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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