Recent Showcase stars. In 2017, we were hyping Richaun Holmes and David Nwaba as NBA “D-League” standouts. 

The following year, it was Isaiah Hartenstein, Christian Wood, Luke Kornet, Alex Caruso, Thomas Bryant and Derrick Jones Jr. in a really solid group of minor leaguers. 

The Winter Showcase moved to Las Vegas in December 2018. Chris Boucher, and Jevon Carter joined Wood and Kornet as players we focused on.

Gary Payton II was easily the best player in 2019 but Naz Reid,and Jon Konchar both opened eyes.

The Showcase was on hold in December 2020 due to Covid-19, but we were back in 2021 watching the new G-League Ignite team with NBA Draft prospects like Dyson Daniels and Jaden Hardy garnering the most attention. 

Las Vegas trip notes: The Cosmopolitan remains our choice for the best lodging in Vegas. The rooms are clean. Not just ok-clean, but actually five-star hotel/resort clean. The staff is professional and accommodating and the property is in the heart of The Strip. Most rooms offer a balcony and come well equipped with two very large televisions and a mini refrigerator.

Underrated, however is the floor plan of hotel. Some rooms in Las Vegas are so far from the elevator shaft, you feel like your endurance is being tested. Not at the Cosmo. The rooms on all sides were built around the tower’s elevator shafts. You walk off the elevator and your room is nearby, no matter the room location.

The restaurants at the Cosmo are all so good you never have to leave the hotel to dine elsewhere. Best on this trip was Scarpetta’s complementary Stromboli bread. Oh my! The silver medal goes to Blue Ribbon for the “bucket of wings”, a hearty portion of spicy chicken wings accompanied by wasabi honey (or just regular honey if you do not like the heat).

Taking home the bronze medal was the French Dip at The Henry (pictured below).

We visited the new Urban Necessities store at the Caesar’s Forum Shops. The sneaker specialty retail space is easily the nicest such store we have encountered. That said, the prices seemed to reflect their new bigger space. We bought a pair of new sneakers from CRSVR at the Cosmopolitan instead.


The Hoop Obsession G-League report 2022-23

Our annual, Hoop Obsession G-League report intends to help identify the G-League players that we feel could be NBA contributors. We value TEAM play, and defensive effort a little more than normal when evaluating G-League players. Most of the G-Leaguers (outside of Scoot Henderson, a potential 2023 Draft pick) that do get called up to the “big show” are going to be role players. That does not discount players that are best at scoring, it is simply a subtlety of scouting this level.

As usual, we traveled to the G-League Winter Showcase and watched multiple games live. We followed up the Las Vegas trip with a deep audit of the present G-League statistics. The competition for a rare NBA roster spot is intense. There are over 330 G-League players that have logged at least 150 minutes this season. All 30 teams were represented in Las Vegas with the top eight in a special tournament of their own that was won by the Ontario Clippers (photo below).

Our goal is to identify 15 players that we think are the most legitimate NBA prospects. A success in G-League scouting is defined as pinpointing any G-Leaguer that can come into an NBA team’s rotation and play meaningful minutes. 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.

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. 

So, who stood out this year?

Mark Williams – Greensboro (Charlotte). The rookie Center is a defensive difference maker. His length is a problem for opponents. His standing reach is nine feet, nine inches! Williams is still a work in progress offensively. He’s mostly going to catch lobs, or score on put-backs. He attempted only two three-point shots in over 300 G-League minutes and he has more turnovers than assists in the G-League which speaks to his lack of feel on that end. That said, Williams is such an effective defender that we believe he will find a way to play regular minutes in the NBA. In a recent game with the Hornets in NBA action, Williams scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 21 minutes (vs. OKC 12/29/22). During the five-game stretch after the Winter Showcase, Williams has converted 68% of his field goal attempts for the “big club”.


