Note: This piece is the fifth and final piece in a five part series where we look at the top 50 best G League players for the 2018-19 season. If you’re interested in looking through this series, here are the links to part one (#50-#41), part two(#40-#31), part three (#30-#21) and part four (#20-#11).
10. Alex Caruso - South Bay Lakers: 19 pts, 7.7 asts, 2 stls, 3.8 rebs on 48% from field and 39% from beyond the arc on 3.3 attempts in 30 minutes per game. 61% TS%, 56% eFG% with South Bay Lakers
After shining during the 2017 Summer League, which pushed the Lakers to him to a two-way deal, Alex Caruso entered the 2017-18 G League season with high expectations. By all degree, he both reached and surpassed those expectations as he stood as arguably the best point guard in the entire G League. In 31 minutes per game, he averaged 19 points, 7.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2 steals per game on 50% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. Those averages allowed him to maintain a fantastic 62% True Shooting Percentage.
Now entering his 2nd season on that two-way deal, Caruso will look to further expand on that fantastic season as a member of the South Bay Lakers. As a facilitator, he has a lot of weapons with the likes of fellow two-way player Johnathan Williams, Joel Berry, Scott Machado and Andre Ingram. In addition to that, he’ll also get some opportunities to work with LA Lakers rookies Isaac Bonga and Moe Wagner, whenever they’re assigned to the G League.
9. John Jenkins - Westchester Knicks: 20.3 pts, 4.3 rebs, 2 asts on 48% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc in 5 attempts in 32 minutes per game in 33 total G League games. 59% TS%, 54% eFG%
Analysis from Chris Priczak’s (@chrispriczak) “ Analyzing Westchester Knicks’ Training Camp Roster” piece.
A former first round pick, John Jenkins was claimed off waivers by the Westchester Knicks during the 2016-17 season. Jenkins is known for his scoring prowess, which is what he showed in his first stint with the team. He scored 20 or more points in five of his first six games. Jenkins scored a then-franchise high 40 points. He spent last season with San Pablo Inmobiliaria Burgos in Spain. With the NBA experience and scoring ability that John Jenkins has, he has a good chance at earning a call-up this season.
8. Jameel Warney - Texas Legends: 19.9 pts, 9.6 rebs, 2.9 asts, 1.2 stls, 1.1 blks on 53% from field and 29% from 3 on 1.8 attempts in 35 minutes per game. 56% TS%, 54% eFG% with Texas Legends
After finishing his rookie year on a high note, the Stony Brook alum entered the 2017-18 season on a mission to prove himself as one of the best bigs in the G League. Warney definitely accomplished that goal due to standing out as a two-way threat that can shine on either end of the court. That status was evident by looking at his numbers as he averaged 19.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game on 53% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc on 1.8 attempts in 35 minutes per game.
Those solid numbers are actually a sign of how Warney has grown as a player as he entered the G League in 2016-17 as a front-court player that really only did much work inside the paint. However, he used the 2017-18 season to shred those prior ideas. Over the course of that season, the 6’8 forward shined as a solid high-post facilitator that can throw precise passes to driving guards or wings. He also showed some potential as a perimeter shooter as he shot 29% from beyond the arc. Although that’s obviously inefficient, it’s a sign that the 24-year-old player has made strides as a player since joining the G League.
Warney being able to make those strides offensively in addition to already being a solid inside presence on both ends of the court is what puts Warney this high on the list.
7. Alex Poythress - Erie Bayhawks: 20 pts, 8.9 rebs, 2.7 asts, 1.4 blks on 48% from field and 23% from 3 on 3.1 attempts in 34 minutes per game. 54% TS%, 50% eFG% with Fort Wayne Mad Ants in G League
After spending his rookie season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, where he put up 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game, the Pacers signed the 6’9 forward to a two-way deal for the 2017-18 season. Unfortunately, Indiana really didn’t do a good job of giving him significant playing time at the NBA level as he only played a combined 104 minutes in 25 games.
However, Poythress was able to impress in the rare occurrences that he was playing in the G League. In 7 games, he averaged 20 points, 8.9 rebounds (3 offensive boards), 2.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game on 48% from the field and 23% from beyond the arc on 3.1 attempts in 34 minutes per game. Despite being a lackluster perimeter shooter, he was still able to maintain a solid 54% True Shooting Percentage.
