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Indiana Pacers 2015-16 Player Review: Shayne Whittington was a trouper

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The "D" in D-League stands for development not demotion. Shayne Whittington understood that.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Assigned to the Mad Ants seven times and recalled to the Indiana Pacers six, it is likely that Shayne Whittington spent more time making one round-trip from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis and back than he did on the court for the Blue & Gold this season (149 minutes). During one particularly hectic stretch from late December to early January, it would have been understandable if the second-year player viewed the constant back-and-forth between the two cities as an oftentimes fruitless inconvenience.

March 15: The Pacers recalled Whittington from the D-League ahead of the team's road game against the Boston Celtics in which he earned a DNP.

March 16: The Pacers re-assigned him to the Mad Ants.

March 17: The Pacers recalled him from the D-League ahead of the team's road game against the Toronto Raptors in which he logged fewer than four minutes of play time.

March 20: Whittington re-joined the Mad Ants for a home game against the Grand Rapids Drive in which he notched a double-double.

Instead, he relished the opportunities provided by both teams. Telling Pacers.com's Mark Montieth he would "make that drive any day to come back here" as well as noting "I think the D League has helped me out tremendously." Wisely, Whittington may have realized that making frequent trips back to Indianapolis was not a privilege readily offered to both players in Fort Wayne on assignment.

How did Shayne Whittington impress:

Whittington, at 6-foot-11, averaged a modest 12 points and 7 rebounds, but he lead all D-League centers in steals per game (min. 35 games played). Such a stat speaks to his ability to make his presence felt through little things that make his team stand out more than himself.

Fort Wayne's final defensive possession against the Raptors 905 back in November is a prime example of his commitment to making the extra effort. With under 10 seconds remaining, Whittington stole the ball from Lucas Noguiera which set the stage for Xavier Thames to knock down a game-winning three-pointer.

In a considerably smaller role against tougher competition, NBA Projections estimates that Whittington would average 8.75 points and 7.2 rebounds on 42.2 percent shooting per 36 minutes with the Pacers.

How did Shayne Whittington disappoint:

The first few months of the season were understandably rough for Shayne Whittington's 3-point field-goal percentage as he actively worked to extend his shooting range, attempting over 40 percent of his shots this season from beyond 24 feet. As he struggled to find his shooting touch from long distance, the Mad Ants continued to force feed him the ball from beyond the arc.

Consider this: Whittington attempted a total of six three pointers in six total games with Indiana's D-League affiliate last season. Through December of this season, he had launched 63.

Given that his high volume of three-point attempts only resulted in a 31 percent accuracy rate overall, not having the 25-year-old focus more heavily on driving the ball out of the pick-and-roll or passing out of the post may seem like a missed opportunity. However, a closer look at the month-by-month splits shows that his shot improved as the season progressed.

November: 25.0%

December: 23.1%

January: 32.0%

February: 32.4%

March: 38.6%

Whittington's 3-point field-goal percentage may have needed to bottom out before it could get better, but being able to more consistently knock down shots from beyond the arc will be well-worth the effort for a 6-foot-11 big man trying to stick in a league increasingly defined by pace and space.

What's next for Shayne Whittington?

If the Pacers pick up his team option for 2016-17, Whittington as a third year player, can still be assigned to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants an unlimited number of times. However, General Manager Kevin Pritchard's assessment of his play at the conclusion of Fort Wayne's season makes it seem like the 25-year-old might end up spending a little less time travelling up and down I-69.

"We would feel comfortable putting him in a game for 10 or 15 minutes (with the Pacers)," Pritchard told the News Sentinel's Reggie Hayes.

By refusing to consider his stay in the D-League as a demotion, Whittington may have extended his stay with the Pacers.

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