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NBA PM: How Did The Top Sophomores Fare?

A look at some of the NBA’s top performing sophomores. Some names on the list might surprise you.

Jabari Davis

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With the NBA’s regular season winding down, it’s time to acknowledge which promising second-year players stepped up in the 2015-16 campaign.

Just prior to the season, a panel of Basketball Insiders writers were asked to list the second-year player they were most intrigued by, which can be found here. ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton and Chad Ford were also asked to chime in on the top sophomores about 20 games into the season and their rankings can be found here. Here’s a look at some of the top performing sophomores with the season coming to an end:

Andrew Wiggins, SG- Minnesota Timberwolves

20.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 45.9 percent FGs, 30.1 percent 3PT

After facing a great deal of criticism and scrutiny upon entering the league after a single season at Kansas and then being unceremoniously cast aside by the Cleveland Cavaliers in an effort to speed up their championship window, Wiggins finally appears to have settled into the speed, size and expectations of the game at this level.

While still far from a “great” shooter, the recently turned 21-year-old is up to a respectable range from the field, but must continue to improve from deep in order to keep defenses honest. His true shooting percentage -a statistic seen as more viable than others and features a combination of your two-point, three-point and free-throw attempts – is 54.3 percent, which is good for just 30th among shooting guards. He’s a solid on-ball defender on most nights and even above-average on others, but still appears to possess the ability to be one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders if he stays dedicated to being a force on that end.

Jabari Parker, PF- Milwaukee Bucks

13.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 49.5 percent FGs, 77.1 percent FTs

He’s simply not a stretch-four at this stage, although his jumper does appear more consistent. Parker literally averages less than half of a three-point attempt per contest (.4) and has made a total of just seven of his 29 attempts (24.1 percent). Contrary to some of the legitimate concerns about his athleticism (or lack thereof) when entering the league, Parker did appear to return this season with an added level of burst and an increased ability to finish at the rim and with traffic.

That added mobility and boost should eventually translate into Parker being a more consistent defender if he deems it important, which would certainly benefit him with so many of the league’s major scoring threats playing at both the forward positions.

Zach LaVine, PG- Minnesota Timberwolves

13.9 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.8 RPG, 44.8 percent FG, 38.8 percent 3PT

After absolutely dazzling the basketball universe alongside fellow sophomore Aaron Gordon at the All-Star break, LaVine now finds himself at a place of needing to provide a “second act” aside from merely relying upon filling a wing and finishing in transition. He doesn’t shoot nearly enough free throws (78.8 percent on 2.5 attempts per contest) for someone with his athleticism and ability to get into the paint. You’d like to see him be able to create more off the dribble and get into the lane with the intention of scoring and attacking more consistently.

Similar to Jordan Clarkson, his best role might ultimately be from an attack position, but at the shooting guard rather than asking him to be the sole or main initiator. Also, like many of his peers, while he has all the physical attributes to be a quality defensive player, we’ll only see him reach his full potential on that end of the floor if he determines it is something that is vital to his overall progress.

Marcus Smart, PG- Boston Celtics

9.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 34.7 percent FG, 24.7 percent 3PT

To paraphrase an oft-used line from sports history, when it comes to Smart’s offensive game, he is who we thought he would be as a shooter. That isn’t to say he can’t still continue to develop and find at least a slightly more consistent shot, but that’s really not the area of his game we’re expecting to shine the brightest. Smart has battled injuries throughout his first couple campaigns, but remains a physical and athletic specimen as he attempts to adapt to playing perhaps the most competitive position in the game.

Smart is a disruptor on the defensive end as both an on-ball and weakside defender, as well as within the passing lanes. His strength permits him to compete with the bigger or stronger matchups, while his agility still allows him to make life difficult for the shiftier guards as well. While judging Smart’s effectiveness, consider the fact that unlike a majority of the players on this list, Smart is one of the leaders of a team that is currently battling for a playoff spot and could wind up as high as third in the Eastern Conference.

Gary Harris, SG- Denver Nuggets

12.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 47.1 percent FG, 35.7 percent 3PT

Harris is one of several members of the Nuggets who has really excelled within head coach Mike Malone’s system. After starting just six of the 55 games he saw action in as a rookie, Harris has certainly made the most of his increase in playing time (32.1 MPG, up from just 13.1 MPG in 2014-15) and expanded role under Malone.

