G-League thriving, NBA ten-day signing period on horizon - by Bobby Gerould

Jan. 2, 2019 ...The NBA G-League held their annual Showcase earlier than normal. The Winter Showcase from Las Vegas recently wrapped up and as we do annually, we devoted our attention to the G-League for the better part of two weeks. We traveled to Las Vegas and attended games, we watched televised contests, scoured digital media highlights, and did a statistical audit of the numbers to-date for the 2018-19 G-League season. 

Our goal is to identify roughly 15 players that we think are the most legitimate NBA prospects. In some ways, G-League players, that are NBA prospects, are viewed differently than college prospects. A success in G-League scouting is defined as indentifying any G-Leaguer that can come into an NBA team’s rotation and play some meaningful minutes. It is unlikely (but not impossible) that the G-League is going to produce future NBA All-Stars. Yes, we attended D-League games (as the league was then known) where Rudy Gobert played. The point is... mining for gold and platinum in the G-League will likely leave you broke. However, if you dig for some silver, you can find it.

The setup was nice for a temporary court.

Certainly, there are players in the G-League who thrive on offense but their defense is so poor that their offensive abilty becomes moot.  We value defense. It should be noted that we have seen most of these players in the past, either in college, or Summer League, or in some cases, the NBA.  Talent evaluation is a moving target. What we thought about a player in July can shift by January. As always, we profess that being “data informed” is the way to go. But relying on data ONLY can lead you astray. We feel it is crucial to see players play and focus on their feel for the game. Do they communicate? Are they engaged defensively? Do they “see” the plays that are there for the taking? There are so many questions we ask. 

Ultimately it comes down to feel. One year ago we hyped the likes of Quinn Cook, Thomas Bryant, Tyrone Wallace, Torrey Craig, Derrick Jones Jr., Jaron Blossomgame, and Jakarr Sampson. All of those players are now seemingly G-League graduates, playing in the NBA or getting PAID in China.

The NBA's ten-day contract signing period begins January 5th. So who do we think are the standouts in the G-League? We are not limiting ourselves to players that only played in the Showcase, but we are requiring that a player has logged at least 251 minutes this season to be eligible for consideration. 

Chris Boucher - Raptors 905 …Boucher did not play in Vegas but he is clearly the top player in the G-League in our opinion. He is a couple weeks shy of his 26th birthday so he is a bit older than some. Boucher is on a two-way deal with the Toronto Raptors. Boucher is averaging 29.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 4.8 blocked shots per game. He shoots the three-ball at a respectable 34%, and he makes his free throws (77% FT). At 6’11”, 200 lbs., the rail-thin Boucher is best suited to play as a stretch four or a pivot. The Raptors 905 team is among the best in the G-League’s Eastern Conference. That is not a coincidence. It’s a direct result of having a dynamic player like Boucher that can score and defend. 


Jevon Carter - Memphis Hustle. …Carter is averaging 18.6 points (37% 3-pt.), 5.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 3.3 steals per game. The 23 year-old, NBA rookie, has spent a fair amount of time playing in the G-League, and when he does play, the Memphis Hustle becomes a better defensive team. While Carter has a way to go before anyone will confuse him with an offensive force, his defensive efforts are so outstanding that we think he can be a difference maker ultimately in the NBA. The Hustle is 6.7 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Carter on the floor. 


Angel Delgado - Agua Caliente Clippers. …At 6’10”, 240 lbs, Delgado is a traditional “beast four” by size. Unfortunately, he doesn’t shoot the three ball well enough to stretch defenses with consistency at this stage of his development. That leaves him as an undersized pivot. He has been holding his own on defense in the G-League. The Clippers are 6.7 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Delgado in the game. He has always been excellent on the glass. Delgado is averaging 15.7 points and 13.9 rebounds per game. He has more assists than turnovers. Delgado is 24 years-old.


