26 points, 7.4 assists, and 4 rebounds with the Springfield Armor in 7 games with the Nets’ D-League Affiliate this year. Recently, he has also had some very athletic, impressive plays including a difficult reverse layup and a 360 dunk on a fast break.
Meanwhile, Toko Shengelia is also playing well. In his 3-game stint with Springfield, he has had at least 15 points and 5 rebounds in each game and had a 39 point-18 rebound game earlier in the season. In his 9 games with the team, he is averaging 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.
Despite Tyshawn and Toko, the Armor are in last place in their division coming off of the best season in their short history last year. Other players on the team who have had short stints in the NBA, including in preseason games, include Dennis Horner, Dominique Jones, Kris Joseph, Willie Reed, Carleton Scott, Ben Uzoh, and Edwin Ubiles. Although many of these players have only joined the Armor fairly recently, there is no question that the team has had a disappointing season.
Even though Tyshawn and Toko have played well in the D-League, I don’t think that the minor leagues of basketball are very comparable to the NBA. The biggest difference is defensive intensity. Most players in the D-League could make NBA rosters for their offense, but the defense is just so much worse. In Toko’s 9 games with the Armor, Springfield has scored at least 102 points in every game and has scored 110 or more 7 times. Despite the point production, Springfield is only 4-5 with Toko, meaning the Armor don’t play any defense either.
What does Tyshawn and Toko’s D-League production mean for the Nets? Could they be good NBA players some day? It is possible that each of them will eventually find their way onto permanent NBA rosters, but it is hard to imagine either of them starting for an NBA team. We have had glimpses of both players this year, more of Tyshawn than Toko, and both have been pretty erratic in limited minutes. Both should become more consistent in the future, but it is unlikely they will remain with the Nets because of their contracts.
Each only have one more year remaining on their rookie contracts and will be unrestricted free agents after that. Although they could choose to re-sign with the Nets, it is more likely that they will sign with one of the other 29 NBA teams or sign in Europe to have a more important role.