He experienced major jumps in both field goal percentage (47.1, up from 30.4) and three-point percentage (35.7, up from 20.4). His true shooting percentage was actually 12th-best among shooting guards at 56.7 percent. Harris doesn’t get to the line all that much, but that’s partly due to 40 percent of his field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. He’s an active defender who generally does a good job in the passing lanes, but could also take the next step as a player by dedicating even more time and effort to that end.

Rodney Hood, SG- Utah Jazz

14.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 42.8 percent FG, 36.5 percent 3PT

Put simply, Hood is every bit as good as most could have expected and better than some might have anticipated. While he showed signs of life when healthy as a rookie, Hood has quickly ascended into one of the league’s more promising, young swingmen. More than half of his field goal attempts (12.3 per game) come from beyond the arc (5.7 attempts per game), but Hood is also a fantastic free throw shooter (86.6 percent) on the occasions when he does draw the benefit of the whistle.

Hood can and likely will continue to improve on the defensive end, but the 23-year-old is far from a ‘sieve’ even at this point. Look for Hood to continue to excel within Coach Quin Snyder’s system and don’t be surprised to even hear his name mentioned in Most Improved conversations, if health permits, by this point next season.

Julius Randle, PF- Los Angeles Lakers

11.6 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 43.3 percent FG, 27.3 percent 3PT

Randle only played a total of 14 minutes during what would have been his rookie season (2014-15), but that didn’t stop him from showing clear signs of improvement for those who have watched his body transition and the early stages of his all-around progression over the past 18 months. For a 21-year-old who has already endured the disappointment of essentially losing his entire first year, multiple corrective surgeries (broken leg, screw removal from his foot), a lengthy rehabilitation schedule and the highs and lows of being removed and inserted into the starting lineup and general rotation several times this year, Randle still shows a tremendous amount of poise.

Randle continues to be a force on the boards and is already one of the better, young rebounders. His 34 double-doubles on the season are tied for 14th overall and while he leads the Lakers in boards, he’s also 10th in the league in rebounds per contest. A continued dedication to his jumpshot, right hand and countermoves within the paint are needed on the offensive end (and will likely come with time), but a dedication and focus on defensive principles both as an individual and team defender would actually place Randle comfortably within the discussion as one of the more promising young players.

Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG- Los Angeles Lakers

15.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 43.1 percent FG, 35.7 percent 3PT

After his First Team All-Rookie selection last season, it was a bit of a surprise to not see his name mentioned on very many of these lists or conversations heading into the year, but Clarkson has done a solid job of continuing to show his potential at this level as he enjoyed increases in most offensive statistical categories. The question moving forward will be whether he will continue to transition into a more efficient scorer rather than a volume-shooter who simply puts up points on a bad team.

The trouble with Clarkson is that it also remains a question as to which backcourt position will ultimately suit him best. Another legitimate concern is that he does not provide nearly the type of consistent and focused defensive effort you need to be effective as a backcourt player in this day and age. Like his teammate Randle, Clarkson shows a great work ethic and willingness to do what it takes to improve with the ball in his hands; but, like Randle and many other young players these days, Clarkson also needs to take as much pride in learning how to slow opposing players down as he does in scoring over them.

Clint Capela, PF- Houston Rockets

7.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 57.9 percent FG, 38.6 percent FT

Look beyond the numbers – although, he’s actually quite impressive in that regard as well considering he only plays 19.3 minutes per contest – when judging Capela’s actual impact on this Rockets squad. He’s essentially the defensive catalyst off the bench and with their small-ball lineups. Capela not only contests well at and around the rim, he also manages to get deflections and almost a steal per game (.8) – which is impressive for a big man in very limited time on the court. His activity and defensive footwork also discourages opposing guards from attacking off the high screen-and-roll, which is absolutely vital for big men at this time.

His free throw shooting is abysmal, but it hardly becomes an overall issue for the team at merely 2.8 attempts per game. If Capela can continue to work on simple post and countermoves on the offensive end, then he could be a true force at the position for Houston. Especially in the event that Dwight Howard decides to move on via free agency this summer.

