Player of the Week
[Player Dyson Daniels], Ignite
Over his first fourteen games Daniels is averaging 11.3/6.1/4.5 while adding 1.9 SPG and 0.8 BPG. A complete guard that doesn’t need to score to impact the game, Daniels will continue to grow in the upcoming regular season. The Australian scored in double figures in three of the last five games on 48.7% shooting from the floor. Finding his shot and being able to execute is an important development in his game. In the other two games, Daniels struggled from the floor but averaged 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 1 block. This is a testament to how he continues to impact the game even if he isn’t the primary or even secondary scorer. His best performance came on December 15th in a win against Salt Lake City. Daniels posted 11 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists falling one assist shy of a triple double. At eighteen years, already standing at 6-6, he has a chance to be one of the most complete guards in the upcoming draft. By continuing to work on his aggression and consistency, expect him to post even stronger numbers in the regular season.
Two Way Players: Over the last month or so, two way players have seen an increase in NBA minutes and many players have been able to prove they belong in the league. Players that were undrafted or considered “development players” have been given an opportunity and continue to succeed, a testament to how talented the NBA and their affiliate teams have become. One of the many teams using young players to fill their gaps is the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia signed Myles Powell to one of their two way contracts and played him the next night. They have also featured Paul Reed and Charles Bassey, two big men that began as development players but recently became a larger part of the team in the absence of Andre Drummond. While it isn’t expected for these teams to The 76ers are one of the many examples around the league utilizing their G-League players and this could open the door for players to find a more permanent home on the main roster.
The Big Three: While they are outside of the scope of the G-League or NBA, Ice Cube created a development league in his own right by extending the career of veteran players. Initially, the selling point for The Big Three was a place for veteran players to continue to stay ready and have a chance to get back into the NBA as a role player. While it hasn’t been true up to this point and only Joe Johnson has had multiple workouts prior to this NBA season, a workout prior to this season, the Covid outbreak has proven The Big Three a success. Recently Johnson and Mario Chalmers} have found themselves on NBA rosters signing ten day contracts with the Celtics and Heat. Even though this may be temporary they are prime examples of what staying in shape and polishing your game can get you. A three on three league for veterans now has legitimate proof that you can get back to the NBA if you continue to work. Not only does this give the league legitimacy in regards to their initial claim but could also elevate their level of play and fan interest if quality free agents need extra reps in the offseason. Expect The Big Three is a win-win and it is finally getting the NBA recognition it deserves.
NBA Protocol: The NBA has struggled over the last month with the coronavirus. Games have been postponed, teams have been short-handed and Christmas day felt like it should’ve been a preseason special rather than a marquee day for the league. In recent weeks, the league office has made it clear that they plan to move forward with the season regardless of the individual impact it has on each team. The reality of the situation is that if this was in the beginning of the season it would have a lesser impact on the final standings because good teams would have a full season to correct their record. However, as they trend toward the halfway mark any type of losing streak could keep teams on the outside looking in. While there is no perfect solution to this issue as the Covid cases continue to rise across the nation, a modified season similar to the 72 games that were played last year would give teams a chance to recover and avoid putting unnecessary stress on their healthy athletes. It feels like the issue for teams could be two-fold as we continue to play games. First, having a coronavirus outbreak among any team is concerning from an immediate health aspect but also could impact the team as the season develops. Depleted benches and tighter rotations earlier in the season lead to additional fatigue toward the end of the season. Secondly, and as a result the level of play may diminish and teams could falter costing them playoff position. The NBA is one of the most progressive leagues in professional sports, if the issue continues, they should be able to find a blanket solution even if it means shortening the season. Both short-term and long-term player health should matter in this situation and if they intervene it could benefit the quality of competition come playoff time. At what point do professional and collegiate sports leagues begin to consider the idea of allowing vaccinated, asymptomatic players to participate?
