Once the NBA’s trade deadline passes on Thursday, many players can finally rest easy knowing that they won’t be switching locales. But there was another deadline recently that allowed quite a few players to put their hearts at ease.
That deadline was Jan. 7, when all non-guaranteed contracts became guaranteed for the rest of the season. For players who entered the season still unsure about their future, they could finally let out a sigh of relief.
One of those players was Alfonzo McKinnie of the Golden State Warriors. For a guy who once paid $175 out of pocket for tryouts in the G-League, it was his reminder that he’d finally made it.
“It makes me feel great,” McKinnie told Basketball Insiders. “It makes me feel like what I’ve been doing is the right thing to do as far as the work I’ve put in.”
It’s been quite the journey for McKinnie since graduating high school in 2010. He was not a big recruit and ended up playing for two different colleges, Eastern Illinois and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
He went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft and ended up spending a year in Luxembourg. He ended up signing with a team in Mexico before making the roster of the Windy City Bulls, the Chicago Bulls’ G-League affiliate, with his strong tryout performance. He’d never spent more than a year with any one team and it was grueling not knowing where his next stop would be.
“It’s pretty much just overcoming a whole lot of uncertainty. It’s going into a lot of offseasons not knowing what was going to happen next,” McKinnie told Basketball Insiders. “It was me just trying to prepare myself to stay ready for whatever it was that came about. I think I did that pretty well. I had some people in my circle that helped me keep at it.”
In his lone season with Windy City, he did enough to stand out and capture the attention of the Toronto Raptors. He was named to the G-League All-Star team and put up 14.9 points per game and 9.2 rebounds that season.
The Raptors signed him prior to summer league in the 2017 offseason and his strong performance there, as well as in training camp, led Toronto to keep him around for the whole season.
Although the Raptors ended up cutting him this past summer, McKinnie had finally reached the level he’d been striving for his whole career. It came later than expected and he wasn’t entirely sure it would ever work out.
“I can’t even say that I did think about it. It was always a level I wanted to play at, but the circumstances I was faced with, I didn’t believe it at the time,” McKinnie told Basketball Insiders. “But as time went on and different opportunities presented itself, my belief in me making it to this level got stronger and stronger.”
He wasn’t without a team for long as the defending champion Warriors came calling not long after the Raptors cut him. McKinnie was signed to a training camp deal that was ultimately converted to a standard contract after being the only Golden State camp invitee to score in double figures over the final couple of preseason games.
This season, he’s become a dependable member of the defending champs’ second unit. He gives the Warriors a solid defender and another three-point shooter. He’s shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 35.4 percent from distance. He made his first career start last week against Chicago and, despite the loss, put up 11 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting.
From game to game, McKinnie’s role may change at any given moment. He’s just trying to do his best to give the team whatever is necessary as they embark on their quest for a third straight championship.
“It’s funny, I’m pretty much doing whatever. Whatever it is that they want me to do, whatever coach tells me to go out there and do, I pretty much just try to do that,” McKinnie told Basketball Insiders. “Whatever the game brings my way, just try to go off of that – whether it’s getting rebounds, playing defense, getting open shots and knock them down, just all the little things. All the energy plays, getting multiple possessions, things of that nature.”
McKinnie’s current deal does include an option for next season, but once again, it is non-guaranteed. However, he seems to have done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA, whether it’s with Golden State or another team.
Wherever his journey takes him from here, he’s using this season as an opportunity to keep improving and keep staying the course.
“I pretty much just want to get better, become a better basketball player, a better person,” McKinnie told Basketball Insiders. “Just learn from these guys, soak up as much as I can to help me and my game so I can further my career as much as possible.”
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