Fun In The G-League
While the gap between the NBA and its minor league system The Gatorade League (G-League) is still pretty significant, there are some players logging early games that make them worth watching, especially as teams get into trade mode in December.
Keep in mind that NBA teams were able to sign two roster players to Two-Way Contracts this season, and those contracts are tradable assets for teams just like normal NBA contracts.
G-League players that are not on Two-Way contracts are basically NBA free agents, so there are a few of those to watch too.
Quinn Cook – Santa Cruz Warriors – Two Way Deal
The Golden State Warriors activated Quinn Cook last night against the Orlando Magic, he didn’t log any meaningful minutes or stats, but his five G-League games continue to illustrate why he should be on an NBA roster. Cook has bounced around the outside of the NBA for the last couple of seasons as he’s tried to find a home.
Its unlikely the Warriors are going to keep him long term which makes him an interesting player to watch. In five G-League games, Cook has averaged 26 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 7.04 assists. In those same contests, he shot the ball well from the field, an area he has struggled with at the NBA level. While five games are five games, he is a player worth watching, especially in a point guard driven league.
Melo Trimble – Iowa Wolves
Unlike Cook, Iowa guard Melo Trimble is on a standard G-League contract making him an eligible free agent. It’s unlikely anyone pounces on Melo early, but if he continues to play at the level he’s played in his first four games, he could be a call-up candidate. Trimble was a standout player at Maryland but never got enough traction to be a draft pick. In four games with the Wolves, he is averaging 23.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Trimble’s efficiency numbers are not great, so time will tell if this is just early success or if there is something worth looking at on the NBA level. Trimble’s appeal is that he is obtainable right away, especially if he continues to play well.
Trey Burke – Westchester Knicks
Like Trimble, Burke is a standard G-League player, making him eligible to be called up by any NBA team that wants to sign him. Burke has played well for the Knicks’ G-League team and is another interesting name to watch. In five games for Westchester, he is averaging 22.8 points, four rebounds, and 6.2 assists. Unlike Trimble, Burke has NBA experience, making him more likely to get a look especially if he continues to play well. It is more likely than not that Burke gets a call-up at some point, which is likely why he opted for the G-League and a chance to really play.
Dwight Buycks – Grand Rapids Drive – Two-Way Deal
Buycks is one of those players just on the bubble of being an NBA player. He’s logged NBA minutes with Toronto during the 2013-14 season and the LA Lakers during the 2014-15 season. He has played Summer League for Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Toronto, The Lakers and the Mavericks. To put it bluntly, Buycks has been around the block a few times, so he should be posting big numbers in the G-League. In five games with Grand Rapids, he is averaging 22.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and four assists. The problem for Buycks is his efficiency is low, and his shooting percentages are on the low end too. The Pistons control his rights, and they guaranteed him $50,000 this season. Buycks is a known quantity, which makes him worth watching, especially if his shooting percentages come up.
Emeka Okafor – Delaware 87ers
Yes, that’s the same Emeka Okafor that was the second overall pick in 2004. Okafor is trying to make an NBA comeback and opted to sign in the G-League to prove that he still has something to contribute and that his back and neck issues are completely healed. Okafor was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck back in 2013 and has spent the last four years recovering from surgery and rehab on the injury. Okafor was in camp with the 76ers and opted to stay in the organization at the G-League level. He is on a standard G-League contract, so he is an eligible free agent. In four games with the 87ers (or the Sevens as they are abbreviated down to), Okafor is averaging 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds. In all four games, he has been above 60 percent from the field. The big question on Okafor is durability, so he is a name to watch especially as teams get closer and closer to signing ten-day contracts or making trades to open up roster spots.
Kendrick Perkins – Canton Charge
Like Okafor, Perkins was in camp with the Cavaliers and was their last roster cut. Perkins opted to play in the G-League and stay in the Cavaliers organization, and there is a belief they may bring him up if they open a roster spot. Perkins is on a standard G-League contract, so he is an eligible free agent. In three games with the Charge, Perkins have averaged 13 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists. Perkins locker room presence, history as a leader and enforcer make him attractive. While most think of Perkins as an older player, he is just 33 years old and has dropped a considerable amount of weight. Like Okafor, teams are likely going to want to see a larger sample size, but Perkins is a name to watch especially if the injury bug strikes.