Most NBA Ready G-League Rookies
Many rookies have already used their G-League performances to break through to the NBA level. However, other NBA ready players have suffered from clogged rotations and congested depth charts. Even though their professional organization has decided they would be better served getting minutes at the development level it doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to play in the league regardless of the role. These five players are currently NBA ready but for one reason or another are currently developing in the G-League on a two-way contract
5. [Player: Duane Washington, Pacers
Washington Jr. went undrafted this season but was one of the many free agents signed immediately after the conclusion of the draft. Currently averaging 19.5 points per game, Washington could improve his efficiency from the floor but overall has shown he can play at a NBA level. One of the most common issues on this list is being “stuck” behind a crowded back court. The Pacers selected Chris Duarte and as the development priority they won’t allow Washington to take his minutes. Combined with the already established Brogdon, Levert, Lamb and Holiday, the Ohio State guard hasn’t been able to get a consistent or long-term look at the NBA floor. If Washington can keep up his current production, he may find himself on the main roster after the trade deadline. Indiana is currently falling far and fast in regards to the playoff race and a fire sale could open the door to rotation minutes in the end stage of the season.
4. Joshua Primo, Spurs
Primo is another player that has suffered from guard depth at the professional level but is a bit different than Washington. He was selected as a lottery pick but has been stuck in the G-League developing his game to compete at the next level. The biggest “project” on this list, the Spurs took Primo with the hope they would be able to slowly bring him along and integrate him into the lineup. However, selecting a player in the lottery only to have him play almost the entire season in the G-League should be frustrating. Coupled with the fact he has to fight for minutes behind Murray, Jones, White, Walker IV and Forbes it is clear we won’t be seeing Primo in a consistent capacity until the last quarter of the season. Even though the Spurs are rebuilding and seem to have a plan it is hard to relegate a lottery pick to the G-League for the whole year. On a team with weaker guard play or in an organization with a different mindset in regards to a rebuild, Primo would be getting consistent rotation minutes but that isn’t the case. Ideally, Primo will be able to find minutes in the rotation next season or when the Spurs are officially eliminated from playoff contention.
3. McKinley Wright IV, Timberwolves
Standing at only 5’11” the Colorado guard was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wright has more than a few things going against him in regards to making the leap to the next level but this doesn’t change his NBA readiness. An undrafted free agent, standing under six foot and signed to a team that already touts a loaded back court, the chance we see Wright getting consistent minutes this season is almost zero. Yet, even with all of this against him he is proving to the G-League why he belongs on the Timberwolves roster. Posting 19.4/4.2/6.7 on shooting splits of 50/40/93.1 he is statistically on pace to have one of the most efficient G-League seasons ever. Being a member of the 50/40/90 club is a feat only the most elite players accomplish and while he may not be as efficient at the next level, Wright can clearly play. These numbers are also coming at volume with 13.6 attempts from the field and five of them coming from beyond the arc. What he is doing should be given more attention, especially from the Wolves. Based on these numbers at his current volume, expect to see Wright on a main roster next season.
2. Sharife Cooper, Hawks
When you think of show stopping guards in the G-League, Sharife Cooper should come to mind before anyone else. Currently averaging 19.2/3.0/5.4 with shooting splits of 45.9/36.9/73.1 the former Auburn guard may have a better chance to find his way to the league than Josh Primo and Duane Washington Jr. due to the Hawks guard situation. Cooper is a pure point guard so he will always find himself behind Trae Young. Outside of Young the point guard position is wide open. Examining Atlanta’s backcourt in entirety, Williams is an aging veteran, Reddish has been the center of trade talks for almost two years, Wright isn’t a permanent fixture as he doesn’t fit their core’s timeline and Huerter and Bogdanovic are both more suited for the two. Essentially, if Cooper can continue to prove himself you may not see him this year but could easily find him as their rotation guard next season. Two of Cooper’s weaknesses are his size and his turnover rate. While he can’t control his size he has proven now in college and the G-League that it doesn’t impact his ability to perform and if he can cut down the turnovers he will be one step closer to the NBA.
1. [Payer: Jalen Johnson], Hawks
Johnson has been featured on previous lists because he does a lot well and is truly the most NBA ready G-League rookie. After leaving Duke the question marks and concerns surrounding his game impacted his draft stock allowing him to fall in the draft. Being selected by Atlanta was both a blessing and a curse for Johnson. On one hand, he is surrounded by young players and should be able to truly compete for a large share of rotation minutes when he gets to the NBA level. However, on the other hand if he is unable to prove himself and the organization retains all of their young players he may never be able to find his footing on the main roster. As of right now, he hasn’t been able to break into their NBA rotation but it is hard to imagine the team ignoring his abilities much longer. One of the most valuable rookies in the G-League expect Johnson to become a fixture in Atlanta sooner than later.