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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Report: Darius Bazley Opt to Not Join G-League
Darius Bazley blazed his own path in the basketball world when the top-10 prospect in the 2018 high school class announced his decision in March to decommit from Syracuse and enter the NBA G League. Now, Bazley tells The Athletic that he has decided not to play in the G League and will instead use the year to train and prepare himself as a professional.
“Talking about it over with my group, we felt confidently that the G League wasn’t going to be needed and now I can use this time to work on my craft,” Bazley told The Athletic. “It’s mainly me talking to [agent] Rich [Paul], he knows so much, and whenever he speaks my ears perk up. When Miles [Bridges] was in Cleveland for his predraft workouts, whenever he got a chance to work out in front of NBA teams, I was working out in the gym, too. So that played a part in it, me playing well in those workouts for us to say there’s no upside in the G League. If you play well, it’s expected. If you don’t play well, you’re not NBA-ready. That’s what they’ll say. For me, working out and preparing is the best route.
Source: Shams Charania of The Athletic
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Success with the G-League
The Lakers effectively used the G-League to develop players and add depth to their roster when needed this season, writes David Yapkowitz.
The NBA recently announced that player salaries in the G-League will increase beginning with next season. In addition, players will also receive housing and insurance benefits. The league will also expand to 27 teams with the newest franchise being the Capital City Go-Go’s, the affiliate of the Washington Wizards.
The G-League has seen an increase in popularity and coverage, and five-star senior Darius Bazley withdrew his commitment from Syracuse in favor of spending a year in the league preparing for the NBA draft. Teams are now beginning to utilize their G-League affiliates more; this season saw a record of 50 players called up to the NBA.
One team that has found success with their G-League team is the Los Angeles Lakers. By the end of the season, the Lakers had seven players on the roster who either started the season with the South Bay Lakers or spent time being called back and forth. With a rash of injuries the last month or so, most of those players featured prominently in the rotation.
“The G-League has turned into a great resource for the NBA, for the development of young players and for finding people who help your team win,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton told reporters prior to their final game of the season. “You look across the league, almost every single team at some point this year has got a lot of help from someone either on a two-way or who they signed for ten days. These guys have grown up their whole lives playing too. They’re hungry, they mostly have an edge, they have a chip on their shoulder because they haven’t had the same opportunities.”
Most teams took advantage of the new ability to sign players to two-way contracts, having them split time between their NBA team and G-League affiliate. The Lakers originally had longtime G-League standout Vander Blue and Alex Caruso signed to two-way contracts. But they cut Blue in January and replaced him with Gary Payton II.
Payton, the son of former NBA star Gary Sr., has had some NBA experience prior to this year He was a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the 2016-17 season and he began this season with them before being cut in December. He caught on with the Lakers on a two-way contract and he spent most of the season with the South Bay Lakers.
He started out his career in the G-League after going undrafted out of Oregon State in the summer of 2016. He started out with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before being called up by the Bucks. He’s also spent time with the Wisconsin Herd.
“The two years I’ve been in the G-League going back and forth has really helped develop my game, and it’s transferred over,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Down there they really help develop player’s games. I get my opportunity to just come in and help facilitate.”
Payton only appeared sparingly in six games as a rookie and was inactive during the Bucks 2017 first round series against the Toronto Raptors. This season started out with more of the same. He saw 12 games of action with the Bucks, mostly in garbage time, while shuffling back and forth with the Wisconsin Herd.
When he signed with the Lakers, Payton immediately made an impact with South Bay. In 17 games, he put up 17.2 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting from the field and dished out 5.1 assists. When South Bay’s season came to an end in the playoffs at the hands of the Austin Spurs, Payton rejoined the Lakers.
Injuries to key players saw Payton thrust into the rotation for the final few games of the season. On the final night of the regular season, Payton had his best performance as an NBA player in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers. He scored 25 points on 11-19 shooting, including 3-7 from three-point range. He also grabbed 12 rebounds.
“I just do what I do, try to carry over what I brought in the G-League and just try to be aggressive,” Payton said. “They tell me every time I’m up here and get an opportunity to just be aggressive and make plays for my teammates.”
Another player who has used the G-League to get an opportunity with the Lakers is Payton’s South Bay teammate Travis Wear. Wear is no stranger to the NBA. He went undrafted out of UCLA in the summer of 2015 but was able to make the New York Knicks roster following a strong training camp.
With the Knicks, Wear saw action in 51 games and displayed an ability to stretch the floor by shooting 36.7 percent from the three-point line. A back injury cut his rookie year short and he went overseas the following season. He returned stateside to begin the 2016-17 season and ended up in South Bay, when the team was still known as the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
Now that he’s back in the NBA, Wear credits his experience in New York as helping him learn what the NBA is all about.
“I kind of knew what to expect coming into this NBA game and the style in which it’s played,” Wear told Basketball Insiders. “It definitely prepared me. It was three years ago but I was able to look back on that experience and change some things from the past.”
Wear had a breakout season in the G-League this year and that strong play was what caught the Lakers’ attention. He was one of the best players in the G-League all season long. He put up 16.2 points per game, 8.1 rebounds and shot 41.9 percent from three-point range. Wear is a high energy player who is active around the rim and can draw opposing defenses to the perimeter with his shooting ability.
He shot 36.2 percent from downtown in the 17 games he received playing time after being called up to the Lakers. On Mar. 16, in a one-point loss to the Miami HEAT, he scored 11 points and shot a perfect 3-3 from long range. On Mar. 24, in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies, he scored 11 points and had two steals while shooting 3-7 from three.
Wear believes his time in the G-League has really helped prepare him to make an easier return to the NBA.
“Since I’ve been here, I pretty much come in, space the floor, knock down shots and play good defense,” Wear told Basketball Insiders. “They know I can shoot so that’s how they’ve been utilizing me. I was definitely refining my skills down there. I just got a lot of confidence in my shooting ability from the G-League. It gave me the confidence to come up here and do the same thing.”
While Wear has had a successful end to the season, there is no guarantee that he’ll be back with the Lakers next year. His contract was only guaranteed through the end of this season. The Lakers have an option to extend him a qualifying offer this summer, which would make him a restricted free agent.
Although he wouldn’t mind sticking with the Lakers, Wear knows that the NBA is a business. He feels he’s shown enough that if it doesn’t work out in Los Angeles, another team will surely come calling.
“Whoever I can get an opportunity to get a contract with somewhere. There are things I need to improve on my game in the offseason and come back better,” Wear told Basketball Insiders. “But it’s been phenomenal, a dream come true.”
Report: NBA to Increase Salaries for G-League Players
The N.B.A. is instituting a long-anticipated salary increase in its developmental league, the league announced Tuesday.
Effective next season, players signed to G League contracts will earn $35,000 — or $7,000 per month — in addition to housing and insurance benefits over the course of the league’s five-month regular season.
Players under G League contracts previously earned either $26,000 or $19,000. The increase will represent a pay raise of 35 percent or 84 percent, depending on the player’s classification.
The N.B.A. pays all player salaries in the G League.
Source: Marc Stein of The New York Times