Ricky Ledo learning in the D-League

UPDATE: Ricky Ledo signed a 10 day contract with the New York Knicks.  Will he stick with the Knicks?

Bring up Ricky Ledo to anyone within a 50-mile radius of the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI, and they’ll tell you all about what could have been.

Before committing to Providence, Ledo was considered ESPN’s #21 overall prospect and a McDonald’s All-American. He had been one of the better recruits the Friars had signed in years, but due to academic ineligibility issues with the NCAA, Ledo never played a minute for Providence, opting for the NBA Draft after what would have been his freshman campaign.

Ledo was seen as a risk in the draft without any college experience, but the Dallas Mavericks decided he was worth the gamble, and made a trade in the second round for his rights. While most scouts agreed Ledo had talent and a ton of upside, he had his critics and the downsides were certainly there. NBADraft.net compared Ledo to Qyntel Woods, who is widely considered a first round draft bust. Woods played a few years in the NBA before going to the D-League. He now plays internationally, a step Ledo hopes to avoid.

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The biggest knock on the 6-7 Ledo has been a lack of consistency, something that still remains an issue, but the talent is there and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has displayed confidence in the young swingman.  “Ledo is a very good prospect at the guard position. He’s a very young kid and this is the beginning of a process for him,” Carlisle told ESPN.com after drafting Ledo. “We know he has NBA ability and we like him as a person. We’re going to work hard with him.”  The Mavericks have certainly done just that, assigning him to their D-League affiliate Texas Legends several times last season and giving him some opportunities to play with the big club.

Ledo joined the Mavs Summer League team and showed some improvement, likely thanks to the playing time he is able to take advantage of with the Legends.  “I’ve been working hard this offseason. A lot of experience comes from the D-League and me getting playing time and getting my feet under me and getting back to where I need to be after a year and a half of not playing games,” Ledo told DLeague.com.

So far this season, Ledo has been burning up the miles between Frisco, TX, home of the Legends, and Dallas. He’s been assigned and recalled seven times this season.  He enjoyed a short stay in Dallas recently before he was assigned back to the Eduardo Najera-led Legends on January 9.  In his return to the legends on January 10, Ledo made quite an impression, finishing with a career-high 31 points and seven rebounds in a loss against the RGV Vipers.

I talked to Legends assistant coach Nick Van Exel recently after a game against the Austin Spurs. Van Excel spoke to the same point as Ledo’s draft scouts on his talent, but also noted that this is still a growing period for him. “Ricky has a lot of potential, he has a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of him getting comfortable in both leagues, and once he gets that, he’ll be fine,” Van Exel said. “It’s just a growing period for him right now.”

Fortunately Ledo has a head coach with NBA experience in Najera, and you couldn’t ask for a better mentor than a former NBA All-Star guard in Van Exel. Aside from giving Ledo advice on the game itself, Van Exel will be the first to admit faults in his NBA career due to being vocal and emotional, and is able to get players to learn from his mistakes. For a player like Ledo, whose character has been questioned in the past, this could be especially valuable.

“He’s so young. and all of this is new for him, so he’s just going to have to learn and keep getting better, keep doing his player development work and he’ll figure it out,” Van Exel said.

One change in Ledo’s game in the D-League is that he seems to be far more consistent than he was in his prep days. Aside from his career-high just days ago, he has also finished with double figures in seven of his ten games this season. In a game on December 27 against Reno, Ledo showed the potential Van Exel spoke of. He finished the game with 28 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, and he has season averages of 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

At 6-7 and 197 pounds, Ledo could bring some versatility to the Mavericks lineup. He has played every position but center for Najera this season. The D-League’s website has per 36 minute NBA projections for Ledo at nine points, three rebounds and three assists per game, but he could easily trump those numbers given more valuable time with the Legends.

In order to raise his NBA value a bit more though, Ledo will need to continue to work on his shot selection and accuracy from deep. Even in his best game against Reno, he shot 16 percent on his three-pointers, and his NBA projections have him shooting at a 26 percent clip.

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He was able to get hot from beyond the arch in Summer League, and given his high release, he could be dangerous if he’s able to improve that one aspect. Ledo already posseses the talent to light up a box score, has the lateral speed to knife through defenses and stay in front of shooters, and his rebounding and assist numbers speak for themselves.  A little more seasoning, and education, in Frisco, could make up for what he missed in Rhode Island.

It won’t make Friars fans miss having a lineup that would’ve featured Ledo, Bryce Cotton and Vincent Council any less, but Providence is still listed as his college on the media guide, and that may be enough for most.