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NBA Daily: A Step Forward, But Not The Answer

The G-League’s new “Select Contract” is a good step forward, but it is not really the answer it might seem to be.

Steve Kyler

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A Step Forward, But Not The Answer

The NBA G-League announced that it would be rolling out a new contract structure geared towards high-level players that may not want to attend college and start their professional career right of high school. They are calling this contract a “Select Contract,” and it will pay the players awarded those deals $125,000 for the five-month G-League season.

On the surface this sounds a lot better than the $35,000 a player would earn this season, but at the end of the day – while it’s a better alternative – it’s not exactly the solution some are making it out to be, and here are some of the reasons why:

Not Available To Everyone

The G-League is still sorting through exactly how they will manage and administer this new contract format. While the Select Contract does come with substantially more money, the real benefits might be the other parts of the Select Program such as veteran mentorship, financial planning classes and an in-depth development program geared towards preparing these players for professional life, on and off the floor.

The G-League is planning to hire a program manager, and along with a committee of experts, they will determine which high school level players will be eligible to be in the Select program. It’s not going to be available to everyone. Most experts believe it will likely be less than 15 players a year that qualify and likely just two or three per season that explore this option. That could change when it’s a real option, but it doesn’t seem very likely this is going to impact a huge group of players, especially considering the ambiguity of determining who is eligible.

College Still Offers Better Exposure

While it’s great to have options, college basketball and all of its flaws still offer the best path to the NBA for a couple of reasons. The coaching in college still eclipses that in the G-League, and while the G-League is getting better every year, it still not remotely close regarding the quality of coaching and resources high-level college programs have to offer.

College also offers a better lifestyle than the G-League. Currently, G-League teams travel on commercial flights and stay at modestly priced hotels. In comparison, most high-level college teams travel by charter and stay in four and five-star hotels.

You’d also have to live in a cave to think that college players are not receiving money to play in college. While that is usually under the table, it is happening and will continue to happen. That will get even harder to restrict once some of the new NCAA rules get enacted to allow players in college to have agents and earn money off their likeness.

The fact that college basketball is played in primetime and in front of a packed audience is still going to win out against the modest crowds G-League games draw. That may change over time, but the elite prospects are still likely going to consider the elite schools over the G-League.

The one advantage the G-League can offer that may win in some player’s minds is the ability to sign endorsement deals right out of the gate. That is something even the new expected college rules won’t allow, so there that could be a factor too.

Players Still Have to Go Through The Draft

The G-League process will still require players to enter and go through the draft, meaning while a player may play for a G-League team operated by an NBA team, that NBA will have no rights to the player. That player will still have to enter and go through the NBA draft process, just as if he were coming from college despite playing on a team controlled by an NBA team.

The fact that the parent NBA team won’t have any advantage to the player creates something of a mixed agenda in terms of playing time and coaching.

Advocates of this program like the idea of getting to know a player in an in-depth way, especially a player’s work ethic and coachability.

The downside is the motivation of the G-League staff is usually to win games. The veteran players on the team are trying to make their own careers, not step aside to develop a young guy. Equally, the coaches are trying to advance their careers and win games. There is something to be said about proving you can develop a player, but ultimately it’s going to be harder to stand out in the G-League, and that could have a negative impact on player’s draft stock versus being the prime focal point of a major college program.

It’s a Stop Gap

In the end, this is a good step forward in creating a new option for players who may not want to fake their way through a year of college, or, more importantly, want to spend all of their time training and developing for the NBA. However, the reality is the NBA’s age limit is likely going away in 2022, meaning this is a three-year stop gap at best.

It is believed the program will still exist after the age limit is lifted and be a good landing spot for high school level players that opt for the NBA draft, but fall out of the draft.

It will be interesting to see what exactly the fully formed program offers to players who take it. Because so much of this program is still to be determined, its hard to say if this will be a great option in the long-term, but in the short-term it is an option some will explore.

Former Syracuse commit Darius Bazley was believed to be headed towards the G-League when he opted to turn pro rather than go to college. Since that decision, he has hired Klutch Sports as his agency and is planning to use the next several months to train and develop on his own rather than test the G-League.

It was recently announced that Bazley signed a huge multi-year deal with New Balance that will guarantee him $1 million and the chance to be one of the faces of New Balance’s entry in the basketball shoe space.

