The G League continues to grow in size, stature and importance in the North American pro basketball ecosphere. All but two franchises have an affiliated minor league outfit, and NBA teams are increasingly using the G League as grounds to develop young talent instead of just planting them on the bench and playing them garbage time minutes. This year, 14 2022 first round picks – and a slew of second rounders – have spent time in the G League.
So how does G League success translate to the NBA? The jury is still out. There’s plenty of cases of players tearing up the minors and then becoming at least strong rotational players. Khris Middleton is always spoken as the crème de la crème of G League success stories. But the more down to Earth players to emerge from the G League are the Jordan Clarksons and Alex Carusos. And, there’s also plenty of former G League MVPs who could never crack an NBA rotation.
For fantasy players, monitoring G League performance is obviously more important in dynasty leagues. There’s value in seeing who is developing well, knowing that success in the minors is more likely to show up a couple seasons down the line than later that season. More important, I think, is that G League performance is more valuable in weeding out players from your Watch List. If a young guy is struggling in the G League, it’s very unlikely said player will find success in the Big Show anytime soon.
So here’s a rundown of who from the 2022-23 rookie class has been making waves in the minor league.
First, a quick side note on the schedule, for those interested. The G League regular season started Tuesday. The first two months are the “Showcase” part of the season, with a mini season and pre-Christmas tournament – a variation of which is likely to occur in future NBA seasons.
“Today was a good day,” said JAYLIN Williams of the OKC Thunder/Blue on Tuesday, who posted his first triple-double of pro ball, producing 21 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, shooting 7-of-11 from the field, 1-of-3 from deep, in 31 minutes of work.
In 12 games with the Blue, Williams has averaged 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 62.7% from the field. He’s shooting 36% from three, which he’ll need to continue at the higher level if he wants a role with the Thunder. He must overcome his lack of size and athleticism by maximizing his skillset as a high-post initiator. It’s a matter of time before he gets an opportunity in OKC — and with Poku now expected out for at least two months, maybe sooner than later — and I’m excited to see the results.
[In breaking news since I wrote this Thursday afternoon: JAYLIN Williams got the start against Charlotte last night. It was far from a coming out party, with Williams recording 1o rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and zero points, missing all five of his shot attempts. He got into foul trouble immediately and was dominated by the next-to-be mentioned Mark Williams. But, I couldn’t care less. The most important thing is that he got the start!]
Mark Williams dominated in his 11 G League games to the tune of 22 points, 12 boards and nearly 2 blocks a game for the Greensboro Swarm. Charlotte’s No. 15 pick has a typical game for a physically dominant 7-footer, and will benefit from having the same role and skillset of current starting center Mason Plumlee. As I said last week, the Hornets season seems soon-to-be lost, and there’s a chance Williams gets more and more NBA run as the season goes along.
[As mentioned above, Mark Williams went bananas against the Thunder last night, posting 17-13-2-2-2 in just 21 minutes. If he’s still there, run don’t walk to the waiver wire and pick him up immediately.]
Peyton Watson is buried on the Nuggets depth chart, so likely will spend most of the season with the Grand Rapids Gold. But the 20-year-old is creating visions of a future fantasy b-ball sugarplums in his time with the Gold.
The Nuggets spent some coin on draft night to trade for Watson as the last pick of the first round; a bit of a surprise for the UCLA freshman who averaged 3.3 points. But it’s Watson’s defense that makes Denver think they may have struck gold. In 35 minutes a game, he’s averaging 2 steals and 1.6 blocks, along with 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.3 turnovers. His offense is also developing nicely, as he’s netting about 20 points per game, on 43% from the field, 29% from deep. The 83% free throw shooting is a confidence builder. Definitely a nice stash in dynasty and one to keep an eye on moving forward.
TyTy Washington Jr. has had some good all-around production for the Rockets over the last couple weeks, carrying over strong play he had in 10 games for the Rio Grand Valley Vipers. He averaged about 20-3-5 with a steal per game, shooting 47% from the field, and hitting a very respectable 37% on 7.5 3-point attempts per game.
Jaden Hardy played for the G League Ignite development team last year. His draft stock plummeted after he shot just 27% on 6.5 attempts per game from the 3-point line, and he ended up falling to the Mavericks in the early second round. He’s righted the ship in a big way, hitting 50% of his 8.7/game attempts from deep, increasing his scoring average from 17.7 to a league-leading 28.8. His other stats don’t scream fantasy star: 4.5 boards, 3.9 assists, .8 steals, .7 blocks and 3.7 turnovers.
In 65 minutes for the Mavs, he’s hit just 1-of-12 from deep, but has earned some praise from other players. At the beginning of the year, coach Jason Kidd hinted that Hardy could be in line for a rotation spot, followed by “I Kidd, I Kidd.” But the Hardy Party has been initiated only for some garbage time so far. Now, he’s going to be included in plenty of trade talk, and could be a bucket getter in the second half of the season if minutes open up for him in the Big D or elsewhere.
Before we finish this up, time for a dance break: “Do the Hustle / Do It, Do It / Do the Hustle.” Did you know that Disco is actually awesome? At least, it was, until the white man took it over. Probably one of the most underappreciated and influential music genres of all time, which was dumped on for no reason in Comiskey Park in 1979. But I digress …
The Memphis Hustle currently have five rookies on the squad. David Roddy was assigned this week as Desmond Bane returned, after getting some productive run with the Grizzlies over the last couple months. Fellow first rounder Jake LaRavia has also shown promise with the NBA team, and has bounced between the two teams. Second rounder Vince Williams Jr. was called up this week, after playing decently in seven G League games.
Like four weeks ago when I first started to write this post [yeesh, get yur stuff together, Phil], Kennedy Chandler was near the top of my list to highlight. In five games with the Hustle, the 5-11 point guard averaged 14 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6 assists in 29 minutes of play. He’s giving off some serious De’Anthony Melton vibes, and the pick may be one of the reasons Memphis was ok shipping Melton off to Philadelphia in the offseason. He has a 6-5 wingspan, and averaged over 2 steals a game at Tennessee.
Chandler has played well in what minutes he’s received with the Grizzlies, particularly in his 8-7-6 performance against the Hawks shown below, and may be able to jump from 3rd string to backup by season’s end.
And last, but certainly not least, my favorite of this bunch for no other reason that he’s just fun to watch because, well, just watch:
Kenneth Lofton Jr. (no relation to THAT Kenneth Lofton) is a 6-6, 275-pound bowling ball on the court. And 50 of those points are in his gluteus region, which he uses to create space in the block to easily get shots up against taller defenders. But he’s as much a matador as he is a bull, with some shifty athleticism and a nice finishing touch around the rim.
In 13 Showcase games, the undrafted rookie out of Louisiana Tech has averaged 25.2 points on 55% shooting, 9.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals and .8 blocks. Lofton Jr. has the grit and chip on the shoulder that comes with being doubted throughout his career because he looks like motivational speaker Matt Foley trying out for the JV squad. And he loves to step up when the moment calls. In his final game of the Winter Showcase last week, he posted 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. And check out this performance in the FIBA U19 World Championship finals:
Given his shape, squad, and being a lefty, it’s no surprise Lofton Jr. is getting some Zebo comparisons, even from the man himself. “That boy a beast,” Zach Randolph recently said. “Just real active, all over the court … He’s got a great knack for the ball, and he got a good touch. I like him.”
I like him, too.