There are a few other names to know in the G-League with real NBA value this season, many of which are on Two-Way deals like Chicago’s Antonio Blakeney, Memphis’ Kobi Simmons, Sioux Falls’ Derrick Walton Jr. and Orlando’s Jamel Artis.
NBA teams with roster room can always “Call Up” a normal G-League roster player, even on non-guaranteed deals. Teams start to seriously consider “Call-Ups” in January when they can issue ten-day contracts. This season NBA teams can begin to issue Ten-Day deals on January 5th.
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The Six Things We’re Watching
Spencer Davies takes a look at a handful of storylines surrounding the NBA as the league’s suspension continues.
The NBA is at a standstill. Even as we approach the midpoint of April — over a month since the league ceased its in-game operations — the needle has yet to move due to the coronavirus pandemic, as the whole sports world continues to attempt to figure out its next course of action.
While we wait, let’s go over Six Things We’re Watching here at Basketball Insiders.
With one announcement on Thursday morning, Jalen Green made history. In an unprecedented move, the widely-considered top high school basketball prospect from Fresno will be joining the G League on its Select Team in Southern California. This is huge for the landscape of elite talent and a pathway to the NBA, especially considering the “traditional” nature of going through the NCAA ranks or traveling overseas to play professionally.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim is at the forefront of the concept, which will include a lucrative salary and a college scholarship to receive an education if the participating prospect chooses to. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reports that Green will make over $500,000 in the program.
As far as the Select Team is concerned, it will not operate as a regular team in the league would. There will be a handful of open roster spots for the high school talents — Isaiah Todd is another player who has gone this route, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania — while the rest of the team will be comprised of veterans. Givony says the Select Team’s competition will range from regular G League squads, foreign national teams and worldwide NBA academies. Though most of these contests will be played in an exhibition, the main goal will be to mature on and off the floor. As reported by Givony, former NBA head coach Sam Mitchell is expected to be a top candidate to lead the Select Team. Uncommitted prospects such as Makur Makur, Karim Mane and Kai Sotto may follow Green’s lead, as well.
For a number of years, young athletes have been taking alternate paths to exclude the NCAA. Most recently, LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton decided to head over to Australia to prepare for the NBA ranks. Even a couple of years ago, Darius Bazley decommitted from Syracuse University with intentions to go straight to the G League — although, that turned into a million-dollar internship plus training. Green’s decision today, however, has the potential to set a brand new standard for NBA hopefuls coming out of high school. It will be fascinating to see how this G League Select Team program for elite prospects turns out.
Winds of Change
Out with the old, in with the new. This past week, the Chicago Bulls announced the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas from the Denver Nuggets as their executive vice president of basketball operations. The front office shake-up is the organization’s first major change in nearly two decades, and it’s about time. There is light at the end of the tunnel with this team as constructed; a borderline All-Star in Zach LaVine, an exciting young point guard in Coby White, a physical presence in Wendell Carter is a good starting place. It’s who’s molding those players and the leadership that could use a facelift.
Karnisovas has already gotten rid of former longtime executive Gar Forman, while John Paxson will transition into an advisory role. Those two are extremely close to the Reinsdorf family, which made it a difficult sell, but ultimately the franchise is moving on. Could a coaching change be the next on the list? Whether people deem it fair or unfair, Jim Boylen hasn’t exactly gotten rave reviews from his players in public. There seems to be a tension with LaVine, the team’s franchise player, which doesn’t make staying any more favorable.
We know that Karnisovas’ philosophy is high-pace with multi-positional players, identical to what he helped build with the Nuggets. He mentioned during his introduction that shooting and rebounding were glaring issues, so those will likely be areas addressed in the offseason. Will his desired style line up with Boylen’s? We’ll find out sooner than later because Karnisovas doesn’t want to waste time in kick-starting Chicago’s fresh direction.
