This piece is the first of a seven part season-preview series where we break down each division of the G League and then finish off with our predictions for the various awards for the 2017-18 NBA G League season. To start out, we’ll take a look at the Southeast Divison.
Last December, the Orlando Magic announced that they had purchased the Erie Bayhawks organization with the intention of moving them to Lakeland, Florida for the subsequent season. While the Bayhawks name would remain in the G League with the Atlanta Hawks announcing that they’d have their create their own expansion squad in that city, all of the history and returning players of the older Bayhawks franchise would move onto to Lakeland. In terms of mid 1990’s NFL football, the Lakeland Magic are the Baltimore Ravens while the Erie Bayhawks become the Cleveland Browns.
Although the old Bayhawks definitely didn’t have the best success, as they haven’t won more than 14 games since 2014-15, the Magic get some solid returning players in that move. The headliner is definitely TJ Price, a shooting guard that actually stood as the Bayhawks top scoring weapon for a short time during the prior season as he averaged 14 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 steals per game on 43% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. As those numbers might tell you, he’s basically a do-it-all scorer as he’solid as an on-ball driver, off-the-dribble shooter and perimeter threat. Alongside that, he stood as a fine defensive weapon.
Coinciding with TJ Price, the Lakeland Magic will feature two two-way prospects in wing Jamel Artis and front-court weapon Adreian Payne. However, only Artis is expected to start the year with the Magic as Payne is recovering from a broken hand that he suffered prior to training camp.
While Portis won’t start the year with the squad, Artis should be a fine weapon within the Magic’s rotation. Honestly, there’s a chance that he could be this year’s version of Marcus Georges-Hunt when it comes to wings that can be your squad’s main facilitator and scoring threat. That optimism is backed up by his performance a s a senior at Pitt as he averaged 18.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists on 47% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc.
Other potential weapon for the Lakeland Magic could include the likes of: Jay Wright, Troy Caupain, Rodney Purvis and Maverick Rowan. Wright is a 6’1 point guard that stood out as a defensive stalwart for Louisiana-Lafayette. Caupain is a high-flyer that shined at Cincinatti while Purvis is an intriguing 6’4 guard that will look to rebound after a rough senior season at UConn. Last but not least, Rowan comes to the Bayhawks after getting him with the 3rd overall pick in this year’s G League draft. Meanwhile, Rowan is a strong 6’7, 220 pound wing that has really developed a deadly outside touch.
As we mentioned in the Magic segment, the Erie Bayhawks will be entering this season as an expansion squad, despite the name being in the G League for the better part of a decade. Due to their status as an expansion squad, they entered this year without the benefit of having affiliate players. Despite that, the Bayhawks should be an intriguing squad as they’ll be lead by Josh Magette, who has stood as one of the league’s finest facilitators for the past two seasons. That status was evident last year as he averaged 9.4 assists per game with a terrific 3.6 Ast/TO ration.
While he’ll no longer have the opportunity to work alongside reigning G League MVP Vander Blue, Magette should still have some solid offensive weapons to work with. Probably the most intriguing option is former George Washington Tyler Cavanaugh, a strong 6’8, 240 pound big that can shoot 41% from 3 while capturing 2.5 offensive boards per game. Another solid perimeter option could be Jordan Mathews, who shot 41 from beyond the arc on 5 perimeter attempts per game during his separate stints with Gonzaga and UConn.
Finishing out their starting 5, we have two forwards in DeAndre Daniels and Jeremy Hollowell. Daniels comes to the Bayhawks from being the 2nd overall pick in this year’s expansion draft. While his play has been inconsistent since he was selected by the Raptors in the 2014 NBA Draft, he’s coming off a solid season in Italy where he put up 13 points and 6.6 rebounds on 50% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, 6’8 forward Jeremy Hollowell is one of those do-it-all forwards that is fine in all areas but doesn’t excel in one aspect of the game.
Entering their 2nd season in the G League, the Swarm will look to build off their solid expansion season where they finished 19-31. That rebuilding process started this summer when the Hornets organization signed former UNC guard Marcus Paige and Louisville front-court alum Mangok Mathiang to separate two-way deals. Paige returns to the state of North Carolina where he was one of the leaders of a UNC squad that made it to the 2016 NCAA title game. During his rookie season with the SLC Stars, he wasn’t the best as he only averaged 12. 1 points, 2.3 assists on an inefficient 40% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Hopefully for Paige, a return to Charlotte will be a strong restart for him.
Meanwhile, Mangok Mathiang makes his way to Greensboro after a strong stint with Louisville where he was basically positioned as their 3rd big off the bench. While that role may not seem like munch, Mathiang definitely impressed in his limited role as he was able to put up 7.8 points, 6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in only 20.8 minutes per game. His best skill is probably as an offensive rebounder as he brought in 2.6 offensive boards per game.
DUe to the New Orleans Pelicans not having their own G League franchise, the Swarm will the honor of having two-way prospects Charles Cooke and Jalen Jones on the team’s roster. Cooke enters Greensboro after a strong career with Dayton where was placed on the Atlantic 10 All_Conference Second Team during his senior year. Meanwhile, Jones returns to the G League after an incredible stint with the Maine Red Claws which led us to name him as Co-Rookie of the Year during the prior season.
In terms of depth of talent, the Delaware 87ers might be the best squad in the NBA G League. From their starting five to the back of their bench, the 87ers have a strong mix of intriguing rookies (James Blackmon, Devin Robinson and Mike Young), NBA champions (James McAdoo), internation veterans (Jacob Pullen) and even the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year (Emeka Okafor).
Looking away from those solid names, the team is just filled with tremendous scoring threats that can just light it up on any given night. Both Andrew Andrews and James Blackmon are stellar perimeter shooters that have kept their perimeter shooting averages near 40% during their careers. Meanwhile, Mike Young and James Webb are wing weapons that can always drive to their way to the paint while also being able to hit that perimeter jumper. While they’re also solid offensive threats, James McAdoo and Emeka Okafor gives this team the kind of experience and overall basketball knowledge that you aren’t able to find on many other G League squads.
PROJECTED SOUTHEAST DIVISION WINNER: DELAWARE 87ERS