Jon Jennings was happy that the Maine Red Claws had the eighth pick of the NBA Development League draft last year. This year, the president and general manager of the second-year club, is practically giddy.

That’s because the Red Claws have the third pick of the eight-round draft, which will take place tonight.

“With that third pick, we have a lot more options,” said Jennings. “I think this draft is going to end up even deeper than last year. We think we’re going to be able to get a very good player, a very good player, with the third pick.”

And thus the building of the Red Claws will continue. The first practice at the Portland Expo will be on Nov. 9. The first game will be Nov. 19.

Between now and then, Jennings and Coach Austin Ainge will put together a 10-man roster that Jennings hopes will stick around for a while, unlike last year, when constant roster moves made for a taxing and, in Jennings words, “chaotic” first season.

“Of course, we don’t have any control over call-ups, and that’s why we’re here,” said Jennings on Friday. “But we want to build a team that’s going to be with us for most of the season.”

The Red Claws have already invited six players to training camp.

Returning players are guard Mario West (cut by the Celtics in training camp) and forward Paul Harris, the Red Claws’ 2009 first-round draft pick who was out with an injury all last season.

The D-League also has a couple of new rules this year, allowing teams to retain D-League rights to three of the players that were cut from their NBA parent clubs and then signed a D-League contract — as long as that player did not play in the D-League last year.

This group includes: Keith “Tiny” Gallon, a 6-foot-9, 300-pound inside player from Oklahoma who was a second-round pick by Minnesota but just recently cut by the Celtics, forward Stephan Lasme, from UMass and the 2007 D-League Defensive Player of the Year, and guard Jamar Smith, the 2010 Division II player of the year at Southern Indiana.

Forward Lamonte Ulmer, who played at Rhode Island, was invited to camp after open tryouts.

“Potentially, we could have a pretty good team,” said Jennings.

The draft begins at 7 p.m. and the Red Claws will host a draft party at Bingas Stadium Smokehouse and Sports Bar on Free Street in Portland. The party begins at 6:30 p.m.

The draft will last eight rounds and include 128 players. It is a serpentine draft, meaning the team that picks first in the first round will pick last in the second.

The Red Claws will have the third, 30th, 35th, 62nd, 67th, 94th, 99th and 126th picks. The D-League has also instituted a new rule allowing the trading of draft picks, which could mean a lot of movement on draft night.

“One of the things we want to focus on are youth and energy,” said Jennings.

“We really want to bring players here who are excited to be in our league and work hard. And we want to keep them. With the exception of them being called up, we want to keep them here.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]