Elfrid Payton, PG- Orlando Magic

10.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.6 RPG, 43.8 percent FG, 34.1 percent 3PT

Payton continues to be a ‘jack of many trades,’ but still remains a master of none as his second year comes to a close. That isn’t to imply that he hasn’t made somewhat significant strides as player, rather an honest assessment of where his game is currently. Whether Payton ever develops into even a serviceable scoring threat out of the backcourt, he can still impact the game in multiple other ways.

Although the numbers may look relatively identical, Payton does appear to be growing more and more comfortable as both a scorer and a playmaker at this level. Similar to Smart, Payton can also be a disruptor on the defensive end as he, too, has the size and length to battle against slightly bigger offensive players and the speed to stay with the quicker guards. He’s reportedly put in hundreds of hours working on his shot and form over the past year, so it will be interesting to see if he starts to enjoy some of the results moving forward.

Works in Progress:

Nikola Mirotic, PF- Chicago Bulls: He can certainly score and rebound fairly well for a big man who spends a lot of his time along the perimeter, but the Bulls need him to take another step forward heading into season three.

Jusuf Nurkic, C- Denver Nuggets: Nurkic has a ton of potential as a defensive presence with promising footwork and touch with the ball, but time will tell whether his body permits him to fulfill it.

Nerlens Noel, PF- Philadelphia 76ers: Noel may not provide much beyond put-backs and clean-up duty around the rim, but he still shows the signs of defensive brilliance that had scouts so excited a few years back when he’s healthy.

Aaron Gordon, PF- Orlando Magic: Appears ready to step beyond the mere showmanship and highlights – which are totally fine – and could continue to develop into a real player for the Magic quicker than you might anticipate.

Dante Exum, PG- Utah Jazz: By all accounts of those close to the team, Exum has transformed his body and should return with plenty to prove on both ends of the court once his surgically-repaired ACL is back at full strength.

With several of the NBA’s formerly great players of the past 15-20 years set to walk away from the game and so many of the current star players either exiting or on the back half of their individual primes, it will be nice to watch some of the younger, up-and-coming players develop into the league’s future stars.

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Brandon Paul Finally Gets His Shot

Brandon Paul spent the last four years trying to find a home in the NBA. Now he has one, and he’s making the best out of his opportunity.

Dennis Chambers

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Brandon Paul had just finished one of his more productive games in the Las Vegas Summer League. On July 10, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers — his third summer tour — Paul dropped 21 points against the Golden State Warriors.

After the game and back in the locker room, a text can across Paul’s phone from his agent, Adam Pensack reading, “Come out, ASAP.”

Unbeknownst to Paul at the time, Pensack was ready to deliver the news the 26-year-old shooting guard had been working his whole life to hear.

Paul was going to the NBA under a one-year guaranteed contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

“Adam works his ass off,” Paul told Basketball Insiders about his agent. “So I knew he had some things going on, and he was telling me there was a few teams in the mix, but it was not substantial just yet. But I knew once I saw those missed calls and stuff that something might have happened, there might have been some movement. I didn’t expect the news I got.”

The news that Paul wasn’t expecting was the exact news he returned to his third stint in the summer league for. After leaving the University of Illinois in 2013 as one of the Fighting Illini’s most accomplished players in school history, Paul set out to jump right to the Association.

But his story isn’t as linear as he may have hoped four years ago.

After going undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, Paul joined the Minnesota Timberwolves for his first taste of summer league action. Unfortunately, his performance didn’t warrant a further deal. Instead, that August, Paul was packing his bags to head to Russia to play for BC Nizhny Novgorod.

By February of 2014, Paul was back in the states and his rights were acquired by the Canton Charge, Cleveland’s developmental team. Bouncing around from country to country trying to prove your worth is one scenario for a professional basketball player trying to make it. But with Paul, on top of working towards his shot, he fell under a string of bad luck that delayed his process.

Throughout the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, Paul suffered a myriad of injuries that kept him out of the NBA conversation. Since regaining his health, and focusing on his craft, starting with a stint a Spain playing for Joventut Badalona, Paul’s journey culminated with a text message that made the four years of battling all worth it.

