Ranking the Top 15 G League Players with NBA Potential

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 21, 2020

Ranking the Top 15 G League Players with NBA Potential

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    Suddenly a desirable predraft setting for prospect development, the G League continues to build credibility. 

    It might feature a 2021 top-three pick with the addition of the Select Team and Jalen Green. But the G League already has plenty of recent first- and second-rounders and undrafted free agents who are on track to carve out NBA careers.

    These aren't the G League's current best players; rather, they're the prospects with the most long-term potential. Except for Select Team members, only players who appeared in more G League contests than NBA games last year were considered.

15. Kai Sotto (G League Select, C)

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    Kai Sotto will spend the year with the G League Select Team, trying to convincing general managers to draft the first Filipino-born NBA player.

    It's not a given, as Sotto has something to prove. But at 7'2", he possesses an appealing mix of height and coordination for finishing, offensive rebounding and rim protection. Offensively, he plays to his strengths, working as a target around the basket. Defensively, he blocked 3.1 shots in 28.4 minutes per game last summer at the U19 World Cup. 

    His physicality and toughness will be tested in the G League. He doesn't offer a great deal of versatility at either end, so it will be important for Sotto to show he can impact games inside.

14. Jalen Lecque (Northern Arizona Suns, SG)

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    Straight out of high school, guard Jalen Lecque made noise in the G League with athleticism that's close to that of the most explosive NBA players.

    It stretches the imagination and buys time for his skill development, which still needs work. Lecque only shot 21.7 percent from three for the Northern Arizona Suns, but he still managed 13.3 points and 3.5 assists per game at 19 years old, producing off his burst, bounce and ball-handling. 

    He's flashed enough playmaking to work as a combo guard, but the 20-year-old's scoring potential is more intriguing. It can take off if Leqcue's jumper becomes threatening enough to complement his transition game and attacking ability.

13. Donta Hall (Grand Rapids Drive, C)

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    With a career 66.1 field-goal percentage in four years at Alabama, Donta Hall still went undrafted in 2019. His elite finishing and interior play immediately translated to the G League, where he averaged 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game on 66.2 percent shooting.

    Powerful and explosive, the center should succeed as an easy-bucket weapon at any level. He'll continue to be effective at scoring in the NBA paint, based on his bounce, coordination and strength for playing through, above or around rim protection.

    Hall will be limited to mostly catch-and-finish work off rolls and dump-downs, but he may be good enough at converting them into dunks and layups to justify regular minutes off the bench.

12. Ignas Brazdeikis (Westchester Knicks, SF)

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    Ignas Brazdeikis' big summer league didn't lead to NBA rookie minutes. Instead, the 2019 second-round pick spent the year in the G League and averaged 20.9 points per game on 49.9 percent shooting. 

    He figures to receive more time next season with the New York Knicks, who signed Brazdeikis to a multiyear contract

    A natural scorer, he compensates for limited athleticism with skill and instincts. And he's highly competitive—a trait the Knicks should put extra value on. 

    Brazdeikis takes some tough shots, and he'll have to show coaches he can hold his own defensively against wings. But for a 6'6" forward, his offense and determination should eventually lead to NBA production.

11. Bol Bol (Windy City Bulls, PF/C)

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    Nobody wanted to take a first-round gamble on Bol Bol, whose medical reports and questionable competitiveness cast a cloud over his rare offensive skills for a 7'2" big.

    It's still tough to write off his potential and discount his shooting touch and general scoring versatility. The Denver Nuggets prospect was effective in eight games with the Windy City Bulls, averaging 12.0 points in 19.2 minutes per game, flashing the same spot-up, pull-up and fallaway shot-making he delivered at Oregon.

    Durability concerns are legitimate, since he only lasted nine games in college before hurting his foot, and his long, skinny frame may have trouble holding up physically. But if Bol can stay healthy, there could be plenty of value tied to his ability to stretch the floor, finish above the rim and block shots.

10. Zhaire Smith (Delaware Blue Coats, SG/SF)

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    It's too early to quit on Zhaire Smith. A foot injury and other health issues set his developmental timetable back a year, but he's still just 21 and coming off a season in the G League in which he improved his three-ball to 37.6 percent.

    The sharper shooting could be a key step forward for Smith, an explosive wing whose athleticism translates to easy baskets, putbacks and exciting defensive playmaking. 

    He may never be a major scoring threat or playmaker, but the right fit could unlock high-end energizer potential that was so appealing during the 2018 NBA draft. That year's No. 16 pick may just need a change of scenery for a chance to break out in the NBA after the Philadelphia 76ers added Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle.

9. Isaiah Todd (G League Select, PF)

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    With eyes on the NBA, Isaiah Todd decommitted from Michigan in April to prepare in the G League. We won't know what his role will look like until the Select Team fills out its roster. Either way, Todd's physical tools and athleticism should pop out to scouts who might not be so familiar with him, since the last FIBA tournament he played in was in 2017 and the high school All-Star circuit was canceled.

    Todd passes the eye test with solid 6'10" size and fluidity. While his skills aren't the sharpest, he has an intriguing tool box that includes a confident jumper and shot-making versatility out of the post.

    He's flashed the ability to hit the three or put the ball down for quick, short moves. But Todd figures to do most of his damage around the basket in the G League. He's still too far away as a creator or shooter to expect efficient execution outside the paint.

    The level of polish he demonstrates skillwise will determine if he's worthy of 2021 first-round consideration.

8. Alen Smailagic (Santa Cruz Warriors, PF/C)

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    Alen Smailagic may have played his last game with the Santa Cruz Warriors after two seasons in the G League.

    Still 19 years old, the 6'10" Serbian has won over the Warriors with versatility and motor over flash.