Luka Garza – Iowa (Minnesota). Garza is the same player we saw at Iowa. He will always give away athleticism, but he will overcome that with tremendous heart and skill. Born with heavy feet, Garza has done all he can do to improve his ability to slide. He lost weight. He works hard. He is still slow by NBA standards, but he is smart, often in the right position as a team defender, and he willingly takes charges. He was a good shooter in college but now he is better. Garza improved his deep shooting (shot 20 of 40, 50% during G-League Cup Play), and his free throw accuracy (now at 79% FT). 


Vernon Carey Jr. – Capital City (Washington). Carey has always been efficient. He is shooting 59.6% FG, and 72% FT but what has been added with some consistency is a deep shooting element. Carey is knocking down 37% of his three-balls on medium volume (10-27 3-pt. FG). He is a ferocious defensive rebounder, and he has more assists than turnovers. Carey represents yet another case of a guy in the G-League that is certainly better than some bench BIGs currently under contract in the NBA. Carey is just 21 years old.


Jaden Hardy – Texas (Dallas). Hardy is an NBA rookie (pick 37, round 2) that still has holes in his game. That stated, the 20-year-old has so much promise it is easy to foresee him playing meaningful NBA minutes in the future. Hardy is the rare guard that can shoot with accuracy but also dunk in traffic. He is making an absurd 49% of his three-point shots, while netting 86% of his foul shots. The two biggest areas for improvement are “seeing the whole floor” and being locked in defensively. Hardy is wired to score and as such he can get tunnel-vision. Defensively, he has the required speed, he just needs more experience and probably needs to care more on that end.


Kris Dunn – Capital City (Washington).  He is now 28 years old, and he is the best all-around guard in the G-League. Dunn is a defensive difference maker. At 6’3”, with a 6’9” wingspan, Dunn continues to be disruptive. He will probably never be a guy that any opposing defense fears. He only occasionally shoots the three-ball (11-25, 44% this season). Dunn is similar to Gary Payton II in the sense that he can affect a game with smart shot selection and great defense. Dunn is shooting 60.5% FG in the G-League!


Isaiah Mobley – Cleveland. Mobley is shooting 38% 3-pt. FG, with a 1.75-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and a defensive rating that is much better than his team’s DEFRTG. Those are good stretch four numbers. Mobley was the 49th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He is 23 years old, on a two-way contract with the Cavs.


James Kelly – Birmingham (New Orleans). Kelly is a 29 year-old that has the odds stacked against him as far as an NBA shot is concerned. We might be alone on this one, but we think Kelly could crack an NBA game and hold his own. He is listed at 6’8”, 240 lbs. (We think that weight listing is low). Kelly is beefy but he can handle the ball a bit, and he has a nice feel for the game. He is a right-handed, stretch-four. On low-volume he is shooting 35.7% from 3-pt. range. Kelly has the best DEFRTG on the Birmingham squad. One glaring weakness for Kelly is his 52% at the free throw line.

Jaylin Williams – Oklahoma City. It is always a treat to watch Jaylin Williams play basketball. He is 100% about the TEAM. He is smart. He sees plays before others do on offense and on defense. Williams is 20 years old. He was the 34th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Williams is shooting 62% FG in the G-League while making 36% of his three-point attempts. He has the assist-to-turnover ratio of a point guard at 2.59-to-1.


Brandon Boston Jr. – Ontario (L.A. Clippers). Boston is under contract with the Clippers but the 2021 second round pick is often seen hooping with the Clippers’ G-League team. Usually, I would shy away from listing any non-Center that can’t make three-point shots consistently. However, my rule has always been, “If he can’t shoot, he better be extra special otherwise.” I believe Boston fits that bill. His ability to get to the basket as a 6’6” wing is very impressive. At the Winter Showcase, Boston stood out, drawing fouls in abundance. He scored 26 in the first half of his first game in Vegas. He still needs to share it more. He still needs to tighten up his shot selection, but Boston is clearly on a path to being a legitimate scorer in the NBA.  