“I don’t know if there was doubt,” Paul said about his circumstances. “I think there was motivation, and I think there was a little bit of confusion as well. I had gone through so many injuries, part of myself wanted to question why this kept happening, but I just kept telling myself its all a part of the bigger picture. I think I can kind of sit around, and pout and be sad for myself, or I can continue to get better and prove to myself that I’m a tough player and I think I was able to do that.”

That level of perseverance led Paul to one of the most storied franchises in the NBA and under the tutelage of arguably the greatest coach the sport has ever seen, Gregg Popovich. Those qualities alone that led Paul to San Antonio bear a striking resemblance to the Spurs culture Popovich has cultivated.

The experience from bouncing around different leagues and different countries to ultimately landing in San Antonio has been a dream come true for Paul.

“Its been great, man,” Paul said. “I’m able to learn every day. I’m able to play with some of the best guys around the league. The staff is incredible, down from the interns to the head coach, to the front office guys, to the training staff, everyone just knows their role, it’s like a big family. Coach is going to put you in a position to be successful and guys want to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Since arriving in San Antonio, Paul has seen himself fit into a multitude of roles. Some nights he’ll sit completely, sans a few minutes at the end of the game. Others he’ll play a large role as a reserve. Occasionally, including twice already this season, Paul will get a starting nod.

Adaptation isn’t something that Paul is new to. He’s spent almost every day since leaving college adapting to new surroundings, scenarios, or outcomes pertaining to his basketball life. To him, why should San Antonio be any different?

“It’s not tough at all,” Paul said. “I know my role out there, and I knew coming out of college that I was one of the few players who understood that 90 percent of the NBA is role players. So if you figure out your role, and you’re able to execute that role, you’re going to be a guy that can stick around in the league for a long time.”

Even after a lifetime spent playing basketball, Paul believes there are still things to learn every day when he goes to work. Understanding his role and situation, including his fluctuation of playing time, allows Paul to keep a sharp mind for the minutes he spends on the bench, rather than the court.

“It’s amazing man,” Paul said. “You’re able to learn from the best, see how things move, and when you’re not out there, it gives you a chance to kind of, not only be a fan but a student of the game. You can see what’s going on, and if your number gets called, you kind of adjust to what’s going on because you’ve seen it before, you’ve seen it happen throughout the game, you’ve seen guy’s tendencies. So just being able to come into this organization out of any, and to learn from that is truly a blessing.”

That day all the way back in July, when Pensack delivered Paul with the news of his contract, was an emotional first for the guard. Back then, there was time for jubilation and reflection. On Dec. 3, however, the next night of firsts for Paul in his NBA journey, there was no time to waste.

Paul would be getting his first career start, going up against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He wasn’t told a day in advance. He didn’t know at shootaround that morning. Instead, assistant coach Ettore Messina approached Paul during his pregame stretch and informed him about the lineup change.

This wasn’t July, though. The Spurs were in the middle of the season, and as Paul said, “you gotta be ready whenever.” That means, at most, a few minutes to let the butterflies take their course, and then it’s back to work.

“Yeah I think so,” Paul said of pre-start jitters. “But I kind of had to get over it, I can’t worry about it too much. I think that type of stuff ended pretty early in the season. After I started I played early on a decent amount of minutes, so I think that kind of helped get the butterflies out of there.”

The road that Paul took to get his chance in the NBA wasn’t the smoothest it could’ve been. For the 6-foot-4 shooting guard, maybe that’s the way it was supposed to happen. Paul refers to his opportunity with the San Antonio Spurs as a “blessing,” but with all the evidence laid out to consider, it’s safe to say Paul worked as hard as he may have been blessed.

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NBA Daily: Let The NBA Trade Chatter Begin

More than 95 NBA players become trade-eligible this week. Steve Kyler breaks them down.

Steve Kyler

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Let The Trade Chatter Begin

While NBA teams are always talking, whether aggressively or casually, the date most teams circle on the calendar to start really exploring trade options is December 15.

That’s mainly because that’s when the bulk of trade restrictions on players signed during the offseason to free agent deals lifts, but also because most teams have played 25 or more games.

While it’s easy to talk about trades, especially for teams that get off to a slow start, it’s also important to realize teams put in mountains of works assembling their rosters. That includes weeks and weeks of development and planning work, so rushing to tear it all up after a slow start isn’t always smart. Take the Cavaliers as a perfect example. The Cavs were 3-4 entering November looking dreadful, since then, the Cavs have gone 17-4.

