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!
NBA PM: Jeremy Lin, Activist and Basketball Player
Racism in the United States continues to rise as the fight for equality continues. In the NBA, Jeremy Lin has stepped up and used his voice in support of the movement to end Asian hate.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a strong movement for social justice and human rights in America. Recently, the headlines have involved racist remarks and attacks on people of Asian ethnicities across the United States.
In the NBA, various teams and players have come out to voice their support for the movement to stop Asian hate such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and an Asian-American himself, Jeremy Lin. The basketball world has done an excellent job with social justice reform and human rights issues by highlighting them on the players’ uniforms, banners and signs throughout their arenas, while also letting the players express their thoughts on racism without backing down.
“As a part of our ongoing commitment to promote racial equality and social justice,” the NBA’s recent statement read, “We stand with the Asian community against any acts of hate and racism.”
Within the past few weeks, there was a mass shooting in Atlanta at a massage parlor that left six Asian women dead. The shooting occurred on Mar. 16 and has been highly publicized as a hate crime. This act of racism put the Asian hate movement in the spotlight once again, but, sadly, hate crimes towards Asians related to the coronavirus pandemic are not new.
Lin – always willing to stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost – used his platform as to speak out and highlight the hate seen against Asian-Americans.
“We have to keep standing up, speaking out, rallying together and fighting for change. We cannot lose hope!”
Lin, who has now played for the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, has a large platform as an Asian American basketball player. Today, the point guard for the G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors has been a vocal leader of the movement to end Asian hate. But as one of three Asian basketball players in the NBA system, he serves as a role model for young Asians everywhere. For every three-pointer he hit this year in the G League, he donated to organizations for youth empowerment or human rights work, per CBS News.
Of course, during a G League game, Lin was called ‘coronavirus’ by another player – which led to him speaking out against Asian hate but did not name anybody as he did not want to contribute to more hate.
“What good does it do in this situation for someone to be torn down?” Lin said in a lengthy Twitter note posted in late February.
Listen to the voices that are teaching us how to be anti-racist towards ALL people.”
Experiencing recent hate while enduring numerous other instances of racism towards him, Lin is a powerful voice and a leader in the Asian American community.
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) February 27, 2021
As a player, Lin has had an up-and-down career while playing overseas in China – all following an NBA Finals win in which he played just one minute for the Toronto Raptors. Back in America and the G League where he famously got his start, Lin has tried to prove that he’s ready and able to contribute to an NBA team once more.
Appearing in nine games for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Lin posted averages of 19 points and 6.4 assists per game, plus a field goal percentage of 50.5 percent, a 42.6 percent three-point percentage and 87.9 from the free throw line.
Without a doubt, Lin still has a lot of good basketball left in the tank, but why hasn’t he been called up to the NBA? The Golden State Warriors are already in the luxury tax and the team’s other guards have performed particularly well. An unfortunate circumstance for him to be in, but Lin is one injury away from a call-up and a contract if the situation arises.
This season may not be the one where Lin makes his return to the NBA, but that isn’t going to stop him from trying. It was clear following his short G League stint that he can still play in the NBA and deserves to still be on a roster. Even if he is not in a large role, he can be an instant threat off the bench at any moment with his offensive IQ creating shots for himself and opening up the floor for others.
But as Lin works to re-fulfilling his dreams, it hasn’t stopped him from using his platform for good. Throughout his long, bumpy career – full of meteoric rises, brutal injuries and false starts – the veteran point guard has always been a source of kindness and thoughtfulness. And in this day and age, Lin stands to be a powerful voice for progress not only in the NBA, but in the country at large.
NBA Daily: Available G League Gems
David Yapkowitz breaks down which G League players could make an impact for a contender in the second half of the 2020-21 season.
The G League bubble wraps up this week, with the playoffs underway and the championship game scheduled for March 11. The NBA, meanwhile, is ready to pick back up after the All-Star break and, with the trade deadline a couple of weeks away and teams finalizing their rosters for playoff pushes or second-half development, there could be some G League players on NBA radars.
From young players looking for their first shot in the league to older veterans hoping for one more NBA contract, the G League has become a league where players can garner some serious recognition. But who might be the next player to make the leap to the NBA?
Alize Johnson – Raptors 905
The Raptors 905 have been one of the top teams in the G League the past couple of years and that’s no surprise given that their parent team the Toronto Raptors are one of the best-managed teams in the NBA. Johnson is no stranger to the NBA, either, as he played two years with the Indiana Pacers before landing in the G League this season.
Behind a very strong performance in the bubble, Johnson has popped up on the radar of several NBA teams. He’s an athletic wing who has put up 16.6 points per game, 13.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists. While didn’t play much with the Pacers, it would seem that he’s used his time since to significantly improve his game, particularly his playmaking ability. It’s almost a given that he’ll be on an NBA roster once the G League bubble ends.
Kenny Wooten Jr – Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Wooten was a rookie with the New York Knicks last season on a two-way contract, but he never saw any game action and they cut him before the start of this season. In camp with the Houston Rockets, Wooten joined their G League affiliate in Rio Grande when he was cut.
While Wooten’s scoring numbers might not jump out of the boxscore, he can rebound and defend with the best of them. His shooting might be what’s kept him from getting an NBA roster spot to this point, but that he’s improved in that area and would continue to were he to sign with the NBA team. Although not as big, Wooten fits a similar mold to that of Donta Hall, who recently received a call-up.
Tyrone Wallace – Agua Caliente Clippers
Wallace is another player with some brief NBA experience with the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers. Four years removed from his rookie season, Wallance played pretty solid when given the opportunity.
He’s also another player whose outside shooting has likely held him back from a consistent role at the NBA-level — his three-point percentage in the bubble is just 28.6 percent. That said, Wallace has stood out in almost every other aspect, from his scoring (16.6 points), rebounding (6.3 rebounds), playmaking (3.3 assists) and defense (1.5 steals). He still has a good chance at being called up this year, but a consistent three-point shot is would solidify a spot for him in the NBA.
Oshae Brissett – Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Brissett was a rookie with the Toronto Raptors on a two-way contract last season. Before training camp, his deal converted to a standard NBA contract, but he ended up being cut after a strong preseason from Yuta Watanabe.
Now, in the bubble, he’s looked much improved on the outside, shooting 33.3 percent from deep after knocking down just 28.9 percent of his shots last season. While that could improve further still, it bodes well for his shot at a roster spot that he’s touched up his efficiency. One of the bubble’s leading scorers at 18.6 points per game, Brissett has the size and tools to be a strong rebounding and defending small forward at the next level as well.
Jeremy Lin – Santa Cruz Warriors
Lin got his NBA start with the Golden State Warriors 11 years ago. Now, closer to the tail end of his career, he’s looking for one more NBA opportunity via their G League team. Lin briefly left the league to play in China last season, but returned this year to pursue perhaps his last NBA contract.
One of the best playmakers in the bubble, Lin dished out 6.4 assists per game before the Warriors were eliminated. That’s what he can contribute to an NBA team, being able to run a team’s second unit with efficiency. Speaking of efficiency, he showed that on the offensive end with 19.8 points and shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from the three-point line. He’s more experienced than a lot of players in the G League and wouldn’t be a bad option for a team in need of a veteran floor leader.
The G League has grown in talent every season for a while now and it’s no longer viewed so much as a demotion or punishment for young NBA players. Rookies and second-year players can use the league as a way to get experience with game situations until ready to join their NBA team’s regular rotation.
Unlike when the league first came into existence, the current G League is a good place for NBA hopefuls to sharpen their skills and showcase their game to front offices, proving that they are ready for an NBA call-up.
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.
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