Can we count on the D-League?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Mark Cuban opened his mouth recently, which is always good because it gives me something to write about.

Here's what he said: "The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there's absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college] ... if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League."

Southern Methodist head coach Larry Brown disagrees.

"They don't teach guys how to play, in my mind," Brown said about the D- League. "The head coaches in the NBA and a lot of the assistants do, but [college] is the greatest minor league system in the world."

Despite Brown's objections, one pretty prominent college player has already taken Cuban's advice. Instead of waiting for the NCAA to reinstate him, suspended University of North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston went ahead and signed with the Texas Legends, a minor league affiliate of Cuban's Dallas Mavericks.

Cuban is right about one thing. One-and-done culture has definitely gotten out of hand. Only two of the 25 players who appeared in this year's All-Star Game went to college for all four years (Indiana's Roy Hibbert and Portland's Damian Lillard).

Statements like the one Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins made to ESPN Magazine a few months ago only strengthen Cuban's argument. Wiggins said his favorite part of playing for Kansas was "being able to enjoy my last year of school."

That subtle enough for you?

The system may be broken but the D-League is certainly not the answer. In fact, I'd contend the D-League is even more flawed than the NCAA.

Forty-six NCAA players were selected in last year's NBA Draft. In the D- League's 12 years of existence, only four D-League players have ever been drafted with none going higher than 35th. Two of those four (Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Latavious Williams) never even played in the NBA.

Of course, I'm simplifying things just a tad. It's much more common for a player to go undrafted, join the D-League and then get called up to the NBA. Plenty of D-League players have made contributions in the NBA, including Andray Blatche, Brandon Bass, J.J. Barea, Will Bynum, Marcin Gortat, Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Hasheem Thabeet, C.J. Watson and Matt Barnes.

Still, the D-League has yet to produce an NBA All-Star. That's unless you count Antoine Walker, who played for the Idaho Stampede only after his NBA career fizzled out. D-League advocates also boast that Bobby Simmons (2005 NBA Most Improved Player) is one of their own, yet he didn't join the Reno Bighorns until 2011, ten years after he was drafted by the Sonics. Ricky Davis is another former star who tried to resurrect his career in the D-League with limited success.

Andrew Goudelock was named the 12th MVP in D-League history at the end of last season. In 48 games (including postseason) at the NBA level, Goudelock has reached double-figures just six times. His career-high 20 points came in a game when the Lakers were without Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.

Though 11 of the 12 D-League MVPs have played in the NBA, only three (Matt Carroll, Marcus Fizer and Devin Brown) have gone on to average double-digit points. None of them came close to making a difference in fantasy.

The two most recognizable D-League alums are probably Aaron Brooks and Jeremy Lin, who were teammates on the Rockets earlier this season. Brooks has since been traded to Denver.

In 2010, Brooks looked like he was on the brink of something special, averaging 19.6 ppg in his 82 appearances. Since then, he's averaged just 8.6 ppg on 40.1 percent shooting.

Lin's most productive stint, as everyone knows, came during a two-week period in February 2012 (24.6 ppg over ten appearances). The post-Linsanity Lin has only been average (13.2 ppg in his last 151 contests).

What we're finding here is that the D-League isn't a breeding ground for All- Stars. By and large, it's a place for the guys who couldn't cut it in the NBA.

But what Cuban and Brown are forgetting is that college and the D-League aren't the NBA's only "minor league" systems. EuroLeague players have been arriving in bulk over the last decade and many of them have been just as productive as their college and D-League counterparts.

Manu Ginobili (two All-Star appearances, three championships) has built a Hall of Fame career for himself since leaving Italy in the early 2000s. The Gasol brothers (five All-Star nods) have been just as dominant. Andrei Kirilenko (All-Star in 2004), Vlade Divac (All-Star in 2001) and Toni Kukoc (1996 Sixth Man of the Year) also made their mark overseas before becoming stars in the NBA. Goran Dragic (20.6 ppg), Jose Calderon (11.6 ppg) and Ricky Rubio (sixth in the league in assists) are probably headed down that same path.

That's not to say every player who makes the leap from Europe to the NBA does it flawlessly. Remember Darko Milicic (6.0 ppg over ten seasons)? I know Pistons fans would prefer not to.

Maybe commissioner Adam Silver will raise the league's age limit to 20. Maybe he'll keep it the same and the one-and-done epidemic will continue.

But hey, at least Andrew Wiggins is having a good time, right?

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at

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