In the never-ending quest to identify obscure and semi-obscure (and not at all obscure) players who might one day become contributors in the NBA, we keep an eye on what’s happening in the G League. In Kevin’s case, it’s a statistical eye — he crunches numbers and then runs them by Matt, who watches a ton of G League games.
Most G League players aren’t going to become high-quality NBA players, but there are always a few each season who end up contributors — and sometimes more. If you like watching young players striving to do their best to make the NBA, there’s lots to see.
Let’s start with a look at the G League environment to get a sense for what’s “good.”
- Pace (possessions per 48 minutes): 97.6
- Efficiency (points per 100 possessions): 109.1
- effective field goal percentage: .514
- offensive rebound percentage: 24.6%
- turnover percentage: 17.6%
- free throws / field goal attempts: .112
If these look familiar, that’s because they’re the four factors that decide who wins and loses basketball games.
The Capital City Go-Go is 5-3 so far this season and in first place in the Southeast Division. The Go-Go are a bit like the parent team so far — slower than average pace, meh offense, decent defense. Here’s where they rank:
- Pace: 96.0 — 20th (out of 30 G-League teams)
- Ortg: 105.4 — 24th
- Drtg: 106.5 — 9th
Kinda like the Wizards, the Go-Go aren’t shooting well — just 29.9% from three-point range and an efg of .500 (average is .514). Compare to a league average of 33.7% so far this season.
They’re also committing a ton of turnovers. At 21.2%, their turnover rate is 29th out of 30. The Greensboro Swarm are last at 21.3%. (Swarm is a better team name than “Wizards,” by the way.)
This doesn’t mean the Go-Go are devoid of NBA prospects. Joel Ayayi and Jordan Goodwin have been the team’s most productive players. Both have a Player Production Average (PPA) of 150. In PPA, 100 is average and higher is better.
Ayayi is the only player in the G League to average a triple-double per 100 team possessions — 19.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists. He’s been extremely efficient — 131 offensive rating — despite 4.8 turnovers per 100 possessions. That’s because he’s hitting everything from the floor — a .669 efg, 70.7% on twos, and 38.9% from three — plus serving as the team’s top playmaker. The numbers suggest he has room to grow defensively, but that he has a real shot at becoming a good NBA rotation player.
Goodwin guzzles possessions and scores in bunches (28.6 points per 100 possessions), though he is a shade below average in efficiency. He rebounds well and plays defense too. The challenge for his NBA prospects: at 6-3 he’s really an undersized SG, not a PG. And he’s not a great shooter from three.
Other above average performers for the Go-Go: Jaime Echenique, Greg Monroe, and Kyree Walker (in limited minutes).
Cassius Winston rates a below average 71. He’s using a 35.9% of the team’s possessions when he’s on the floor at an efficiency 5 points per 100 possessions below league average. For comparison, Bradley Beal’s career peak usage rate was 34.4%. Tommy Sheppard and company probably expected an efficient shooter when drafting Winston but that has not been the case in his G League tenure.
Ayayi rated like a lottery pick in Kevin’s stat-based pre-draft analysis (Ye Olde Draft Analyzer, YODA for short). Jordan Schakel, a YODA favorite for the second round, rates poorly thus far. Schakel’s jump shot looks good but it has not gone in very much thus far, unfortunately. It went in a bunch at San Diego State, so it’s likely he’ll shoot better in the future. He’s a longshot to make the league.
This year’s second round pick, Isaiah Todd mostly struggled early but appears to be turning things around lately. His PPA is a well-below average 59. His offensive rating is 100 — that’s 9 points per 100 possessions below average on 17.8% usage. He’s not great on the boards, he has more turnovers than assists, and he fouls a lot. On an encouraging note, the team is finding creative ways to use him, including letting him defend 1 through 5.
Below are PPA scores, usage rates and offensive ratings for this year’s Go-Go.
Capital City Go-Go PPA+
With 30 teams, there’s an abundance of players trying to make it to the NBA. Only a few are worth likely to make it as a short-term stopgap or a long-term cornerstone. Remember: The G League Ignite has some elite prospects, including Scoot Henderson, who’s a) awesome, and b) just 17-years-old. He’s not eligible for the draft until 2023!
