Santa Cruz Warriors (5-2) vs. Bakersfield Jam (8-4)
Time: 5:00 p.m. PST
Where: Kaiser Permanente Arena - Santa Cruz, CA
Video feed: YouTube
After starting the season on a 7-game road trip while Kaiser Permanente Arena was still under construction, the Santa Cruz Warriors will play their inaugural home game tonight at 5 p.m. against the Bakersfield Jam.
At 5-2, Santa Cruz enters tonight's game at first place in the Western Conference with the Jam only .5 games behind in second place. Bakersfield won the only previous meeting between the two teams with the aid of three NBA assignees: Phoenix Suns lottery pick Kendall Marshall, Atlanta Hawks first round pick John Jenkins and Hawks second rounder Mike Scott. As reported by Keith Schlosser of SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside, the steady flow of NBA talent into Bakersfield this season has been one of the major benefits of being the affiliate for four NBA teams.
While none of those NBA assignees will be available to Bakersfield tonight, Santa Cruz will have the help of two assignees of their own: Golden State Warriors players Kent Bazemore and Jeremy Tyler. Yet another potentially NBA-caliber player to watch is 6'11" Jam center Brian Butch, who Ridiculous Upside has recently added to their Top 10 NBA prospects list while describing him as a potential NBA "stretch post".
What makes him a standout prospect is his intriguing skill set. He shoots 36% three-point land, a skill that can stretch defenses and pull opposing big men away from the basket.
Averaging a double-double performance and showing talent behind the 3-point arc should get the attention of NBA teams in need of a big man who can also score from the perimeter.
With Santa Cruz featuring a pair of Golden State posts who were with the team during the grim end to the 2011-12 season - Tyler and 6-foot-11 center Mickell Gladness - the post matchup will probably be the one to watch. Bakersfield guard Jerel McNeal, who had only a modest performance against Santa Cruz the first time around due to all the NBA assignees on the roster, is another player to watch as someone who has played well as a starter in recent games and might see some time head-to-head against Bazemore.