The Hoop Obsession 2022 G-League Report. – By Bobby Gerould, January 6, 2022.

At no other time in history has a feeder league been more important to the NBA than the G-League is today. With health and safety protocols related to the widespread Covid-19/Omicron virus keeping NBA teams in a constant state of flux, the G-League has provided relief in the form of players who are ready to step in and contribute. A record 95 "call-ups" transpired in December 2021.

The G-League has 30 teams. 28 of the squads are directly affiliated with an NBA parent club. Only Portland and Phoenix do not have G-League teams. Phoenix had the Northern Arizona Suns but sold that franchise to Detroit. The Pistons re-branded the name to the Motor City Cruise. The other two G-League teams are the Ignite and the Mexico City Capitanes. The Ignite team includes young players that bypassed NCAA play to earn a paycheck in the G-League. Both Mexico City and the Ignite team play a schedule that is deemed “exhibition only”.

As we do annually, we recently dedicated a week to observing G-League games, and we followed that up with a league-wide statistical audit. The G-League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas allowed us to watch as many games as we could digest. Our access was such that we could sit near benches and be “on-top” of the action. We had an unfettered view of how coaches and players related to each other as well.

Ultimately, our purpose is to decipher which players in the G-League could be helping an NBA team. It is crucial to understand that in the vast majority of cases, we are talking about potential NBA role players. All-Stars such as Rudy Gobert and Khris Middleton (who played when it was called the D-League) are likely once-in-a decade type occurrences. Historically, there are players that go beyond being called a “role player”. Of late, Gary Payton II, who we hyped two years ago as the best guard prospect in the G-League, is now making an impact in the NBA. One could argue he is not just a role player, but a VERY IMPORTANT role player for the Golden State Warriors. However, like past recent G-League success stories (Christian Wood, Naz Reid, Max Strus), only Fred VanVleet is on a path to possible NBA All-Star status.

With those disclaimers declared, we present our team of 15 players in the G-League that we like the best TODAY. Our list is not about long-term potential. Our list is about the players we think are the best suited at this moment. We value OVERALL play. In particular, we believe in players that can play defense effectively while still offering offensive efficiency.

The Hoop Obsession All-G League Team.

Cheick Diallo – Presently an unrestricted free agent, Diallo is a 25 year-old, 6’8” undersized pivot that has 185 games of NBA experience. He is just enough of a shooter to keep opponents honest, and he brings it on defense. The Motor City Cruise were a full eight points per 100 possessions better defensively when Diallo was on the floor. He was recently signed by Detroit and he appeared in three games with the Pistons but he was waived January 2nd. With the Motor City Cruise, Diallo averaged 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in just 21.7 minutes per outing. Diallo had a monster game in the Winter Showcase (12/22/21) where he scored 27 points (11-15 FG, 3-5 FT), grabbed 17 rebounds, and blocked three shots in 34 mins. 


Saben Lee – Lee is a 22 year-old point guard that is on a three-year contract with the Pistons. We like his toughness, and defensive mindset that pairs nicely with his ever-improving ability to shoot the ball accurately. This season, Lee is shooting 47% from three-point range in the G-League. He backs that up with 82% at the foul line, and he boasts a better than two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. In his seven G-League games, he’s averaging 30 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. …Lee is the son of Amp Lee, a former star running back at Florida State that played nine seasons in the NFL.


Terry Taylor – Taylor is under contract on a two-way deal with the Indiana Pacers. He is a bit of a conundrum as a guy that guards twos and threes but struggles to make perimeter shots (just 27.8% from 3-pt. land). Offensively, his feel and decision-making show signs of having something to work with. He has a 1.72-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s a plus-defender and an unquestioned NBA athlete. For Taylor, it likely all comes down to improving as a deep shooter. His 77.3% FT rate shows that he does possess some touch. On day three in Vegas, he had a 10-11 FG performance, to go with eleven rebounds.  


Javin DeLaurier – DeLaurier is an unrestricted free agent that we think could crack an NBA lineup today. He is a 6’10”, 237 lb. stretch-four. The Duke product is 23 years-old. He was with Milwaukee for a brief ten-day stint but was waived on January 2nd.  DeLaurier’s Wisconsin G-League team is 7.5 points better per 100 possessions defensively with him on the floor.


Luka Samanic – Samanic was dumped by the San Antonio Spurs and now he is under a two-way contract with the New York Knicks. The draw with Samanic is his shooting touch and ability to run the floor for his size. At 6’11”, 235 lbs, Samanic can make perimeter shots (17 of 41, 41.5% from 3-pt. range). He is shooting 90% from the foul line (18-20 FT) in a small sample size. He was G-League Player of the Week for November 29-December 5. The right-handed BIG is best suited to guard other centers and we have doubts about him guarding some of the more nimble fours in the NBA. Samanic certainly needs to have a better feel for the game but he “fits the suit” of an NBA player.


