The G League bubble kicked off on Wednesday, Feb. 10. It features 18 teams – so all NBA teams do not have an affiliate team participating – playing 15 games each, all of which takes place at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida – the same location as the NBA’s bubble from the 2019-20 season. Bubble play culminates in a beginning postseason on Mar. 8, which will include the top eight teams playing in a single-elimination tournament.
In addition to 17 NBA affiliates, the G League bubble also features Ignite, a team comprised of mostly recent high school graduates that chose to forego college in favor of an NBA-centric training program and system.
Ignite received significant buzz relative to other G League teams. Coached by Brian Shaw, the team features some top-tier prospects including Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, both of whom are widely expected to be top-10 picks, at least. There are also some veterans mixed in to keep the ball moving and morale high – and let’s be honest, they too are trying to make it back to the NBA.
Ignite has won its first three games of G League bubble play, defeating the Santa Cruz Warriors, Oklahoma City Blue and Raptors 905. There were lots of important takeaways that are pertinent to NBA fans, especially those hoping their team nabs a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. With that being said, here are the three biggest takeaways for Ignite’s prospects after the first few games:
Green has played well but has more to show
Jalen Green – probably the highest-profile player on Ignite entering bubble play – underwhelmed in his opening game against Santa Cruz. Fear, not Green fans, it’s just one contest. He looked a little lost in the first half, making a few mental errors. He loosened up in the second half, but he still only scored 11 points on 40 percent shooting — not what you expect from a top-flight prospect.
Green has evened out a bit since then. He struggled again in the first half of the team’s third game on Saturday, but — once again — came alive as time went on. He began attacking the hoop and showed his top-notch speed and athleticism.
Green is a long, dynamic, shooting guard. He definitely needs to get stronger, but that will come. He ended the third game with 21 points on 50 percent shooting from deep, and he’s currently averaging 17.7 points and 4.3 rebounds through three games. The major concerns around Green right now have to be around sloppiness — Green currently possesses a 1:3 assist-to-turnover ratio — and his inability to consistently affect the game.
Fortunately, there are more than enough games left for Green to prove himself.
Kuminga is better than anyone expected (so far)
Kuminga propelled himself into the top-five- pick-conversation entering bubble play, and now we all know why.
Needless to say, the future draftee is clearly a modern two-way player. He showed good footwork, impressive shot-making ability and good defensive instincts — emphasized by a game-sealing blocked shot at the end of the first game — in the first few games of bubble play.
Kuminga ended his first G-League game with 19 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks. His three-ball didn’t work — he sunk just 17% of his 7 attempts — but he shot 50 percent from the floor on the whole. Even in sticking just one of seven three-point attempts, his shot looked fluid and he wasn’t hesitant getting them up. Even more encouraging, he’s shot 3-for-6 since in games two and three combined.
The talented prospect also demonstrated the ability to push the pace in transition and use his eyes to trick defenders into falling for pass fakes.
Finally, as if all of the above weren’t enough, Kuminga’s vision has been on display, too. He may only average three assists per game, but they are quality assists that come in the half-court after drawing a double team or threading the needle to hit cutters. His ability to see over the defensive is a major plus for his passing, and it should translate nicely to the NBA.
Kuminga is fifth in scoring through three games, posting 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game — and he gets most of his production within the flow of the offense.
Dashien Nix looks the part, too
Nix was ranked 21 overall in the ESPN 100 as of the end of last high school season. He de-committed from UCLA, and that decision looks to be a good one.
As a natural righty, Nix looked very good going to and finishing with his left. He’s showed a strong hesitation dribble and has demonstrated a good ability to draw fouls. More or less, Nix looked extremely comfortable going against former and future NBA players.
Nix has also shown a good speed with which he plays, all predicated on patience. He gets to his spots and waits for things to develop around him while maintaining a live dribble. He hasn’t wowed with athleticism – and his fitness was a concern in a recent Sports Illustrated mock draft – but his skill set and poise have been on full display
Nix had a good game on Wednesday against Santa Cruz (12 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds). He was held scoreless in 21 minutes of action in the team’s second game against the Blue, but he bounced back nicely against the Raptors in Ignite’s third game (25 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists). Nix is now averaging 12.3 points, 4.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from three-point land.
Team Ignite represents a serious investment by the NBA in the futures of their young prospects. It was a bit risky in that it could be seen as a conflict of interest in the league’s relationship with the NCAA. But for now, the Ignite look to be accomplishing exactly what it set out to do, which is getting younger guys repetitions in a pro-style system. And that’s before considering the benefits like financial mentorship, training and practicing with NBA vets, all while earning good salaries in lieu of playing for free with a college team.
Ignite plays its fourth game on Monday, Feb. 15 at 11:30 am EST against the Southwest Vipers, which features young prospects like Kevin Porter Jr., Kenyon Martin Jr. and Kenny Wooten. But regardless of who they face, each game in the bubble is an opportunity for Ignite players both young and old.
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