Justin Champagnie – Raptors 905. Champagnie was waived by the Raptors one week after the Winter Showcase. He is a 21-year-old, 6’6”, 210 lb. small forward. He shoots 36% from three-point range, and he rebounds well for his size. His biggest weakness statistically is a case where the stats lie. Champagnie has more turnovers than assists. That is a fact. But what needs to be addressed is that the Raptors 905 as a TEAM, are some brick-laying dudes. Gabe Brown and Christian Vital were Champagnie’s only teammates capable of making a three-point shot with any consistency. We think Champagnie has a nice enough feel for the game. We would love to see him paired with some players that can shoot.


Gabe York – Fort Wayne (Indiana). York is among the players that is a true free-agent in the G-League. Any NBA team could snatch up the 29-year-old veteran. He is a knock-down three-point shooter (39% on heavy volume), and an 82% foul shooter. Over the years, York has become less of a “combo guard” and more of a point guard. He owns a 2.12-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the G-League this season. At 6’3”, 185 lbs., York is always going to be attacked on defense but overall, this season his DEFRTG is better than the Fort Wayne team DEFRTG, which you do not always see from smaller guards.


Jalen Lecque – Rio Grande Valley (Houston). Lecque has evolved into more of a play-maker than we originally pegged him to be. His 2.58-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio offers proof. He is now 22 years old. At 6’4”, 185 lbs., Lecque has enough speed and bounce to finish inside. He is knocking down 37% of his three-point attempts (on medium volume). He’s at 78.6% from the charity stripe. Lecque is the kind of athletic kid that teams would be foolish to overlook. He is far from a finished product, but his improvement is obvious.


Scoot Henderson – Ignite. He will likely be the second player taken in the 2023 NBA Draft. He is already a highlight show with a combination of speed, power and skill that is rarely seen. We were selfishly disappointed that he did not play at the Winter Showcase (he was out, recovering from a concussion), but his return following the Las Vegas event showed that, if anything, he came back stronger. He is hitting 43.5% of his three-point shots, and he is at 72.4% from the foul line. His 1.77-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is solid for an 18-year-old scorer.


McKinley Wright – Texas (Dallas). Wright is a 24-year-old point guard on a two-way deal with the Mavs. He is only 5’11” and defensively, he will probably always be a candidate to be targeted by opponents. However, Wright is so solid as a team leader and offense initiator that we feel he could be a third PG on an NBA roster. He is currently shooting 51% FG, 37.7% 3-pt. FG, and 80.5% FT. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.35-to-1.


Jared Rhoden – Motor City (Detroit). Rhoden was signed to a two-way contract by the Pistons following the Winter Showcase. The 6’6”, 23-year-old, small forward brings strength, hustle, grit, and a surprisingly accurate jump shot. Rhoden is shooting 45.7% from three-point range (21 of 46). He is a rock-solid 82% at the free throw line. Rhoden is precisely the kind of glue player that could be thrown into NBA action and not hurt a team.


The G-League Ignite prospects.

The Ignite team is a mixture of seasoned veterans and players who opted to not play in the NCAA that are regarded as future NBA Draft picks. We discussed Scoot Henderson earlier. He is the standout performer on the Ignite squad. Sidy Cissoko and Leonard Miller are likely to be selected in the 2023 NBA Draft. Others with a shot to play at the next level include Efe Abogidi, a 21-year-old prospect that flashed potential as well as Mojave King, and Babacar Sane. All of those players are eligible for the 2023 Draft. Meanwhile London Johnson is on schedule for the 2024 NBA Draft.

Efe Abogidi has the best defensive rating on the Ignite. He has good size, at 6’10”, 220 lbs and he has tremendous running and jumping ability. His body is NBA ready. He is a ferocious rebounder and shot blocker, but his offensive game is pretty raw (23% 3-pt. FG, more turnovers than assists). Abogidi struck us as an intelligent kid that could transform into a real NBA player. If his skills catch up to his natural athletic gifts, he has a chance.