Jalen Johnson – Johnson is on the Atlanta Hawks but they have a surplus of players ahead of him on the depth chart. The 20th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft shows outstanding NBA athleticism and ability to make plays in transition. The College Park Skyhawks have been 6.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Johnson on the floor this season. Johnson is 6’9”, 220 lbs. He is making 37.5% of his three-point shots, and he owns a 1.53-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Johnson will have to improve his concentration at the foul line. He is only connecting on 56% FT on the season.


Charlie Brown – On the verge of actually seeing rotation time in the NBA, Brown has been with the Thunder, the Mavericks, and the 76’ers so far this season. He is a 6’6” wing player that has an accurate shooting stroke. He makes a high percentage of threes at a high volume (30 of 75, 40% in eleven G-League games in 2021-22).  On the opening day of the Winter Showcase, Brown helped Delaware with 19 points (7-10 FG, 5-8 3-pt., 0-1 FT), seven rebounds, and four steals, in 29 minutes.


Chris Silva – Silva was re-signed by the Miami Heat on December 31st after a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Silva is an undersized Center (25 years-old). At 6’8” he can have trouble finishing in the NBA paint but his effort is always there. In a dozen G-League games with the Iowa Wolves, Silva averaged 15 points and 9.7 rebounds. He’s always a plus defender. In this case, Silva established himself with Iowa being 6.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the floor.


Trevelin Queen – Queen is on a two-way contract with the Houston Rockets. He is not quite there as a shooter (32% from 3-pt.) but his physical style of play makes sure the opponents “feel him”. He has shown improvement at the foul line, now connecting on 75% vs. 67% last season.  Queen is 6’6”, 190 lbs. (24 years-old). In ten games with Rio Grande Valley, Queen is averaging 22 points, six rebounds, four assists, and over two steals.


Justin Jackson – He signed a contract with the Phoenix Suns on January 4th. He is still that solid decision maker that fits seamlessly into the team concept. Now 26 years-old, and a veteran of 250 NBA games, Jackson is shooting the ball as well as he ever has. In ten G-League games this season, Jackson made 42% of his three-point attempts, while nailing 86% of his free throws. He continues to have the assist-to-turnover ratio of a Point Guard, at 2.23-to-1. Defensively, he’s probably not adding much but he’s also not hurting you badly. His overall skill level outweighs the defensive shortcomings.


Devontae Cacok – Cacok has a motor that just goes and goes. He is presently on a two-way contract with the San Antonio Spurs. He is a 6’7”, 240 lb. pivot that is averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds per game. Cacok is shooting 61% FG through 14 G-League contests in 2021-22. He is the ultimate hustle-glue player that can guard multiple positions. Offensively, he turns it over more than he assists it, and he doesn’t shoot the three-ball with any accuracy or consistency.  He DOES communicate well on the floor, and he makes plays with dependability due to his constant effort.


Daniel Oturu – Now an unrestricted free-agent after being waived by the Toronto Raptors on January 3rd, Oturu is a player to continue to monitor. He has good size at 6’10”, 240 lbs. While he hasn’t shot a high volume of three-balls, Oturu has shown some signs of developing that part of his game further. This season, in seven G-League games, Oturu is 6 of 16 (37%). He is averaging 20.5 points, and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is still just 22 years-old.


Mason Jones – Jones is a 24-year-old combo guard that is showing an improved sense of sharing and decision making. He is on a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jones has always had a knack for scoring. This season in 12 G-League games for South Bay, Jones is averaging 17.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and an eye-opening 7.0 assists. Jones owns a very nice 2.58-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Defensively, South Bay is slightly better when Jones is off the floor (.5 points per 100 possessions). We feel Mason Jones' perceived, or real, defensive flaws are not too much to overcome. He’s too good offensively to be overlooked.


Mac McClung – The 6’2”, 185 lb. combo guard showed some more willingness to share through the first 13 games of the G-League season. He has 76 assists and only 35 turnovers (2.17 assist-to-turnover ratio). McClung is a good shooter (40% 3-pt., 82.9% FT) that can create his own shot in most cases. We’ve seen BIG physical guards give him trouble. In the past, McClung too often ended up taking a poor shot. Now, he is showing maturity by trusting his teammates and turning down some of his ill-fated jacks. McClung turns 23 on January 6th.


