After a second consecutive run to the NBA D-League finals, Santa Cruz Warriors Seth Curry and Hilton Armstrong earned All-NBA D-League honors yesterday.
Curry earned All-NBA D-League Third Team and All-D-League Rookie First Team honors while Armstrong, now playing with the Golden State Warriors, was selected to the All-NBA D-League Second Team and All-NBA D-League Defensive Team.
NBA D-League Announces All-League, Rookie Teams
The NBA D-League announced the selections for its All-NBADL teams across the league, honoring the top prospects they have to offer. The Santa Cruz Warriors
Curry, who averaged 19.7 points and 5.8 assists per game this season, is best-known for his shooting touch that runs through his family and helped make a mark in the Santa Cruz record books with a 44-point performance against the L.A. Defenders on April 10. That scoring ability was arguably the primary thing that earned him a pair of NBA opportunities with the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers this season.
However, Santa Cruz coach Casey Hill commended Curry for his development on the defensive side of the ball in an interview with Golden State of Mind earlier today.
"He came in with very little experience at the point guard position," Hill said when asked what stood out to him about Curry's season. "And I thought that the physicality of the position really kind of threw him for a loop. There was a lot more contact involved in playing the position than he had really anticipated. Being the starting point and having to guard the other team's point guard, he's getting screened by 250 pound big men almost every time down the floor. So I think that was a bit of a shock to him and it showed: he struggled early on to guard pick and rolls and I told him early on that was going to be one of the biggest things that was going to hold him back. And to his credit he got way better at that throughout the season."
Strength and defensive ability are probably the most noticeable aspects of Curry's game that has to be improved, but so is the intangible quality of learning to lead a pro team. Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside mentioned in a piece about Curry's chances with the Cavs that he needed to embrace the role of floor general in terms of balancing his role as a scorer and distributor. Hill echoed that sentiment as he reflected upon Curry's season and what he needs to become a NBA contributor in addition to reinforcing the issue of dealing with physicality.
"I told him at the end of this season that this summer is really important for him and he needs to continue to work and stay in the gym and get stronger and things like that and the opportunities will certainly come," Hill said. "He needs to get a little bit stronger and his presence on the floor needs to be a little bit more pronounced. But I think he's a NBA player, no doubt."
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While Curry has plenty to look forward to in the future, Armstrong is at a very different point in his career as a 29-year-old still looking to establish himself as a NBA contributor.
As described in the Santa Cruz release about the honors, Armstrong appeared in 32 games with the Warriors during the 2013-14 season, averaging 12.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.75 blocks while shooting 55.9 percent from the field. But numbers and defensive presence aside, Hill values Armstrong for his maturity at least as much as his numbers, especially when it comes to his value to Golden State.
"The one thing that Hilton's got that's very difficult to find in guys is the level of maturity and experience he has as the vet that he is is kind of difficult to find in the D-League or in free agency," Hill said. "I think that he kind of understands his role coming in. Like the perfect example: last night (in Golden State's win against the L.A. Clippers), he went into the game at the end of the third quarter for a minute and then he came out and immediately put his warm-up on. Like he knew he was coming out of the game: he didn't go sit down on the bench expecting to play. He didn't get ticked off - he understands that. And that's a very important piece to have when you bring in a guy like Hilton or someone who's replacing one of your pieces that's hurt to have."
While Hill highlighted the 19 seconds that Armstrong played in at the end of the third quarter, his longer stint at the end of the second half was neither more glamorous nor exciting and maybe even a bit humorous: Armstrong came in at the end of the second and immediately committed a Hack-A-Jordan foul after which DeAndre Jordan missed two free throws (again). In retaliation, the Clippers played Hack-A-Hilton and put Armstrong on the line where he missed a pair. Again, he immediately came out of the game and graciously took his spot.
It would be easy for a veteran in Armstrong's role to reject this transitory life between being a D-League star and six fouls (or less) on a NBA bench, but he's made a name for himself by doing things the right way with a positive attitude regardless of his oscillating role in pro basketball that sometimes shifts in response to players with far less experience - that maturity to seize whatever opportunity he's given is something Schlosser noted in a Ridiculous Upside article just this morning and something Hill discussed in his GSoM interview as well.
"When he comes down to us, he's not only playing to stay in shape or whatever it is to go back up to Golden State - he doesn't have any ties directly to Golden State so he can be called up by any other team in the NBA too," Hill said.
"And by being called up, obviously, people are paying attention to him. So he played as many minutes as I could get him. Obviously when he was playing we had [Golden State rookie Ognjen Kuzmic] so it was difficult to get them in the game with some rhythm and things like that, but he did a phenomenal job when he was with us."
Although neither player made the major impact for a Golden State Warriors team that badly needed bench help throughout the season, Armstrong and Curry - along with All-D-League honorable mention Cam Jones - have made the most of their experience in Santa Cruz to continue making it one of the best franchises in the D-League.
For more on Golden State's D-League affiliate, check out SB Nation's D-League site Ridiculous Upside.