Over the course of 16 years, the NBA G-League has become one of the most premier minor league and developmental leagues in professional basketball. So much so, that almost every NBA team has a G-League affiliate to nurture their young talent and plug them into their rosters. Starting this season, NBA rosters have expanded from 15 to 17 players, to make room for “Two-Way Contracts”. This allows for two players on each roster to spend the majority of the season with their respective G-League team, while still being eligible to play in NBA games for up to 45 days. However, only players who have fewer than four years of NBA experience are able to acquire these type of contracts. This allows for younger players with a high ceiling of potential to have more opportunity to shine.
So, with this year’s NBA G-League Showcase in the books, here are five players that have impressed scouts enough to take a chance on them.
Alex Caruso, South Bay Lakers
With Lonzo Ball out due to injury, Caruso has finally gotten his opportunity to see some serious minutes at point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. He achieved career bests in points and assists (9 points and 8 assists) against the New York Knicks on January 21st. He also put his athleticism on display with a highlight dunk against the Indiana Pacers on January 19th. If Caruso continues to improve, he could be a solid option as a backup to Lonzo Ball at the very least.
Derrick Jones Jr., Sioux Falls Skyforce
With the nickname “Airplane Mode”, I was expecting big things from this incredibly gifted athlete, and he did not disappoint. After the Showcase, the Miami Heat came calling looking to utilize his leaping abilities. Jones played against the Charlotte Hornets on January 20th, and by far his best play was an emphatic put-back slam over two Hornets defenders.
Quinn Cook, Santa Cruz Warriors
Cook has been an absolute offensive star in the G-League, averaging 24.5 points per game. During the Showcase, he ramped up the intensity and averaged 34 points and 9.3 assists within three games. Cook has been on the NBA radar for quite some time, and he has been called upon many times to come off the bench for the Golden State Warriors. Slowly but surely, basketball fans are noticing his great potential and I would not be surprised if he finds a permanent spot on the Golden State roster.
Chris Boucher, Santa Cruz Warriors
Boucher has been recovering from an ACL injury that he suffered while playing for the University of Oregon, so he did not make an appearance in the Showcase. However, after making his professional debut on January 17th, he seems to be adjusting well. He scored 11 points at a high shooting percentage of 66.7 percent and topped it off with three blocks. Boucher could develop into a very versatile player once he gains his bearings.
Antonio Blakeney, Windy City Bulls
Blakeney is the G-League’s leading scorer at the moment, and he has averaged 29 points per game in the past three matchups. He also shot 49.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from the three point line. Scoring has never been a problem for Blakeney, and the Chicago Bulls could use his consistent offense as they continue their rebuilding process into the future.
By Joshua Hamer