Most teams want to give the roster they built a chance because change does not always equal improvement. However, as teams get to the 30-game mark, there is enough of a sample size to know where you stand, which is why trade talk tends to be lower until mid-December.

With more than 95 players becoming trade eligible tomorrow, trade talks are going to start to heat up.

NBA teams are prohibited from trading players signed during the offseason for 90 days or December 15th, whichever is greater.

Players who re-signed with the same team and received more than a 20 percent increase in salary from last season, are further restricted until January 15th.

Players that signed one-year deals with the same team, also gain the ability to veto trades, as do rookie scale players that signed a Qualifying Offer.

Equally, players who had free agent offer sheets matched, like Washington’s Otto Porter Jr., also gain veto rights for the first calendar year of their deal.

With all of that said, here is how the 2017 free agent trade eligibility breaks down:

Atlanta Hawks

Luke Babbitt
Dewayne Dedmon
Ersan Ilyasova (Veto Rights)
Mike Muscala (Veto Rights) 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Boston Celtics

Aron Baynes
Gordon Hayward
Shane Larkin
Daniel Theis 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Brooklyn Nets

Tyler Zeller 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Charlotte Hornets

Michael Carter-Williams
Julyan Stone 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Chicago Bulls

Justin Holiday

Trade Eligible January 15th

Cristiano Felicio
Nikola Mirotic  

Cleveland Cavaliers

Jose Calderon
Jeff Green
Derrick Rose

Trade Eligible January 15th

Kyle Korver

Dallas Mavericks

Maxi Kleber
Jeff Withey
Nerlens Noel (Veto Rights)
Dirk Nowitzki (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Mason Plumlee 

Detroit Pistons

Reggie Bullock
Langston Galloway
Eric Moreland
Anthony Tolliver 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Golden State Warriors

Nick Young
Omri Casspi
Zaza Pachulia (Veto Rights)
Kevin Durant (Veto Rights)
David West (Veto Rights)
JaVale McGee (Veto Rights)
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Iguodala
Shaun Livingston 

Houston Rockets

Tarik Black
Nene
Luc Mbah a Moute
P.J. Tucker
Troy Williams 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Indiana Pacers

Bojan Bogdanovic
Darren Collison
Damien Wilkins 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Los Angeles Clippers

Danilo Gallinari
Marshall Plumlee
Willie Reed
Milos Teodosic 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Blake Griffin 

Los Angeles Lakers

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Tyler Ennis
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

None 

Memphis Grizzlies

Mario Chalmers
Tyreke Evans
Ben McLemore
Wayne Selden
 

Trade Eligible January 15th

JaMychal Green 

Miami Heat

James Johnson
Jordan Mickey
Kelly Olynyk
Dion Waiters
Udonis Haslem (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Milwaukee Bucks

None

Trade Eligible January 15th

Tony Snell  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Jamal Crawford
Jeff Teague
Marcus Georges-Hunt
Taj Gibson
Shabazz Muhammad (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Allen
Ian Clark
Darius Miller
Rajon Rondo

Trade Eligible January 15th

Jrue Holiday  

New York Knicks

Ron Baker
Michael Beasley
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Jarrett Jack
Ramon Sessions

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Oklahoma City Thunder

Raymond Felton
Patrick Patterson
Nick Collison (Veto Rights)

Trade Eligible January 15th

Andre Roberson  

Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
Khem Birch
Shelvin Mack
Jonathon Simmons
Marreese Speights

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Philadelphia 76ers

Amir Johnson
J.J. Redick
Phoenix Suns
Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Phoenix Suns

Alan Williams

Trade Eligible January 15th

None   

Portland Trail Blazers

None 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter
George Hill
Zach Randolph 

Trade Eligible January 15th

None  

San Antonio Spurs

Pau Gasol
Rudy Gay
Manu Ginobili
Joffrey Lauvergne
Brandon Paul 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Patty Mills  

Toronto Raptors

Alfonzo McKinnie
C.J. Miles
  

Trade Eligible January 15th

Serge Ibaka
Kyle Lowry 

Utah Jazz

Jonas Jerebko
Royce O’Neale
Thabo Sefolosha
Ekpe Udoh 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Joe Ingles 

Washington Wizards

Jodie Meeks
Mike Scott 

Trade Eligible January 15th

Otto Porter (Veto Rights) 

Tracking all of these details is pretty tedious, which is what makes Basketball Insiders’ salary cap guru Eric Pincus so amazing. If you want to know more about each teams’ cap situation, make sure to check out the team links here for a detailed break down of every team’s cap position and restrictions.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: One Year Later, Yogi Ferrell Continues To Rise

One year after a turbulent start to his NBA career, Yogi Ferrell is still thriving with the Dallas Mavericks.