As usual, our founder and lead publisher Steve Kyler is bringing forth top-notch work through his one-on-one podcasting sessions. His latest talk is with Jordan Fair of Progression Daily, a former basketball player-turned trainer for high-level collegiate and pro talent, as well as a high school head coach at Oldsmar Christian School.
Other guests on the podcast recently include Delaware Blue Coats assistant coach and former NBA guard Xavier Silas, veteran Detroit Pistons big man John Henson and one of the game’s highly-regarded trainers, Tyler Relph. You can find these interviews on our Insiders Podcast page.
What Could’ve Been (?)
A friend of mine texted me the other day about what could be lost if this season is indeed canceled.
The Milwaukee Bucks were rolling with Giannis Antetokounmpo and had a high chance to go all the way and win the NBA Finals. Could this be a situation like the 1994 Montreal Expos, where their best chance at a title was strictly halted by a league stoppage? Let’s not forget that this would result in one less year of Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, and unfortunately for the franchise, his free agency comes up in 2021.
What about the Los Angeles Lakers, who seemed destined to bring a title back to the city behind LeBron James’ leadership in the most emotional year the team and league have ever seen? And the other squad in town, the Clippers — could all of those assets and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sent to Oklahoma City potentially be worth one season of Paul George? That’s quite an all-in scenario, no?
As for the others — In a season most teams consider a failure or a success, is there more of a neutral outlook now? Maybe coaches who were on the hot seat before all of this get a little more time to sort things out. It will be interesting to see how those evaluations are made.
Player General Management
Before the Bulls hired Arturas Karnisovas as their next top front office guy, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie decided to roleplay and have some fun on Twitter as player-general manager. Not too different from Jackie Moon — do you have the marketing skills in you, Spence? Anyways, it was a cool little project he put together and the results were quite intriguing regardless of actual possibilities and logistics. This doesn’t appear to be a tampering situation, and hopefully the NBA wouldn’t treat it as such.
Check out the results of Dinwiddie’s pretend GM activity for the Bulls on SB Nation.
The Cream of the Crop
If you’re looking to stir up a good, ol’ fashioned debate up with your friends, start with us! Over the past week-and-a-half, Basketball Insiders went ahead and ranked the top players by their respective positions, point guard through center, in our own unique ways. Check out what our writers came up with and let us know how you feel about these!
- Ranking The PGs: Matt John
- Ranking The SGs: Ben Nadeau
- Ranking The SFs: Spencer Davies
- Ranking The PFs: Drew Maresca
- Ranking The Cs: David Yapkowitz
Hopefully, you enjoy those articles and the content we’re putting out in these trying times we’re facing as one big basketball family. We will keep you updated as the information presents itself in real-time. In the meanwhile, please stay safe and stay smart!
Report: G League to Expand to Mexico for 2020-21 Season
The NBA G League, the NBA’s official minor league, and Capitanes, a professional basketball team based in Mexico City, today announced that Capitanes will join the NBA G League as its first team from outside the U.S. and Canada.
Capitanes becomes the NBA G League’s 29th team and will make its debut for the 2020-21 season. The team will play its NBA G League home games at the Gimnasio Juan de la Barrera in Mexico City.
Miye Oni — A Rare Breed
Matt John has a chat with Utah Jazz rookie Miye Oni about being the only Ivy League player currently in the NBA, the importance of education and adjusting to a new city.
Ivy Leaguers are hard to come by in professional basketball.
Coming into this season, there have only been 45 players in NBA history whose alma mater come from Ivy League schools. The most notable names among them have been Bill Bradley (Princeton), Rudy LaRusso (Dartmouth), Chris Dudley (Yale) and, of course, the most recent one, Jeremy Lin (Harvard).
This makes a fair amount of sense. As impressive as it is to get into a university as prestigious as an Ivy League institution, their basketball programs don’t get much exposure in the NCAA. There are plenty of colleges out there who may not have the same prestige as Harvard or Yale, but still provide great educational opportunities as well as top-notch basketball programs like Duke and UCLA.