Christian Wood - Wisconsin Herd. …Wood is averaging 28.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots per game in G-League action. He has struggled with deep shooting (only 18% from beyond the three point line) and he continues to be a player that turns it over more than he assists it. What Wood does well is score. He can get buckets and his numbers are always efficient. In our opinion, Wood, at age 23, is better than some of the Centers in the NBA that get regular minutes. Wood has been too good to deny. Eventually, he WILL be a NBA player playing meaningful NBA minutes. 


Alan Williams - Long Island Nets. …Williams was averaging 20 points and 14.6 rebounds per game before being waived from his two-way deal by the Nets to sign a lucrative deal in China. He is a BIG that can make his free throws (76.2% FT). The former UC Santa Barbara star is now 25 years-old. His game has always been efficient.


Alize Johnson - Fort Wayne Mad Ants. …Johnson, a 2018 second round pick of the Indiana Pacers, has been arguably the best player capable of playing small forward in the G-League. While most see him as a stretch four, we think Johnson has enough skill to be a big wing. Johnson is netting 45% of his three point attempts while making good decisions. His 1.41-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is solid. Defensively, Johnson has been a plus. The Mad Ants are 4.3 points better per 100 possessions on defense with Johnson playing. 


Briante Weber - Sioux Falls. …Weber remains as a top-tier G-League point guard. His assist-to-turnover ratio is better than two-to-one, and his, always pesky, defensive abilities are intact. The Skyforce is 5.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Weber on the floor. This season in the G-League, he’s connecting on 43% of his three-point shots. Weber is averaging 13.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 3.3 steals per game. 


Luke Kornet - Westchester. …BIGs that can shoot have value. Kornet is a 7’1”, 23 year-old BIG that is averaging 18.9 points and shooting 47.5% from three-point range. He gets 8.9 rebounds per G-League game, and he has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. Most importantly, the Westchester Knicks have been decidedly better on defense with Kornet on the floor. We think Kornet would be challenged to guard many of the “fours” in the NBA. But in certain situations, he might work out just fine. He is under contract with the New York Knicks. 


Jordan Loyd - Raptors 905 …In our opinion, Loyd is the third best point guard in the G-League overall. Offensively, he is the best. He is averaging 23.7 points (50% FG, 35% 3-pt, 87.6% FT), 5.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. He can score and distribute. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.38-to-1. While not as dynamic on defense as Jevon Carter or Briante Weber, Loyd is no slouch. His defensive rating is equal to the Raptors 905 team defensive rating. Loyd is on a two-way deal with the Raptors. He is 25 years old. 


R.J. Hunter - Erie. …Hunter, a 2015 NBA first round pick (28th overall), is looking like a player who is now ready to play NBA rotation minutes. At age 25, we view him as the best G-League prospect at the TWO. He is averaging 22.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. In the past, his defense was suspect but we’ve seen a renewed commitment to that side of the floor this season from Hunter. The Erie Bayhawks are 2.2 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Hunter in the game. Hunter is 6’5”, 185 lbs. Hunter is an unrestricted NBA free agent. If any player is due to be signed to a ten-day contract, it is Hunter. 


Yante Maten - Sioux Falls. …Maten has been crushing it in the G-League, averaging 27 points per game while playing remarkably efficient basketball. Maten is a stretch four that rebounds well. He is averaging 10.5 rebounds per game. He is connecting on 39.5% of his three-balls. Overall he is shooting 59% FG, and he makes his free throws too (79.6% FT). The one hole in Maten’s game that needs to get better is his decision making. 


Hakim Warrick - Iowa. …At 36 years of age, Warrick is still grinding. He can still move well enough to guard the bigger NBA small forwards, or he can match up with with FOURs and some small FIVEs. Although he is unlikely to hit a high volume of three point shots, we think he could play spot minutes in the NBA. His decision making is solid. His true shooting percentage is 67.4%. (In true shooting percentage, two and three-point field goals and free throws are all considered in its calculation).  Since Warrick is a seasoned veteran player he should have no issues fitting back into a role in the NBA.