Although Indiana ended up waving him in July, he only had to wait less than two months before signing a two-way deal with the Atlanta Hawks. So far, Poythress has spent most of his time at the NBA level as he’s currently averaging 5.7 points and 3.8 rebounds on 54% from the field in 15 minutes per game with the Atlanta Hawks. However, that role could decrease soon as the team’s usual starting power forward John Collins looks to be nearing the end of his rehab from a left ankle injury that he suffered back in mid October.
Once that happens, Poythress should be spending more time in the G League with the Erie BayHawks. With that squad, he could be a focal point of a playoff contending team as he’ll get a chance to play with Terrence Jones, RJ Hunter and fellow two-way player Jaylen Adams.
6. Amile Jefferson - Iowa Wolves: 17.8 pts, 12.8 rebs, 2.5 asts, 1.1 stls, .7 blks on 62% from field in 35 minutes per game. 65% TS%, 62% eFG% with Iowa Wolves.
While the aforementioned Warney shined as a double-double threat that can dominated on the offensive glass, he wasn’t quite able to stack up with the former Duke standout. During Jefferson’s rookie year in the G League, the forward averaged 17.8 points and a G League-high 12.8 rebounds (3.6 offensive) per game on 62% from the field in 35 minutes per game. Jefferson’s dominance in that area was so great that he averaged a full rebound more than Landry Nnoko, who stood as the 2nd best rebounder in the G League as the Grand Rapids Drive alum averaged 11.5 rebounds per game.
In addition to that great work on the boards, Jefferson also stood as a pretty reliable offensive weapon due to his solid low-post skills and his ability to drive to the rim. That combination allowed him to have a league-high 36 double-doubles during his rookie year with Iowa.
Jefferson’s great work as a rebounder, on-ball driver and facilitator (averaged 2.5 assists per game), pushed the Orlando Magic to sign the 25-year-old player to a two-way deal this off-season. While he hasn’t spent a second on the court yet, his unique abilities as an offensive player should still allow him to be an elite G League player.
5. Alan Williams - Long Island Nets: 6.4 pts, 5.7 rebs, .6 asts, .6 stls on 50% from field in 14 minutes per game. 54% TS%, 50% eFG% with the Phoenix Suns in 62 total NBA games.
From Ridiculous Upside contributor Tim Oakes
The Long Island Nets will have one of the most experienced players in the G League, having spent parts of the last three seasons with the Phoenix Suns before running into knee issues. When he is healthy “Big Sauce” proved that he could be a formidable rebounder at the highest level. He demonstrated that following the 2016-17 All Star Break when he averaged 11 points and nine rebounds per game.
He was waived by the Suns after missing most of last season with a meniscus injury, and was waived in July. Williams should be up and down between Brooklyn and Long Island all season, but will undoubtedly be the cornerstone of Long Island’s frontcourt when present. Look for him to be aggressive and energized to prove to NBA teams that he is fully healthy again.
4. Jordan McRae - Capital City Go-Go: 21.8 pts, 4.4 rebs, 4.8 asts, 1.5 stls on 46% from field and 34% from 3 on 35% from 3. 56% TS% and 51% eFG% in 21 G League games.
After spending the 2017-18 season playing basketball with Laboral Kutxa Baskonia in the Euroleague, McRae returns to the United States as a two-way player for the Washington Wizards. While he’ll have an opportunity to spend up to 45 days at the NBA level with Washington, the veteran guard should spend most of his time in the G League where he should be the lead scoring threat with the expansion Capital City Go-Go.
Just going by past seasons, he definitely is a great option to fill that role as he averaged 23.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game on 46% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc during the 2015-16 season with the Delaware 87ers (now Blue Coats). During that run, he made history by breaking the G League scoring record by putting up 61 points in a late January game against the Canton Charge. Nearly three years later, that record has yet to be broken.
While the 2018-19 season is still very young, it’s clear that the veteran guard hasn’t lost that tremendous scoring ability as he recently put up a 41 point, 14 rebound and 7 assist on 15-26 from the field and 3-6 from the 3-point line performance in a Go-Go win over the Windy City Bulls.
