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!
8 Players To Watch In The G League Bubble
With the 2021 NBA G League season right around the corner, Tristan Tucker provides his picks for players to keep an eye on in the bubble.
With the NBA G League season tipping off on Wednesday, Feb. 10, Basketball Insiders will take a look at some of the stars that headline the bubble. Several two-way contract players and NBA assignees like Dennis Smith Jr. and Kevin Porter Jr. will play, but there are many that will make their cases to join or rejoin the NBA as teams will finalize rosters in March at the trade deadline.
On top of that, the league will welcome the G League Ignite, a brand new team that will feature some of the top prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft class, such as Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Green. However, Basketball Insiders will focus on some of the players that might be flying under the radar in their pursuit of an NBA roster spot. Let’s take a look at eight of those players to watch out for during the upcoming season.
Jeremy Lin, Santa Cruz Warriors
The most anticipated G Leaguer in the bubble is none other than Jeremy Lin, one of the league’s fan favorites since the days of Linsanity with the New York Knicks. Lin last played in the NBA during the 2018-19 season, when he was acquired by the Toronto Raptors midseason and went on to win the NBA Championship.
Lin never fully recovered from a devastating injury he suffered after just one game with the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017-18 season, which eventually led to him remaining unsigned through all of last season. However, before his injury, Lin averaged 14.6 points per game in 37 total games with the Nets and was well on his way to establishing himself as one of the best role players in the NBA.
The Golden State Warriors tried to sign Lin to their training camp roster but encountered issues with acquiring his rights. Thankfully for Lin, Santa Cruz was still able to secure his rights via the NBA vet selection rule, extending Linsanity’ a direct chance to rejoin the NBA.
Alize Johnson, Raptors 905
Don’t be surprised if Johnson ends up on the Raptors as the next great player for the team like Chris Boucher, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell as another undrafted or late-round flyer. Johnson, the 50th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, averaged 20.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.4 steals last year in the G League while shooting 52 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from deep.
As is made clear by his stats, Johnson is a stat-stuffing big that can do just about anything on the court. And like many of the Raptors’ projects before him, Johnson is one of the most aware players in the entire G League. It’s no surprise that many scouts and trainers have likened Johnson to one Draymond Green.
Admiral Schofield, Greensboro Swarm
Schofield, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NBA G League draft, figures to play a huge role on a talented Greensboro roster that is stacked with former Power Five talent. Schofield is no stranger to the G League, averaging 16 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 33 appearances last season.
While Schofield didn’t have the best rookie season with the Washington Wizards, there is plenty of untapped potential for the Swarm to take advantage of. Schofield showed retention of his elite three-point shooting ability from Tennessee during his first season in the G League, shooting 36.8 percent on nearly six attempts per game from downtown.
Oshae Brissett, Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Brissett had a promising rookie season with the Raptors on a two-way contract, including an outing in which he scored 12 points and 6 rebounds. Brissett didn’t shoot well in his first season in the G League but averaged 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-7 forward out of Syracuse clearly did enough to impress the Mad Ants, who took him in the second round of the G League draft.
Allonzo Trier, Iowa Wolves
Trier is a highly anticipated addition to the G League bubble, having played very well in the NBA with the Knicks. The point guard played two seasons with New York but was inexplicably pulled from the rotation in his second season, seeing more sporadic playing time. In his first season with the Knicks as an undrafted rookie, Trier averaged 10.9 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting from the floor and 39.4 percent shooting from three in 64 appearances.
The Iowa Wolves took a flier on Trier, selecting him with the fourth overall pick in the G League draft. Trier will join a Wolves team without much NBA experience and should get his chance to prove his worth once again.
Vit Krejci, Oklahoma City Blue
Unlike many on this list, there isn’t much intel on Krejci, a prospect from the Czech Republic that played professionally in Spain. However, the Thunder must have liked what it saw on film, selecting Krejci with the 37th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-8 forward has point guard skills and sees the floor well, while shooting at a high rate. Krejci is a G League draft-and-stash prospect that’ll look to make his case for a roster spot on the Thunder in 2021.
Antonio Blakeney, Canton Charge
Blakeney is an able-bodied scorer that has efficiency issues but was an overall steady player in his time with the Chicago Bulls. Blakeney had a tremendous outing in the G-League from 2017 to 2019, averaging a whopping 31.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists over 34 total games with the Windy City Bulls. Blakeney joins a stacked Charge roster that boasts the likes of Devon Dotson, Marques Bolden and Ty-Shon Alexander.
Kenny Wooten Jr., Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Wooten quickly became a G League fan-favorite with his defensive chops while on a two-way contract with the Knicks last season. The Houston Rockets were able to scoop Wooten up as an affiliate player and he will look to build on a season that saw him lead the G League in blocked shots with 3.6 per game.
With the G League kicking off soon, expect to see plenty of call-ups and assignments across the NBA in the coming weeks. With extra depth extremely important in a COVID-19 plagued season, many G League players should get opportunities to latch onto NBA rosters. But who will emerge as the darling signee? Only time can tell.
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.
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, he’s 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.
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.