So, time will tell if Bazley ends up being the professional he hopes he can be, but with the New Balance money guaranteed towards him, the decision may not be as silly as it seemed when it was announced.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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G-League

NBA Daily: Cavanaugh, Lyles Developing In G-League

Jordan Hicks catches up with Tyler Cavanaugh and Jairus Lyles to discuss their G-League stay with the Salt Lake City Stars and what they’re doing to get to the next level.

Jordan Hicks

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The atmosphere is buzzing.

On one side of the court, bleachers are almost to capacity with roughly 1,200 people in attendance. The other side has been cleared out to welcome multiple bounce houses for the children. It’s Pirate Night. There are foam swords and pirate hats galore.

This is the NBA G-League.

The Salt Lake City Stars – affiliate of the Utah Jazz – welcomed Miami’s developmental squad, the  Sioux Falls Skyforce, to town on January 4th.

The game was highly entertaining. In a matchup that featured high-flying slam dunks, deep three-pointers and superb defense on both sides, the highlight was a go-ahead three-point shot by Trey Lewis – a former collegiate teammate of budding NBA superstar Donovan Mitchell.

Sioux Falls point guard Briante Weber and an SLC Stars superfan engaged in some smack talk. It was all in good fun, but not something you typically see in an NBA game. It made you feel like you were actually part of the game, that you actually had a say in the outcome, creating a wonderful environment for all involved – truly a unique experience.

In a game that was eventually decided by five points, the Stars came out on top in a 110-105 victory where defense seemed to be the difference.

“[The Skyforce] shoot the third most threes in the league and they shoot the third highest percentage in the league,” Stars head coach Martin Schiller told Basketball Insiders. “And they have the most effective transition offense. So if you put one and one together they shoot transition threes. So our big thing was that we wanted to have our fingers up at all times, we wanted to limit attempts and pull percentages down.”

Near the end of the game with the score tied at 105 apiece and about 30 seconds remaining, Schiller drew up a play for Trey Lewis to shoot an above-the-break three. Basketball Insiders asked SLC’s coach his thought process behind it.

“That’s what [Trey Lewis] does,” Schiller said. “His rookie season he was a fantastic shooter and a clutch performer.”

Schiller recounted that he was familiar with Lewis from his rookie season playing overseas in Germany. Hitting the big shot was nothing new for the 26-year-old guard. In an exciting night capped by a go-ahead shot in the closing seconds, multiple Stars had big games to help put this one in the “W” column.

Basketball Insiders had the chance to catch up with both Tyler Cavanaugh – current two-way player for the Stars and former regular for the Atlanta Hawks – as well as Jairus Lyles – a former standout at UMBC, the first 16-seed in the NCAA tournament to knock off a one-seed.

Cavanaugh finished the game with 23 points, nine rebounds and two assists. He ended the game playing the five and was a huge factor in the final result.

Playing over half the season for the Atlanta Hawks last season, primarily as a three-point shooting stretch four, Cavanaugh finds himself in quite a different role this season. While he is currently on a two-way contract with the Jazz, he is playing consistent minutes for the Stars where he is featured as one of the primary players on a nightly basis.

“The G-League is a grind, I have a lot of respect for all of us that play in this league,” Cavanaugh told Basketball Insiders, “It’s a great opportunity to continue to get better and play extended minutes every single night and work on my game. And I just feel like I’m continuing to improve and that’s what’s most important.”

And improve Cavanaugh has. He’s averaging 15.3 points a night while knocking down 41.4 percent of his attempts from three. Playing just 11 games in last year’s G-League for the Erie BayHawks, Cavanaugh is already at 22 games played this season in Salt Lake City and there are still a bunch of contests left.

While his shooting percentages are slightly down compared to his G-League numbers last year, he’s averaging more points, more assists and, most importantly, more free-throw attempts per night. Noticeably finishing well through contact well in the Stars’ win, Basketball Insiders asked him what he’s been working on.

“[I’m] doing a lot of finishing drills around the rim, staying in the normal routine,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh also pointed to continually working with trainers in the weight room to prepare himself for extended minutes on game day.

Looking at the other aforementioned standout, Jairus Lyles was a huge reason the Stars stayed in the game in the first half. He finished with 15 points and four assists on the night, but did the bulk of his scoring in the first two quarters. He finished the night on highly efficient clips of 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three.

A former standout at UMBC, Lyles scored 28 points on 11 shots to help his 16th-seeded team knock off the number one seed Virginia in last year’s edition of March Madness. Basketball Insiders asked him about his transition from NCAA hero to G-League regular.

“It’s definitely a different transition, you know a lot of ups and downs especially your first year being pro,” Lyles told Basketball Insiders. “It’s always frustrating when you’re not at the highest level so you gotta keep working and keep working.”