3. RJ Hunter - Erie Bayhawks: 20.4 pts, 3.5 rebs, 3.2 asts, 1.4 stls on 44% from field and 38% from 3 on 9.7 attempts in 31 minutes per game. 60% TS% and 56% eFG% with RGV Vipers in G League
After spending the first few years of his pro career struggling to stay efficient on the offensive end, it looked like Hunter finally worked out the kinks during the 2017-18 season. As a member of the RGV Vipers, he averaged 20.4 points, 3.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals on 44% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 9.7 attempts per game. Those solid averages allowed him to maintain a solid 60% True Shooting Percentage, which was the best TS% that he maintained since his sophomore season at Georgia State.
Unfortunately for Hunter, that great production at the G League level didn’t lead to a standard NBA contract or even a two-way deal. That lack of attention from an NBA perspective ultimately led Hunter to return to the G League as a member of the Erie BayHawks, whom received his rights from the RGV Vipers back in late August.
For the second straight season, there’s a legitimate chance that he can lead a G League team to the playoffs as the veteran guard will get a chance to work with NBA veteran Terrence Jones and Hawks two-way players Alex Poythress and Jaylen Adams. That quartet could allow the BayHawks to have one of the best offenses in the G League.
2. Walt Lemon Jr. - Maine Red Claws: 22.3 pts, 4.7 rebs, 6.1 asts, 2 stls on 50% from field and 31% from 3 on 3.3 attempts in 37 minutes per game. 56% TS%, 52% eFG% with Fort Wayne Mad Ants in NBA G League
Without a doubt, the rise of Walt Lemon, Jr. stood as one of the more surprising stories of the prior G League season. After starting out the year as a solid but overlooked point guard, Lemon immediately stood out as one of the best scorers in the league as he averaged 22.3 points, 6.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2 steals on 49% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 3.3 attempts in 37 minutes per game.
Despite being lackluster on the perimeter , he stood as an elite scorer due to his solid mid-range shooting and as an on-ball driver. As a mid-range threat, he shot 48% from between 16-24 feet from 16-24 feet on 2.1 attempts per game. In addition to that, the former Mad Ants guard maintained a great 61% shooting percentage from within the restricted area on 9.8 attempts per game.
One year later, Lemon returns to the G League as a member of the Maine Red Claws due to the guard’s signing a two-way deal with the Boston Celtics. Although the G League season just started, Lemon seems to have improved on that fantastic 2017-18 season as he’s currently averaging 25.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals on 53% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc in 37 minutes per game during the team’s first four games.
1. Johnathan Motley - AC Clippers: 22.2 pts, 9.8 rebs, 2 asts, .9 stls, 1.1 blks on 56% from field and 28% from 3 on 1.5 perimeter attempts per game. 61% TS%, 58% eFG% in G League with Texas Legends
After breaking down 49 of the most talented players in the G League, we finish this list by crowning LA Clippers two-way forward Johnathan Motley as the best player in the G League. While there are definitely more well-known players this list that have more NBA experience, Motley stood at the top of the mountain due to how he was able to maintain the trifecta of volume, efficiency and versatility.
Those two traits are evident by looking at his numbers as he averaged 22.2 points, 9.8 (3.2 offensive) rebounds, 2 assists and 1.1 blocks on 56% from the field and 28% from beyond the arc on 1.5 attempts per game. Motley’s numbers allowed him to maintain an excellent 61% True Shooting Percentage during his rookie season.
When it comes to versatility, Motley used his rookie season to establish himself as a player that can shine as a mid-range shooter, on-ball driver, offensive rebounder, transition target and post-up threat. When he wasn’t hitting mid-range J’s, Motley was throwing precise passes to cutters or open perimeter shooters in the high-post.
Following an extremely successful rookie season where shined at the G League level and had some solid games at the NBA level with the Mavericks, Dallas decided to trade the young big to the LA Clippers on July 23rd for the draft rights of 33-year-old forward Maarty Leunen and some cash considerations. Although the Clippers basically traded nothing worthwhile to receive him, they still get a player with ridiculous upside.