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Former Idaho Stampede #1 draft pick Jeff Ayres signs on with Los Angeles Clippers for remainder of season

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Why we don't check in on the Idaho Stampede

Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Idaho Stampede went 9-41 and earned the #1 pick in the NBADL draft. As the Utah Jazz own the Stamps, and claim a single team affiliation with them (despite the fact that for much of the early part of their season their best player was Tyus Jones, you know, a Minnesota Timberwolves assignee), they call all the shots. And with the #1 pick in the draft they selected Jeff Ayres (formerly Jeff Pendergraph). Well, fast forward a few months, and today we learn that not only did Jeff sign two 10-day contracts with the Los Angeles Clippers, just today it was announced by Shams Charania that he just signed on with them for the rest of the season.

So, to recap, the #1 draft pick by the Jazz now no longer plays for either the Jazz nor the Stampede. Fantastic. And if this isn't the Jazz' fault, then the NBADL is fundamentally flawed. What happened was that the Stamps traded Ayres to the Los Angeles D-Fenders for their 2016 1st round draft pick and no one noticed . . . what an oblique move that was.

So not only are the Jazz in the habit of sending random picks to other teams during the NBA Draft (like what the team did with the #35 pick (Jarnell Stokes) to the Memphis Grizzlies for a future 2nd rounder), but now the team is also sending their #1 DL player selections to other teams for their future DL picks? This season the Stampede are 16-28, and while that's a huge step up from the 9-41 season they just had; they are still the 2nd worst team in the league. As a consequence they were already likely to select another Top 3 player because there's no NBADL lotto. To contrast, the D-Fenders pick is going to be even more useless because they are a playoff team.

You traded a #1 pick for a future #1 pick that is likely to be a worse pick, somewhere in the middle of the round?

And people get upset (or are asked on behalf of someone else to rebut me) when I suggest that the Idaho Stampede (right now) exist as development theater. Let's revisit the 2015 D League Draft:

Who else was on the board?

Everyone. Every single player. So this is someone the Utah Jazz brass really, really wanted. It's not so much that Jeff is bad, or that there's no possible spot for him on the Jazz right now. It could be that it's about who the Jazz passed up on. They selected him over Cartier Martin, Rodney Carney, Myck Kabongo, Michael Stockton, Ronnie Brewer, Shaquille Keith, Jarekious Bradley, Terrence Drisdom, and the immortal Reggis Onwukamuche. Okay, I kinda got side-tracked after Kabongo led me down the "awesome names list." I would argue that Michael Stockton would have put butts in the seats. Some of these other guys may be better at filling a need. But of course, what I think is a Jazz need may not be what Lindsey thinks.

- AllThatAmar, SLC Dunk, 2015

The selection was perplexing then, and still remains perplexing. That NBADL roster had a number of bigmen on it already, and Utah knew that at some point they were going to send down either Tibor Pleiss or Trey Lyles depending on who was playing better. Ayres would play just 25 games for the Stamps and while he did average 16.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, and 1.2 bpg he somehow was good enough to select #1 but also at the same time somehow not good enough to not TRADE AWAY for a future "middle of the 1st round pick" the next year.

I felt like things were changing with the consistent minutes for Tibor Pleiss, and a sufficiently similar role for J.J. O'Brien (who was called up because of injuries) in both the DL as the NBA. But it's silly things like this which make me recognize that there's a good reason why no one cares about the Idaho Stampede. They do stuff like draft a guy #1 then trade him away for something of lesser or lesser value, only for that guy to somehow find his way onto the roster of the #4 team in the conference.

I am impressed, really. I'm actually more impressed that the Stamps are apparently kicking butt in attendance. I had to chart it out for myself. And they average over 2,000 souls a game (or about 207 people per player on the floor) in attendance.

2015 2016 Idaho Stampede Home Game Attendance G21

N.B. The data for the 10th home game doesn't exist according to the NBA D-League, but that home game was played in Santa Cruz, so who cares, anyway . . .

I actually don't know if that's good or bad because I'm not going to do the research for each team in the league. For a frame of reference for just the Stamps, in 2014 they were averaging +800 more people a home game. So there's that. That may be the trend you are looking for if you are planning on eventually moving the team out of Idaho. But I don't know if that's what the Jazz want. And that's the common theme here. I don't know what the Jazz want because at the time they made it seem like they really wanted Ayres, selecting him over Jimmer Fredette and Perry Jones and every other eligible player in the world, and then traded him for a future pick after about two dozen games.

For what it is worth, best of luck to Jeff Ayres. I hope you have fun with the Clippers the rest of this season and make the playoff roster. You were a great player for Idaho and I can only imagine how much fun it's going to be to see Firstname Lastname be selected 19th in the 2016 Development League draft.