Ben Nadeau

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It was never going to be easy for Yogi Ferrell.

At just 6-foot-0, there were major concerns about Ferrell and his ability to effectively contribute at the professional level, so the 24-year-old was a near-lock to go undrafted despite his impressive haul of collegiate honors. In 2016, he did not hear his name called on draft night — but for a gamer like Ferrell, pushing on was always the only option.

However, on this particularly cold mid-season evening, Ferrell sits at his locker and studies film on a tablet. He looks comfortable and focused as if he knows that this moment cannot be ripped away from him once again. Today, Ferrell is the Dallas Mavericks’ backup point guard and is settled into a steady role amongst a currently crowded backcourt. For Ferrell, he now finally has the life of an everyday NBA player.

But just over one year ago, Ferrell had to take the road less traveled to reach professional basketball for good.

“It was actually about this time [last year] when [the Nets] decided to waive me and I went back to Long Island,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t know I’d be here. I’m just thankful for the opportunity the Mavericks gave me and I’m just still trying to be here in Dallas.”

To be exact, the Brooklyn Nets waived Ferrell on December 8th, 2016. 365 days (and counting) later, Ferrell has earned his guaranteed contract but he’s still playing like he has something to prove.

* * * * * *

In order to fully understand Ferrell’s winding journey, it’s necessary to go back to where his story really kicked off: Summer league. Following a solid audition in Las Vegas — 8.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game — Ferrell was shifted to Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. With the offseason signings of Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez, plus the addition of rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead, there was no room for Ferrell and he was the last man cut in training camp.

Before the Nets could even blink, Vasquez re-injured his problematic ankle just three games into the campaign, an ailment that would eventually require season-ending surgery. Lin, of course, lasted just two more games before a hamstring injury derailed the key free agent acquisition until deep into the season.

Out of nowhere, it was time for Ferrell.

After waiving Vasquez, the Nets signed Ferrell on November 9th — the same day as his NBA debut, where he logged five points and three assists in a 14-point loss to the New York Knicks. But as the Nets continued to free fall without their veteran point guards, Ferrell grew more confidently into his role and was a solid fit in head coach Kenny Atkinson’s three-point heavy rotation. Over 10 contests with Brooklyn, Ferrell tallied just 5.4 points and 1.7 assists in 15 minutes per game. Nonetheless, for a suddenly talent-deficient roster, it appeared as if the point guard was poised to stick around through the winter.

In a surprise twist of fate, the Nets waived Ferrell to sign Spencer Dinwiddie to a partially guaranteed three-year deal, opting to tie their future to a different G-League point guard instead. Just like that, it was back to Long Island for Ferrell — but surprisingly, it wasn’t something that he hung his head over for too long.

“I knew my next opportunity was going to come — I didn’t know when, but I just wanted to make sure I was ready for it,” Ferrell said. “I had a great coach — coach [Ronald] Nored — and he told me to still go about my business as if I was still in the NBA. I didn’t get all the luxuries, but if you treat yourself like a pro, like you’re there now, once you get there, it’ll make it easier and you can make a splash.”

Upon returning to the G-League, Ferrell continued his hot streak and ended up averaging 18.7 points and 5.8 rebounds over a total of 18 games — both before and after his NBA call-up with the Nets. Ultimately, it wasn’t long before another franchise took notice of the enigmatic guard and the Mavericks capitalized, signing Ferrell to a 10-day contract while both Deron Williams and Devin Harris were hampered by injury. His debut with Dallas saw Ferrell tally nine points and seven assists in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and future Hall of Famer Tony Parker — but somehow, that was only the beginning

Affectionately nicknamed Yogi-Mania — a play on Linsanity, Lin’s historic stretch with the Knicks back in 2012 — Ferrell re-joined the NBA red-hot, even leading Dallas to back-to-back wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. Quickly thereafter, Ferrell signed a multi-year deal with Dallas and then promptly torched the Portland Trail Blazers for nine three-pointers and a total of 32 points. Over his initial two-week stretch with the Mavericks, Ferrell scored 10 or more points in seven of his first nine games and made a serious claim for a permanent spot in the rotation.