He went on to say that how you handle yourself through the growing pains is what defines you as a player.

On this night, Lyles seemed to shoot from either behind the three-point line or at the rim. With an ever-evolving game and teams are opting to take more and more efficient shots, it’s necessary to go with the flow.

“The NBA is changing, you gotta adapt,” Lyles told Basketball Insiders. “[There’s] a lot of three-point shots going up, it’s either at the rim or three-point shots, people don’t really like the mid-range shots, but you gotta take what the defense gives you.”

Both Cavanaugh and Lyles stressed that their ultimate goal is to make it to the NBA. The former has had a taste. The latter is still working on it.

But Lyles already has an idea of how he’ll take his path to the association.

“Being more of a point guard, different types of passes, seeing the court better,” Lyles said. “And then, defensively. Defense is most important because at my size I’m going to have to guard the ball great. Defense is the most important thing.”

Even coach Schiller has aspirations to make it to the next level, however, he knows what he and the Stars are doing has a real impact.

“[Quin Snyder] really wrapped his arms around us and took us and put us in the [Jazz] family,” Schiller said.

As the G-League continues to evolve and adapt, whether it’s testing future rule changes for the NBA or developing future role-players, it will continue to serve an important purpose.

Everyone at this level is grinding – from the coaches to the players, training staff and everyone else involved. The players in the league are all hoping for that one chance to get called up and prove their worth.

Many things can be said, but one thing is certain: G-League games are highly-entertaining and feature incredibly skilled players simply trying to improve their craft.

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G-League

Sources: DeMarcus Cousins to Practice with G-League Team

Basketball Insiders

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Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins is expected to practice with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors on Monday, a source told @espn @TheUndefeated.

Source: Marc J. Spears on Twitter

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G-League

NBA Daily: Four Early Favorites To Earn G-League Call-Up

It’s never too early to scour the G-League for potential call-ups — so here are four familiar names worth keeping an eye on.

Ben Nadeau

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While Basketball Insiders has searched for answers both inwardly and outwardly in recent weeks by examing areas of concern and potential trade chips, there’s a third path to improvement that’s generally less taken. Over the years, the G-League has grown immensely in popularity and once the New Orleans Pelicans add an affiliate next season, there will 28 franchises in play — a far cry from the paltry eight that kicked it all off back in 2001-02. It’s always been a difficult road to reach the professional level via these alternative methods, but thanks to two-way contracts, it’s now a much more palatable path. From Yogi Ferrell to Trey Burke and Georges Niang and many others in between, it’s no longer a far-fetched fantasy reserved for a select few.

In fact, officials even announced their new college alternative route in October, giving elite prospects another way to reach their loftiest goals and dreams. But with teams looking evolve at every corner, signing players out of the G-League is always an option and it’s never too early to look at candidates on that frontier. Of course, those signed to two-way and fully guaranteed contracts won’t be included here — sorry, Allonzo Trier — but if these minor league studs keep it up, their next big-time opportunity could be on the horizon soon enough.

John Jenkins — Westchester Knicks

He’s the hottest face in the G-League that isn’t currently tied up through a two-way deal — but if John Jenkins maintains his torrid pace, he won’t be there for long. Through eight games, Jenkins has averaged 28.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.8 three-pointers per game on a blistering 50 percent from deep. Jenkins went No. 23 overall to the Atlanta Hawks back in 2012 before bouncing between Dallas and Phoenix until he took his sharpshooting talents overseas for a season. Although his stint with the San Pablo Burgos lasted just one year (12.7 points, 1.3 assists), it was enough for Jenkins to sign a training camp deal with the Knicks this fall.

Jenkins, 27, has recently stated his desire to jump from Westchester to New York — even crediting Knicks’ head coach David Fizdale for his recent scoring uptick — but he’ll have to wait until the aforementioned Trier gets his two-way deal converted first. Trier, naturally, was supposed to play in these contests alongside Jenkins, but the former immediately stuck with New York and has averaged 23.2 minutes per game. If Westchester doesn’t roll the dice on Jenkins, somebody will. This is a former first round-worthy talent that’s hitting three-pointers at an elite clip, a skill that NBA franchises will always need.

