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.
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.