Jordan McRae - Capital City. …McRae is our Hoop Obsession number two ranked G-League shooting guard. McRae gets buckets. The 6’5” scorer averages 25 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He has improved as a decision maker over the years, and he now sports a healthy 1.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He is a prospect because he can create offense. He shoots 34.4% from beyond the arc, and 83.1% from the free throw line. Don’t expect much from McRae on defense. He is still a minus on that side of the ball. McRae is 27 years old, and he is under contract as a two-way player for the Wizards. 


Brandon Goodwin - Memphis. …Goodwin is a two-way player for the Denver Nuggets. Because the Nuggs do not have a G-League team, Goodwin has been playing for the Memphis Hustle. The rookie, 23 year-old, two-guard is averaging 23.6 points (51.1% FG, 33.9% 3-pt., 79.1% FT), 5.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. At this stage, he is much more an offensive threat than he is a defensive stopper. Goodwin will likely have a hard time cracking Denver’s deep backcourt rotation. He is a sleeper to consider in the off-season. 


Scotty Hopson - Oklahoma City. …The 29 year-old has certainly paid his dues. He is currently averaging 18.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in the G-League. He is barely at the minimum for deep shooting (33.3% 3-pt.), but we like his transition ability, and his physical play.


Others we like

Centers: Chinanu Onuaku, Cameron Oliver, Willie Reed, Tyler Davis, Drew Eubanks, Daniel Ochefu, Jemerrio Jones.

Fours: Bruno Cabloco, Terrence Jones.

Threes: Jaron Blossomgame, Nick King. 

Twos: PJ Dozier, JaCorey Williams.

Point Guards: Kadeem Allen, Kalin Lucas. 


Blocked shots per minute: 1. Chris Boucher, 2. Amida Brimah, 3. Norvel Pelle, 4. Drew Eubanks, 5. Johnny Hamilton. 

Points per minute: 1. Chris Boucher, 2. Yante Maten, 3. Christian Wood, 4. Jaylen Barford, 5. Jordan McRae. 

Assist-to-turnover ratio: 1. Robert Johnson 7.67-to-1, 2. Isaiah Wilkins 4.43-to-1, 3. Vincent Edwards 3.67-to-1, 4. Isaiah Cousins 3.47-to-1, 5. Scoochie Smith 3.41-to-1. 

Coach to watch

Aaron Miles would be our Coach of the Year at this point in the G-League. The Santa Cruz Head Coach has complied a 16-5 record with a team void of a G-League superstar. Miles is a former Kansas point guard that played professionally in France, Greece, Russia, and the NBA (brief stint with Golden State). He is now 35 years old. 

Notes: ...The G-League has come a LONG way since we first attended the showcases in Reno. The league is bigger, now up to 27 teams, and the attention paid to the event from a league personnel standpoint has never been higher. A quick glance around the warehouse called the Mandalay Bay Events Center revealed the presence of Adrian Wojarnowski, and Daryl Morey. There were decision makers in abundance everywhere you looked. ...Also very visible was the league's new President, Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The former NBA star is highly regarded within NBA circles, and we have no doubt that the G-League is in good hands with Shareef at the helm. ...Next season, the New Orleans Pelicans will add themselves as the 28th team with a direct affilate. The team will play in Erie through the 2020-21 season. It will then be relocated to Birmingham, AL.

One thing lacking in the Winter Showcase was the presence of fans. The event was closed to the public with teams being allowed to have up to 40 passes per game to give out to family members, or VIP’s. Hopefully, that will change in the future. The lack of energy without fans was palpable. I felt it as an attendee of games, and I also felt it as I watched games on ESPNU. As my wife asked, "How can you have a 'Showcase' that's not open to the public?"

As always, I enjoyed my annual dive into the G-League. Las Vegas does hosting correctly. The city was built to host. From the 24-hour dining choices to the ease of transportation, Las Vegas is undeniably the best location yet for the G-League Showcase.