Of course, the multi-year contract offered Ferrell something else he hadn’t yet experienced in the NBA: Job security. After Ferrell’s team option was picked up last June, he was happy to have a role with the Mavericks once again, no matter how big or small. Without the worry of being on borrowed time, Ferrell was able to train, learn the system and embrace of the city of Dallas during the offseason.

“The offseason was pretty good, I played summer league with some of the young guys,” Ferrell said. “It was great to work every day and get to know the coaches better, the area of Dallas better. Headed into training camp, I just wanted to work on my game and I had lot more confidence.”

One of those coaches he’s gotten to know better is Rick Carlisle, an old-school guard that has found success as both a player and coach. Under Carlisle, Ferrell is averaging 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 42.5 percent from the floor — numbers slightly below his Yogi-Mania marks, but he’s consistently reliable in a way the Mavericks so badly need. Additionally, Ferrell has garnered 28.3 minutes per game so far as a sophomore, good for the third-highest total on the entire roster. Ferrell, who was in the G-League at this time last year, has merited more playing time than any other point guard on the team — a list that includes rookie sensation Dennis Smith Jr. (28.1), J.J. Barea (22.5), and the aforementioned Harris (18.9).

For Ferrell, much of his second-year successes have come from simply putting Carlisle’s words of wisdom into action.

“He’s just always telling me to be a threat,” Ferrell told Basketball Insiders of Carlisle. “First of all, be a threat to score because that’s what opens up everything else. If you’re pushing the pace and getting in the paint, attacking, especially for somebody like myself in my position. You want to just cause 2-on-1s and kicks and find whatever the defense gives us.”

While Yogi-Mania was built off of an electric career-altering hot streak, Ferrell has been a contributor this season in a more dependable, experienced way. Building off the All-NBA Rookie Second Team berth Ferrell earned in just 36 games with Dallas last season, the point guard is now often one of the first guards off the bench, a role that Barea has long excelled in. The comparisons between Ferrell and Barea are all too obvious, the latter being another 6-foot-nothing guard that carved out a 12-year career after going undrafted in 2006.

During the Mavericks’ championship-winning playoff run in 2011, Barea averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists, including massive back-to-back 15-plus point outings in Dallas’ series-defining Game 5 and 6 victories. While tearing up the NBA Finals is undoubtedly a long-term goal for Ferrell, he’s just thankful to have teammates like Barea and Harris to learn from on and off the court.

“I always say that I like watching them, especially how they play,” Ferrell said. “I try to mimic the older guys, Devin and J.J., they’re so synced together when they play, it’s something special to watch. I just try to go out there and mimic what they do, they’ve been successful at it and been in this league for a long time, so I’m just trying to learn from guys like them.”

* * * * * *

Precisely, it’s been 370 days since Ferrell was first waived by Brooklyn and found success at the NBA level that little believed was possible. Not one to let an obstacle get in his way, Ferrell went undrafted and still managed to earn a multi-year contract before he even hit 20 career appearances. For his dominating stretch in the G-League last season, Ferrell was named an All-Star — although he was too busy with Dallas to attend the festivities — and he still went on to earn a spot with the All-NBA Rookie Second Team as well.

Overcoming roadblocks and adversity at every turn, it’d be easy to now exhale and relax — after all, his contract is currently guaranteed and he’s got a solidified role in an NBA rotation — but Ferrell, forever hungry, isn’t ready to stop there. Staying motivated isn’t difficult for Ferrell because he knows that much of his journey is still left in front of him and he’s ready to keep climbing upward.

“I’m a winner, I came from a winning program,” Ferrell said. “My mentality is still to prove that I belong here. I just want to win, that’s it.”

For Ferrell, this isn’t the end of an underdog story — this is just the beginning of something even greater.

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