In and of itself, it’s actually pretty impressive to be both a top-notch scholar and a top-notch athlete in the college ranks. However, because universities like Cornell or Brown don’t boast well-repped basketball programs, we don’t see a lot of their alumni make it to the NBA. Even when they do, they don’t last too long.
When Jeremy Lin wasn’t re-signed by anyone this summer and headed overseas — which by the way is still ridiculous — the NBA seemingly didn’t have anyone in the league who hailed from an Ivy League education at first glance. Upon further inspection, there actually still is one NBA player who’s an Ivy League guy.
He can be a little hard to miss because it’s his rookie year, but Miye Oni, who was drafted 58th overall by the Utah Jazz back in June, played his college ball at Yale. As the only player currently in the NBA who played basketball in the Ivy League, Oni believes he can do more to influence the younger generation.
“It’s crazy. I was talking about it with my friends yesterday that I feel like should do a little more with that,” Oni told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a good platform to reach out to kids and let them know that education is important.”
Emphasizing the importance of education is obviously a great message to send to our children. For Oni, he believes that what he’s learned from his own story of becoming both a professional athlete and being a student at a top-notch university can send an empowering message about what it takes.
“Control as you can control it if you take care,” Oni told Basketball Insiders. “I wouldn’t have been where I’m at without my education. At times it seems like I wasn’t going to play college basketball, so I always had my education to fall back on. I knew that if I had that, I would be able to have an opportunity to play and that’s what happened.”
In his three years at Yale, Oni majored in Political Science. In this modern-day and age, athletes are speaking out more and more about social issues that go beyond the sport they play in. In Oni’s case, he stresses that athletes should speak their mind because of what their point of view could do for the public.
“It’s important to an extent,” Oni told Basketball Insiders. “Some people maybe try to overdo it a little bit, but… athletes have a large influence over a large amount of people, so it’s good to get a point of view from a different group.”
Again, most Ivy League basketball players don’t make it to the pros, and the ones that do usually don’t have long and prosperous careers. Oni could potentially be an exception to the rule. Even with the odds stacked against him, he was the first Ivy League player to be drafted into the NBA since 1995.
The reason why players who come from such well-respected schools don’t last for long in the pros is that the smarts a college athlete can have in the classroom usually don’t translate as well on the court. Salt Lake City Stars head coach Martin Schiller thinks the 22-year-old rookie on his roster is very much to the contrary.
“Often, smart school guys are not smart basketball players,” Schiller said. “In his case, I think it goes together so I sense a good smartness on the court from (Oni).”
Now, it’s led him to the Jazz. Much like a fair amount of rookies nowadays, Oni’s starting his career out with Utah’s G-League affiliate — in his case, the Stars — but Oni credits the team for helping him adjust to the next level of basketball.
“It definitely helps,” Oni told Basketball Insiders. “Training camp was good. We learned a lot. We’re just getting more reps offensively and defensively, so it’s been good.”
Now, Oni starts his career off in Utah. As competent as the Jazz are as an organization, adjusting to Salt Lake City can be a tough — one, from the weather alone. Oni grew up in the hot and humid atmosphere that is Los Angeles before moving to the cold tundra that is the northeast. And so, he gets to start his professional basketball career in both a cold climate and at a high altitude. Even though the environment has changed around him a fair amount over the years, that doesn’t phase Oni.
“The altitude here is for sure crazy but you’re fine after the first day,” Oni told Basketball Insiders. “It’s probably the biggest change playing-wise, but I don’t think it impacts me there.”
As for his potential as a pro long-term, what Schiller’s seen of his abilities has gotten him to believe that Oni’s all-around game could make him a keeper for the Jazz.
“Miye is a very capable defender,” Schiller said. “Miye is a very capable driver to the rim. He will also develop into a good shooter. The last thing is… he can actually pass the ball. He’s a pretty good passer. He’s got the quality of potentially being a real three-and-D guy on the next level.”
Given the Jazz’s development with some of their young guys who have also played with the Stars in the past — Royce O’Neale and Tony Bradley as a couple of examples — Schiller’s analysis may not be too far off the mark.