Kyle Guy – Guy is now 24 years-old. He has always had a good feel for the game. Clearly, he knows how to play. Recently, Guy has shown a better understanding of his defensive shortcomings. In eleven G-League games, his defensive rating was 1.1 points per 100 possessions better than the Cleveland Charge team DEFRTG. He was averaging 21.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Guy is presently under contract to the Miami Heat.


The G-League Ignite Players

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. It was a treat to sit courtside for two of their games in Las Vegas. In our opinion, the best player on that team is a kid that is just 17 years old. Scoot Henderson will be eligible for the 2023 Draft. Right now, he plays like a two-guard (1.43-to-1 assist-to-turnover). He stands 6’3” and weighs 180 lbs. His burst and explosion off the dribble is something to behold! Playing against grown men, Scoot is scoring 14 points per game in just 24 minutes of playing time. The Ignite are better defensively with Henderson on the floor (1.4 points per 100 possessions).

Just a few days shy of his 19th birthday, Michael Foster has a legitimate NBA body. He is 6’9”, 230 lbs. He is a terrific defensive rebounder that closes out defensive stands by inhaling the ball. In many cases, BIG muscular guys lack touch. Foster is not in that mold. He shoots his free throws at a 75% clip.  Foster will need to develop as a decision maker, and we saw him fumble a couple passes that we thought were catchable. He is Draft eligible in June.

MarJon Beauchamp doesn’t really shoot it at an acceptable level (24% 3-pt., 65% FT) at this stage of his development. However, he flies around the court with grace and athleticism that provides glimpses of what he may become. The Seattle, WA. product is 20 years-old. He has slightly more assists than turnovers and his DEFRTG is slightly better than the Ignite team DEFRTG.

Dyson Daniels plays with a maturity that belies his age. The 18 year-old forward from Australia showed that he understands team play and will not back down from contact. He is a plus defender and a wise decision-maker. He is listed at 6’6” but appears bigger than that to us. The bet here is that he plays a long time in the NBA.

The player with the most “upside” is also the player that is presently the furthest away from helping an NBA team today. Jaden Hardy is a quick-twitch guard that has a soft touch on his shot. He really struggled in the games we watched first-hand. His shot selection leaves a lot to be desired at this stage (26.9% 3-pt.), and his decision-making overall (more turnovers than assists) is poor. The good parts of his skill set (88% FT combined with NBA athleticism) will likely catch up as he learns the nuances of the pro game.

Constructive Criticism

While the NBA G-League is best minor league basketball one can find in the United States, they also have some areas of concern that need to be addressed. Understanding that COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into everything, and also understanding that the NBA runs the G-League, and must concern themselves first with the NBA, the G-League needs more help. Two examples of a lack of the “basics” are the G-League calendar and their web site. The G-League web space does not offer many of the statistical categories we routinely seek. For instance, there are “404” dead links on the front page of their stats portal. Click on “see all player stats” and you get a message saying these stats are “currently unavailable”. Click on “advanced player stats’, and you receive the dreaded “404- this page isn’t working” message. We were guessing about where the Winter Showcase might be held until two months before the event took place in Las Vegas. Ideally, these prominent events should be on a master-calendar two YEARS before they take place.

On the positive side, considering that no fans were allowed in the building, the set-up for the Winter Showcase was well done. The Mandalay Bay Convention Center space is large enough to house two full courts that did not interfere with each other. NBA executives roamed freely due to the limited number of media members, and the absence of player-agents who were also not in attendance.

Showcase Notes: NBA veteran Greg Monroe was playing Center for the Capital City Go-Go in Las Vegas. He looked trim and well-conditioned. …D.J. Wilson stood out as a player that looked way more like a NBA guy than a G-Leaguer. On the opening day of the Showcase, we watched him easily score 31 points (14-20 FG, 0-3 3-pt., 3-5 FT), while grabbing 15 rebounds, and dishing three assists with two steals in 36 minutes.  …In the opening Showcase game for Grand Rapids, they started NBA vets, Lance Stephenson, Mario Chalmers, and Nik Stauskas. The G-League Ignite kids closed that game and defeated the vets. ...It was educational to sit near the Ignite bench and listen to Amir Johnson, an NBA veteran, coach-up the young Ignite players. Johnson was constantly reminding the prospects to communicate on the court. …On a personal note, thank you to Rahsaan Gethers of the Sacramento Kings for his assistance in getting us credentialed.

More Notes: Jason Thompson, age 35, a former Sacramento Kings forward, signed a contract with the G-League Thursday (January 6th).