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A Look Back at the Force’s Record Setting Season

By Matt Dykstra | May 11, 2016

A Record Setting Season

The 2015-16 season for the Sioux Falls Skyforce marked the best season any NBA Development League team has ever had. Sioux Falls set a new NBA D-League record for the most wins in a single season, finishing the year with a 40-10 regular season record. The Skyforce made the playoffs for the third consecutive year, and went on to win six of their seven postseason games, winning their first NBA D-League Championship. We invite you to relive some of the best moments of the 2015-16 season characterized by a mix of new and old faces, all-star appearances, showcase victories, year-end awards, and a historic playoff run.

 

There’s No Place like Home

The Skyforce finished the 2015-16 regular season with a 21-3 record on their home floor at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. The Skyforce won 11 straight home games from November 27 to January 29, and then won 10 straight home games from February 19 to April 2 to end the season. These are two of the top five home winning streaks in franchise history, and their 11-game winning streak was the longest in a single season since the team won 13 straight home games in the 1996-97 season. Sioux Falls averaged 109.7 points per game at home, opposed to just 97.1 points allowed per game. The Skyforce also shot 51.6 percent from the field at home this season while holding their visiting opponents to just 43.7 percent on the year.

 

Showing Out at the 2016 Showcase

The Skyforce were crowned champions at the 2016 NBA D-League Showcase which took place from January 7 to January 9. The team captured the championship as one of seven teams to finish with a perfect 2-0 record. To break the tie among the 2-0 teams, the advanced basketball statistic Net Rating (calculated by subtractive Defensive Rating from Offensive Rating) was used. Sioux Falls finished with a Net Rating of +13.3 in their two games played. Miami HEAT assignee Josh Richardson, and then-assignee Jarnell Stokes were named to the All-NBA D-League Showcase First and Second Teams respectively. The duo combined for 50 points in the Skyforce’s 102-98 victory over Raptors 905 on January 7, and then both players scored a team-high 21 points while defeating the Showcase-hosting Santa Cruz Warriors 102-81 on January 9.

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An All Star Weekend to Remember

The Skyforce coaching staff was selected to coach the Eastern Conference All Stars in the 2016 NBA D-League All Star Game. Four Sioux Falls players joined their coaches in Toronto, including DeAndre Liggins, Tre Kelley, Keith Benson, and Jarnell Stokes. Kelley, Benson, and Stokes were all in the starting lineup, and Stokes scored 17 points and gathered three rebounds in 18 minutes of playing time as the East defeated the West 128-124.

Who Needs Rest?

The Skyforce played 26 games as a part of 13 back-to-back sets throughout the 2015-16 regular season. Sioux Falls finished with an impressive 20-6 record in these games, winning 10 out of 13 games in both the first and second games of each back-to-back series. The Skyforce averaged 106.8 points per game while only surrendering 99.0 points per contest in the 26 back-to-back sets, and also never lost in back-to-back games all year long.

 

Rising Talent

Sioux Falls featured a plethora of young talent this season. Rookie point guard Briante Weber, who missed the first 16 games of the season nursing a knee injury sustained in his final year at VCU, came on strong throughout the second half of the season. Weber started in nine of his 28 games played for the Skyforce, averaging 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals in just under 29 minutes per game. He averaged 12.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the months of February and March, earning a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies on March 11. Weber returned to the Skyforce for eight games before ultimately signing a multi-year contract with the Miami HEAT on April 10.

 

A Breakout Season

In just his second season in the NBA D-League, Rodney McGruder served as a pivotal piece of the Sioux Falls championship puzzle. McGruder averaged 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds while playing just under 38 minutes per game. His consistency on offense was the backbone of the Skyforce attack throughout the regular season and into the playoffs, as he scored in double figures 47 times in his 55 total games played this season. McGruder found his stride when it mattered most, averaging a team-high 22.7 points in seven postseason games.

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Coach of the Year

In his first season with the Skyforce, head coach Dan Craig won Coach of the Month honors three different times this season for games played in December, January, March and April. He also went on to win the NBA Development League’s Coach of the Year award. After leading Sioux Falls to an overall record of 46-11, Coach Craig finished with the second-highest single-season winning percentage in franchise history at 80.7 percent.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

DeAndre Liggins is known for his versatile style of play, and lived up to his reputation as the season progressed. The 28-year-old shooting guard averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds during the 2015-16 season. However, his offense is not what set him apart from other players around the league. Liggins received NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year honors after averaging 2.1 steals per game throughout the regular season. He recorded at least three steals in 12 of his 36 regular season games played for Sioux Falls.

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A Historic End to a Historic Season

The Skyforce swept the Westchester Knicks and the Canton Charge on their way to facing the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the 2016 NBA D-League Finals. After winning game 1 in Los Angeles, the Skyforce had two opportunities to win their first championship on their home floor in franchise history. Sioux Falls had previously won two CBA Championships in 1996 and 2005, which were both won on the road. After a game 2 loss, the Skyforce became first-time NBA D-League Champions with a 91-63 blowout over the D-Fenders.

 

MVP from Start to Finish

Jarnell Stokes earned the NBA D-League’s Most Valuable Player Award following a season in which he led the team with 20.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Sioux Falls finished the regular season with a 24-4 record with Stokes in uniform, but his success didn’t stop there. Stokes averaged 21.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in his seven post-season games, and added NBA D-League Finals MVP to his resume as well.

 

Feel the Heat

The Skyforce entered into a sole affiliation with the Miami Heat beginning with the 2013-14 season. Since then, Sioux Falls has a regular season record of 100-50, better than any other team in the NBA D-League in that span. The Skyforce has also made the playoffs in each of those three seasons, ultimately ending with a championship run in 2016. Miami HEAT Assistant General Manager and Skyforce General Manager Adam Simon won this year’s NBA D-League Executive of the Year honors for his efforts throughout the season, highlighting the relationship between the two organizations.

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READ: How the Miami HEAT brought South Beach to South Dakota

 

No Time to Rest

Just under two weeks removed from winning the D-League title, Skyforce head coach Dan Craig and his assistant Octavio De La Grana helped run the 2016 NBA D-League Elite Mini Camp, a scouting event featuring 39 players from around the D-League in Chicago, Illinois. Among the players participating in the showcase event are Skyforce veteran DeAndre Liggins and rookie Jabril Trawick.

 

Be A Part of FORCE NATION…  Season tickets and flex packs for the 2016-17 season are on sale. For more information, please contact a Skyforce representative at (605) 332-0605.