Sidy Cissoko has the clearest path to the NBA outside of Henderson in our opinion. Quality wings of the 6’8” variety are increasingly tougher to obtain which puts a premium on any chance to develop such a prospect. Cissoko is only 18 years old with a 6’8”, 200 lb. frame. He spends most of his time on the perimeter and he could really benefit from taking the ball to the basket more often. He is said to be a favorite among his teammates. His 1.41-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio shows that he understands the game. We think he can play as a two-guard as well as a SF. The shooting component will have to improve for Cissoko (presently at 31% 3-pt FG, and just 66.7% FT), and his defensive rating is currently worse than his team’s DEFRTG. We would love to see him mix-it-up more often in the paint. His rebounding numbers should be better than they are.  


London Johnson is a 6’4”, 165 lb., guard that will be eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft. At the Showcase, Johnson played significant minutes with Scoot Henderson unavailable. I thought Johnson displayed the prerequisite poise one expects from a lead guard. So far this season, Johnson is making 34.8% of his three-balls, while hitting 81.8% of his free throws. Obviously, Johnson will need to gain strength (as almost ANY 18 year-old would) to play in the NBA.


Mojave King is a 20 year-old shooting guard that “fits the suit” at 6’5”, 195 lbs. While he has struggled overall from the field (39% FG), his three-point shooting is solid at 37.4%. King showed a willingness to share that you see from good two-guards. The New Zealand native played the last two seasons down under in the NBL. King needs to show that he can raise that FG% to be considered for the second round of the 2023 Draft.


Leonard Miller just turned 19 in November. It is important to consider his youth when watching him play. I saw flashes of a teenage mind playing with serious men. And why not? He is just 19. That said, Miller is trending toward being an under-sized Center even though he has some dribbling ability at 6’10”, 210 lbs. Miller has a nose for rebounding but his shot selection is a work in progress. He is only converting 26.4% from beyond the arc although he does have some touch (76.3% FT). He seldom makes plays for others (only 28 assists in over 500 minutes). Negatives aside, Miller has some unteachable ability and a team will surely believe they can develop it.


Babacar Sane is a 6’6”, 194 lb. player from Senegal. He came to the G-League through the NBA Academy Africa. Sane is a 19 year-old prospect that has a way to go. He has great open court speed and agility but this season he has twice as many turnovers as assists and he’s making just 27.3% of his three-point attempts. It is important to remember he is just a 19 year-old kid in a new Country. We would expect Sane to improve as the season progresses.


Showcase / G-League notes: For what it’s worth, the Winter Showcase has never had a stable home. We’ve gone from Reno, NV. to Santa Cruz, CA. Then the event moved to Canada (in the Winter!) for two runs in 2017 and 2018. The recently completed Winter Showcase was the fourth go-round at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. History tells us that the event is primed to be on the move again. We would not be surprised to see the Orlando region pop up as a leading candidate to host in December 2023 should the event indeed be moved.

We remain in the group of folks that believe the G-League Winter Showcase should be open to fans. We understand that NBA executives enjoy the freedom to roam and mingle without interruption, but the fact is, NBA arenas have fans. If the G-League is truly developing players for the next level, fans are going to be a part of it.

Some standout players that didn’t play enough total minutes in the G-League to be considered for our All-G League Team included Charles Bassey, Terry Taylor, and Tre Mann.

Following the Showcase, Joe Wieskamp earned a ten-day contract with the Raptors. Sterling Brown signed a ten-day deal with the Lakers. A.J. Lawson inked a two-way contract with Dallas. Louis King was snatched up by Philadelphia on a two-way deal.

It was fun to see friends and colleagues Kevin Danna, Deuce Mason, and Morgan Ragan doing their thing as television personalities on NBA-TV and ESPN. Danna’s research for each game is top-notch! Likewise, it is always a treat to sit with Guss Armstead who works developing many players.

It was a bummer to see Jahlil Okafor’s injury first-hand. The Capitanes are calling it a lower body injury and Okafor is presently out of action. We never did get clear confirmation, but it looked like an Achilles injury.

Our thanks to Phillip Bausk (and two anonymous folks) for getting us credentialed.    

2022 NBA G League Winter Showcase daily recaps: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.