Player of the WeekMarJon Beauchamp
Even though the G-League season doesn’t officially start until December, we have already had our first look at the new Ignite roster in the Showcase Cup. In the first four games of the season some of the younger players on the team took time to get their footing however, this was not the case for Beauchamp (pictured). In the first four games, Beauchamp has averaged 17.5/6.0/1.5 while also adding 1.8 SPG and 1.5 BPG. He will need to continue to improve his outside shooting, currently at 19.3% but his efficiency inside and at the line, 60% and 80% respectively, has given Beauchamp a foundation to build on. As he continues to get NBA caliber games under his belt, consistency will be a major key to his overall success as a player and prospect. While the Showcase Cup has been a bit of a struggle for the team through four games, expect the Ignite to figure it out during the regular season.
Who’s HotJaden Hardy
For most mainstream media outlets Hardy was the hype driving this season’s Ignite team. One of the best prospects in his class and a presumed top three pick, Hardy was expected to explode in the G-League and light up the box score as the number one option. In the showcase, Hardy struggled in game one. Shooting 13.3% from the field and 0% from beyond the arc on a total fifteen field goal attempts is extremely unlike Hardy. He immediately turned it around though, leading the team in scoring their last three games with 24, 16 & 23. Expect more of the same from the young guard going forward.
The NBA has always been one of, if not, the most progressive professional league between the four major sports. As we move into year two of the G-League Ignite project it is time to acknowledge that it was a “slam dunk”. Over the years it has become increasingly obvious that high caliber NBA prospects have more than one option to become a staple in the league. Avoiding college and playing overseas has become a way to grow their brand and still be a first round pick based on their talent. Two years ago, before college athletes could profit off their NIL, the NBA made the decision to open the door to developing stars challenging them to play against top competition and earn salary. With two great rosters, filled with prospects that should be NBA players in the near future, the league was able to keep players home, help them get drafted, and increase their media buzz. A win-win situation, expect this partnership to expand in the upcoming years.
The Showcase Cup is supposed to be something new and exciting for the G-League but it feels like a flop. It wasn’t advertised or televised in a place that would keep basketball fans interested even though the level of talent in the league has never been higher. With essentially no incentive to win outside of a trophy with equal value to the summer league, these games feel more like the preseason rather than a twenty nine team tournament. These games won’t mean anything by the time the G-League regular season ends and if you don’t win the championship, competitors won’t be happy with a trophy they won before the season started. The NBA is using this as a litmus test to push for an in-season tournament at the next level but should stay away from the idea altogether.
Top 5 G-League Scorers
With the increase in talent flooding the G-League, there have been major performances over the first two weeks. Even though the Ignite have seen their fair share of scoring from Hardy and the other prospects, rookies drafted this season have been lighting up the league.
#5 Jaden Hardy
This may feel like an overreaction based on the fact we are only four games into his G-League career but even after his shaky game one he has proven he can put the ball in the bucket. Hardy has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor at any time while also being able to create his own shot. He will need to continue to work on his efficiency as his volume shooting has put up solid numbers in the box score but returns a less than stellar field goal percentage. Coming in at number five for what he does but also what he can do, expect him to keep getting better. If Hardy can raise his field goal percentage, he will not only be a G-League star but also a rookie of the year candidate when he is drafted.
#4 Jared Butler
Butler is the first name on this list that has suffered from a log jam in the NBA. A rotation level player has been sent to the G-League because of the more established players on the main roster. Through two games he has proven to be one of the best scorers in the league. Averaging 28PPG on 54% shooting he should find himself in Utah by the end of the season but for now he is torching the development league and leading his team in the Showcase Cup.
#3 McKinley Wright IV
McKinley Wright IV was surrounded by questions when he was drafted. The college sharpshooter didn’t have the best summer league from behind the arc and is currently on a two-way contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Wright finds himself on this list because through four games he is shooting 62.5% from three on six attempts per game. Scoring 27.3PPG overall, Wright’s shooting ability should help him earn a permanent spot with the Timberwolves main roster but until that day comes expect him to continue to light it up from behind the arc.
Bouknight is a prime example of the talent currently at the professional level. The eleventh pick in the draft will split time between the main roster and Greensboro Swarm during the season. He hasn’t been able to crack the rotation in Charlotte, to no fault of his own, so the team sent him down to play a few games in the G-League. Labeled a “bucket” during his time at UConn, Bouknight knows how to score and in a variety of different ways. In three games he has posted an average twenty nine points. The ability to create his own shot, and being able to score from all three levels nudges Bouknight ahead of his rookie counterparts Butler and Wright IV.
#1 Cam Thomas
Cam Thomas is number one on this list because he won’t be back in the G-League anytime soon. Similar to Bouknight, Thomas was sent to the G-League to earn extra minutes because he lacked consistent time in Brooklyn and struggled to find his footing in the rotation. In his first and only game of the season Cam Thomas scored 46 points for the Long Island Nets. He was immediately called back up to the main roster. Thomas made a statement that he was ready today. If Kyrie returns this season Thomas could see his minutes reduced again and return to Long Island later in the season. Opposing teams are hoping that Thomas has a successful NBA career as they won’t want to see him in Long Island come playoff time.