    He works effectively as a screener who can roll or pop, particularly after improving his three-ball to 34.6 percent this past G League season. But he can also make plays for himself, attacking closeouts or shaking in the post.

    With footwork, scoring instincts and defensive IQ, Smailagic compensates for his limited athletic ability at both ends. He'll be a fit as a glue guy for a Warriors team that has enough star power.

7. Luka Samanic (Austin Spurs, PF)

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    After playing limited minutes during the 2018-19 season in the Adriatic League, Luka Samanic spent most of his rookie year in the G League, where he averaged 15.2 points and hit 47 threes in 33 games.

    Presumably high on his fit for today's NBA, the San Antonio Spurs took him No. 19 overall last summer. At 6'10", Samanic has a promising shooting stroke and enough off-the-dribble scoring skills/body control to attack closeouts and the rim.

    And he's flashed enough encouraging defensive foot speed to stay in front of face-up 4s. 

    He won't add much rim protection or playmaking, which puts pressure on his ability to shoot consistently. But for Samanic's age and size, the 20-year-old's jump shot and overall skill level are worth buying.

6. Keldon Johnson (Austin Spurs, SG/SF)

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    The G League appeared in Keldon Johnson's immediate future the moment the 2019 first-rounder was drafted by a San Antonio Spurs organization that boasted Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and DeMar DeRozan.

    He averaged 20.3 points per game on 53.2 percent shooting with the Austin Spurs, tapping into his tools, athleticism and paint touch for slashing and finishing inside the arc. The fact that he produced like he did without shooting well from deep (23.7) can actually be considered encouraging.

    Still 20, Johnson has time and room to improve as a spot-up shooter, a skill he appears competent enough with, given his age. In the meantime, his body, slashing and floater game should translate, but he'd become a fully functional rotational scorer for the Spurs if he could eventually knock down catch-and-shoot threes at a respectable clip.

5. Mfiondu Kabengele (Agua Caliente Clippers, C)

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    I was high on Mfiondu Kabengele out of Florida State, ranking him No. 20 on my final big board after a standout 2019 NCAA tournament. He didn't get an extended opportunity for NBA rookie minutes because the Los Angeles Clippers put together a title-contending roster, but the front office should be feeling good about Kabengele's 27 games in the G League.

    The 250-pound big man took another encouraging step forward with his jump shot, burying 53 three-pointers to better establish himself as a force around the basket who can also step out to stretch floor.

    He won't offer much as a creator or passer, but Kabengele's athleticism/energy for finishing and cleaning up, plus his spot-up shooting, could become useful for a Clippers team that already has plenty of scorers.

4. Tremont Waters (Maine Red Claws, PG)

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    The 51st pick of the 2019 draft, Tremont Waters went on to win G League Rookie of the Year. 

    The Boston Celtics may wind up calling on him for regular minutes before last year's lottery selection, Romeo Langford. 

    Teams missed on Waters by putting too much stock into his measurables and NCAA inefficiency. He clearly possesses a level of quickness and skill to create, make plays and knock down jumpers at a threatening-enough clip.

    While his lack of size (5'10", 175 lbs) and athleticism may limit his NBA ceiling, there is a path for Waters to emerge as a valuable backup on a title contender.

3. Talen Horton-Tucker (South Bay Lakers, SG)

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    Teams weren't sold on Talen Horton-Tucker's unorthodox scouting profile during the 2019 draft. The guard didn't fit into any NBA box with 234-pound size, limited explosiveness and inefficient shooting percentages. It's an unusual mix. But his effectiveness at Iowa State carried over to the G League, where he averaged 18.1 points and 4.0 assists per game, playing the entire season at 19 years old.

    Offensively, he's aggressive with tight ball-handling moves to create, confident shot-making out to the arc and a diverse finishing package. His power and length should be useful defensively against NBA guards and wings. 

    And he won't turn 20 until around Thanksgiving. At some point soon, the Los Angeles Lakers will call on Horton-Tucker for scoring firepower and competitiveness.

2. Daishen Nix (G League Select, PG)

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    After decommitting from UCLA in April, Daishen Nix is in a unique position to run the G League Select Team at 18 years old.

    His IQ, feel for the game and craft stand out over his athleticism or scoring upside. Nix plays at his own pace, using timing, angles, footwork and body control to navigate through defenses and make plays as a passer and paint finisher.

    Tough to rattle or speed up, he operates with a sense of calmness and maturity, promising qualities that highlight a guard capable of efficiently running an offense.

    Scouts will watch to see how much his limited explosiveness holds him back from separating and converting in traffic, and whether his capable jump shot is closer to trustworthy or unreliable. Nix could wind up generating interest from lottery teams if he shoots well enough, both inside and behind the arc.

1. Jalen Green (G League Select, SG)

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    A potential top-three pick in the 2021 draft, Jalen Green was the first to accept the G League's offer over others from top colleges and pro teams overseas. 

    Apparently, all the Select program needed was to secure one high-profile name for credibility for others to follow suit. Green may have changed the game for high school graduates and opened another door for them to prepare for the NBA.

    He'll suit up with Todd, Sotto, Nix and veterans under coach Brian Shaw. And scouts seem confident Green will put up similar or better numbers compared to the biggest one-and-done prospects from the NCAA.

    Over the past year, he's sharpened his ball-handling for creation and improved his perimeter shot-making, exciting developments for such an explosive 6'5" athlete. It wouldn't be surprising if his percentages lacked efficiency, but they won't set off any alarms.

    Between his transition offense and slashing, expanding pull-up game and secondary playmaking, Green figures to put together enough flashes and production to back up his superstar potential.

                        

    Stats courtesy of RealGM.