Here’s our list of players worth watching because they’re likely to stick in the NBA:
Scoot Henderson, G League Ignite, 6-4 G
He can’t help the Wizards unless they end up with the number one pick in 2023. Still, catch some games if you can because this kid is terrific. At 17, he has a PPA of 257 — the second-highest score in the G League so far this season. He has a 131 offensive rating on a usage rate of 30.2% (not typos), even though he’s shooting just 16.7% from three so far. He’s half an assist per 100 possessions from joining Ayayi in a per 100 possessions triple-double.
Saben Lee, Motor City Cruise, 6-2 G
He’s on a two-way with the Pistons but worth keeping an eye on. Lee was raw as a shooter and facilitator coming out of Vanderbilt, but he’s a high-end athlete even by NBA standards. He’s hitting 45.9% on 9.0 three-point attempts per 100 possessions so that aspect of his game could be coming around. His 9.0 assists to 4.4 turnovers per 100 possessions isn’t bad considering the helter-skelter play of the G League. His overall game has been excellent — 235 PPA and a 130 offensive rating on a 29.0% usage rate.
Luka Samanic, Westchester Knicks, 6-10 PF/C
Cut by the Spurs, Samanic signed a two-way contract with the Knicks. He’s putting up video game numbers in the G League so far and showing more of the promise that got him drafted in the first round. He has a 188 PPA, rates as a positive defender in the G League, and has a 119 ortg on 33.3% usage.
Trevelin Queen, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 6-6 G/F
Queen was 23 years old heading into the 2020 draft, which may have been part of why he was not selected. If he can develop a consistent jumper, he’s the type of 3&D wing all teams covet, and he does a little bit of everything. Teams can never have too many wings who don’t need the ball to contribute. After a hot start, his three-point shooting has ticked down to 34.4%, though his offensive efficiency is a solid 112 on 29.9% usage. His PPA: 179.
Terry Taylor, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 6-5 F
Taylor was the Ohio Valley Conference version of Charles Barkley. Playing at Austin Peay kept him low-profile among basketball fans, but he was insanely productive, averaging over 20 points and 11 rebounds his last two seasons. Can he be productive against bigger, more athletic NBA players? It’s hard to say until he gets the chance, but he is laying waste to the G League so far. He has a league-best 261 PPA, an efg of 70.5%, and he’s grabbing 19.3 rebounds per 100 possessions — 9.2 from the offensive glass. Scratch Barkley — that’s like Dennis Rodman. More Rodman-like: He defends like a maniac, including steals and blocks. It’s always fun to root for an underdog and he’s a great guy to have in an NBA practice because he will play with energy and effort at all times. Someone needs to give him a shot.
This is the part where we talk about old friends. Like:
- Isaac Bonga — 201 PPA in 4 games. His offensive rating is a heady 131 on a 23.7% usage rate. He’s shooting 42.9% from three-point range!
- Jordan Bell — 177 PPA in 6 games. He does some scoring inside, but his G League calling card is rebounding (19.3 per 100 team possessions).
- Lance Stephenson — Yes, The Lance Stephenson. The guy who’s only good at basketball when he plays for an Indiana team apparently. Unfortunately, he didn’t sign with Fort Wayne, so he’s posting a below-average 81 PPA for Grand Rapids. He has a 101 offensive rating (about 8 points per 100 possessions below average) on 25% usage. He’s producing a whopping 5.1 turnovers per 100 possessions.
- Admiral Schofield — 76 PPA for the Lakeland Magic. He’s lower usage (17.7%) and slightly above average in offensive efficiency, but he’s shooting 31.6% from three-point range, which makes things challenging for a 3&D guy.
- Nate Hinton — Former YODA favorite from the University of Houston, he’s managing just a 57 PPA for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (another team name better than “Wizards). He’s rebounding and defending well (things he also did in college), but has shot just 39.4% on twos so far this season. Maybe what’s needed is a trade — Hinton to Grand Rapids for Stephenson. Who says no?