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NBA G League Draft: First Round Recap

The G League Draft is in the books, with notable talent being added to the teams that will play in the bubble. Garrett Brooks recaps all 17 picks made in the first round.

Garrett Brooks

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The NBA’s G League Draft for the 2020-21 season took place on Monday, Jan. 11. And, given the circumstances of their season, which is being played in a bubble, it was not the normal draft we would see in any other year.

Instead, for obvious reasons, it only involved teams attending the bubble. Some familiar names were selected along with some names that, hopefully, will become a bit more familiar in the next few seasons. Here’s a quick recap of the 17 first-round selections.

Round 1, Picks 1-5

1. Greensboro Swarm: Admiral Schofield
2. Memphis Hustle: Freddie Gillespie
3. Canton Charge: Antonio Blakeney
4. Iowa Wolves: Allonzo Trier
5. Lakeland Magic: Tahjere McCall

The Greensboro Swarm got the G League Draft underway by selecting Admiral Schofield first overall. The 23-year-old wing was selected 42nd overall in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He appeared in 33 NBA games last season for the Washington Wizards. In the G League, he impressed for the Capital City Go-Go, where he averaged 16 points per contest. If his shot continues to develop and he becomes more capable of banging in the paint, he could be an extremely intriguing player.

Second off the board was rookie Freddie Gillespie out of Baylor. Like Schofield, Gillespie is 23-years-old and a bit undersized for his position. As a 6-foot-9 big at Baylor last year, Gillespie averaged 9.6 points and 9 rebounds per game. He originally signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Dallas Mavericks following the NBA Draft before being waived a few weeks later.

The Canton Charge took a more experienced player at third overall, Antonio Blakeney. The guard has played some solid NBA sample size over the previous two seasons, having played a total of 1,143 minutes for the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls, Blakeney flashed the ability to be a solid contributor. In 76 games at the NBA level, Blakeney holds a career average of 7.5 points per contest.

Fourth overall saw another player that has logged over 1,000 NBA minutes go to the Iowa Wolves, Allonzo Trier. Trier connected on 38.4% of his NBA 3-point attempts with the New York Knicks over the last two seasons. That’s a skill he’s looking to prove he carried over from college, where he shot 37.8% from deep in three seasons at Arizona.

Rounding out the top five picks is Tahjere McCall, who was selected by the Lakeland Magic. McCall averaged 12.7 points per game in the G League last season but still has work to do on his outside shot. A 6-foot-5 guard that shot just 19.2% from behind the arc, McCall will need to see some drastic improvement if he’s ever to get a shot at the NBA. That said, his defense is more his calling card, anyway, and that’s where he offers significantly more upside.

Round 1, Picks 6-10

6. Canton: Anthony Lamb
7. Oklahoma City Blue: Zavier Simpson
8. Lakeland: DJ Hogg
9. Westchester Knicks: Justin Patton
10. Rio Grande Valley Vipers: Armoni Brooks

The sixth overall selection saw the Canton Charge take Anthony Lamb out of Vermont. He averaged 16.4 points per game in four collegiate seasons. That pick was followed by another rookie selection coming off a four-year collegiate career, as the Oklahoma City Blue took point guard Zavier Simpson out of Michigan. Simpson averaged 7.9 assists per game in his senior season.

The Lakeland Magic continued the rookie trend by selecting DJ Hogg eighth overall. He’ll join the fifth overall selection, McCall, with the Magic. Hogg is a 6-foot-9 forward that showed an ability to stretch the floor in college, where he knocked down 36% of his threes in three seasons with Texas A&M.

Former first round selection Justin Patton was then taken by the Westchester Knicks. Patton is one of the more intriguing names that went in the G League Draft, given his high selection in the NBA Draft just a few years ago. Still, hes got a long way to go; Patton has played in just nine NBA games over the three seasons since he was drafted.

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers closed out the top ten by selecting rookie guard Armoni Brooks. Brooks is a smooth shooter but struggled mightily at getting teammates involved in college. In three seasons, his highest average for assists was .9 per game. That said, if he can continue to improve his shot, Brooks could eventually find a spot in today’s NBA.

Round 1, Picks 11-17

11. Raptors 905: Kevon Harris
12. Rio Grande Valley: Jarron Cumberland
13. Oklahoma City: Vincent Edwards
14. Austin Spurs: Jonathan Kasibabu
15. Raptors905: Gary Payton II
16. Memphis: Anthony Cowan Jr.
17. Iowa: Dakarai Tucker

Kevon Harris was next off the board following the top-10 selections. Harris is a scoring wing that displayed the ability to get buckets, but some may question the competition he faced in those games. Harris’ game is pretty well rounded, and his scoring should translate to the G League rather quickly.

More scoring potential came at pick number 12, with the Vipers selecting Jarron Cumberland out of Cincinnati. His outside shooting was streaky at the college level and will be a work in progress, but his aggressiveness in getting to the free-throw line will surely help and should be a major asset for Rio Grande Valley.

Oklahoma City followed those wing selections with one of their own, though not a rookie. Their selection was Vincent Edwards, the forward out of Purdue who spent last season with the Charge. With Canton, Edwards averaged 9.2 points per game.

The Austin Spurs got a wing of their own at pick 14, selecting Jonathan Kasibabu. Last year with the Long Island Nets, Kasibabu averaged 7.6 points per game.

The Raptors were back on the clock at 15, and they selected guard Gary Payton II. The son of Hall of Famer Gary Payton, the younger Payton has tried proving himself to NBA teams the past few years. Like his Dad, he can be a pest defensively. Still, he hasn’t been able to do enough on the offensive end so far in his career.

Anthony Cowan Jr. was then selected by the Memphis Hustle. The rookie guard will need to get stronger in the coming years but has a natural ability to score the basketball. The final selection of the first round followed Cowan Jr., as the Iowa Wolves selected Dakari Tucker.

Garrett Brooks is a contributing writer for Basketball Insiders based out of Chicago, Illinois. In addition to multiple years of covering the NBA, Garrett has also spent time in live events, analytics, and on-court training.

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G-League

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.

Spencer Davies

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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.

Colossal Commitment

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.

Podcasts Galore

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!

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!

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G-League

Report: G League to Expand to Mexico for 2020-21 Season

Basketball Insiders

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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.

Source: NBA

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G-League

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.

Matt John

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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.

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