Chasson Randle — Capital City Go-Go

It’s been a hectic two-month swing for Chasson Randle, but he’s not letting it impact his on-court game whatsoever. Signed by the Washington Wizards for training camp, Randle was then cut, added to the training camp roster for the Go-Go, signed again by Washington and then finally waived once more a few weeks ago. Randle rejoined the Go-Go shortly thereafter and has been tearing up the floor ever since. In his three appearances thus far for Capitol City, Randle has pulled down 27.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and three steals per game, the type of line that will have franchises paying attention before too long. As a 6-foot-2 point guard, it was always going to be a tough initial battle to make Washington’s backcourt-heavy roster — but he nearly did so anyway. Randle has played in just 26 NBA games since he went undrafted in 2015, even stopping for stints in the Czech Republic and Spain as well.

Randle, 25, had a chance to make the Knicks’ roster last season before he was waived in order to facilitate the Carmelo Anthony trade with Oklahoma City. Instead of taking the G-League route, Randle signed up for a season overseas with Real Madrid, winning trophies next to wunderkind Luka Doncic — albeit in a reserve backup role. Still, Randle has sticking potential as outside factors have seemingly aligned against him time and time again in his professional journey. Should the Wizards blow it up — or even look for a change of pace in the second unit — Randle could be the next man up. Now an international champion, the hard-nosed Randle has certainly paid his dues, he’s just waiting for his chance to prove it.

Of note, both Randle and Jenkins were recently selected to the USA World Cup Qualifying Team and will play against Argentina and Uruguay over the next week.

Terrence Jones — Erie BayHawks

Yes, that Terrence Jones! The same Jones that was one of the top-rated high school players in his class, won an NCAA championship in 2012 with Kentucky and then went No. 18 overall a few months later. Sure, Jones, 26, has struggled to stay on a roster, but his talent has never been questioned — perhaps now, finally, it is his time to shine. Through six contests, Jones is averaging a healthy 25.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game on 53.5 percent from the floor. Always viewed as a potential game-changer defensively, Jones’ athletic nature could be a tantalizing gamble for a franchise come January.

Following short stays with the New Orleans Pelicans and Milwaukee Bucks in 2016-17, Jones took detours to both China and the G-League. Jones was released from the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles after a confrontation with the head coach last year, but he had been averaging 22.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game at that time. Upon his return from China, Jones then latched on with the Santa Cruz Warriors, holding his own over 16 games as well. It’s surely disappointing that Jones didn’t work things out his first time through the rodeo, but he’s proven to be a capable player at almost every stop — NBA, G-League and overseas.

On Friday night, Jones was unstoppable during the Bayhawks’ massive win over Greensboro, tallying 33 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and two steals — so, yes, there’s plenty of talent left in this project. Given his shaky off-court history, Jones’ next opportunity may be hard to come by, but it has the potential to pay off massively.

Willie Reed — Salt Lake City Stars

The case of Willie Reed is certainly intriguing — but even at the age of 28, he still has the resume and experience to make it back to the NBA. Reed played for four different G-League teams between 2012-15, earning the reputation as a fearsome rim protector and a high percentage scorer in the paint. After averaging 16.4 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks over 48 games, Reed would finally get his well-deserved shot with the Brooklyn Nets. Although an early injury initially kept Reed off the floor, the 6-foot-11 big man still barely featured for the bottoming-out Nets. From there, Reed would join the Miami HEAT and Los Angeles Clippers over the next two seasons, building steadily on his former successes and even earned his first-ever $1 million-plus contract in the process.

Last season, Reed was suspended for six games as a result of a domestic violence incident that occurred after he signed with Los Angeles. Although his wife requested that the charges be dropped, Reed was eventually penalized by the league, shortly following the Detroit Pistons’ acquisition of him. Subsequently, Reed was promptly traded to the Chicago Bulls, who then immediately waived him. As of now, it’s unclear if Reed’s off-court issues will impede his chances of getting another opportunity. It hasn’t for others in the past and he was still the No. 1 overall pick in the recent 2018 NBA G-League Draft.

Since then, Reed has averaged 23.9 points, 12 rebounds and 1.6 blocks over 30.2 minutes per game.

At the end of the day, the calendar hasn’t even flipped to December yet, but it’s naive to think that franchises haven’t poured over these early-season G-League statistics either. From undrafted grinders to former first-round burnouts, there are plenty of capable athletes just waiting for an audition on the big stage. For some, they need to prove that they still belong. while others are searching for a chance they weren’t afforded beforehand.

If their parent franchises don’t scoop these four up soon, there’s always the worry a more in-need roster may do so instead. Until then, however, Jenkins, Randle, Jones and Reed will continue to tear up the G-League and catch the eye of the important decision-makers around them.

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