Isaiah Whitehead - Long Island Nets/Brooklyn Nets
22.3 points. 3.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 45% from field and 36% from 3 in 30 games
After a debut season where they finished 17-33, the Long Island Nets were just within one win away from making to the G League playoffs during their 2nd year in existence as the team went 27-23. Back in our section on Shannon Scott in the DPOY candidate piece, we noted how most of that success can be placed on the shoulders the team’s stellar backcourt, who were able to shine on both ends of the court. Alongside two-way prospect Milton Doyle, assignee Isaiah Whitehead probably stood as the leader of the team as he was just a fantastic offensive threat.
Most of that brilliance was due to how Whitehead just dominated as an off-the-dribble threat as he was capable of moving past the vast majority of G League defenders due to a solid 1st step and pretty tight handles. Those handles obviously allows him to make his way to the paint whenever he desires. Alongside his work as a driver, Whitehead shines as a perimeter shooter as he shot 36% from beyond the arc on 5.7 perimeter attempts per game.
Thomas Bryant - South Bay/Los Angeles Lakers
19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 2.1 assists on 60% from field and 36% from beyond the arc in 37 games
Over the course of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers have utilized the likes of Brook Lopez, Ivica Zubac, Julius Randle, Andrew Bogut, Channing Frye and Larry Nance in their front-court. With that array of talent, 19-year-old rookie big Thomas Bryant never really had an opportunity to even get on the court with the big league club. That lack of an opportunity ultimately pushed him to spend the vast majority of the season in the G League with the South Bay Lakers.
Bryant utilized that opportunity and just absolutely ran rough shot during his rookie season as he shined as one of the best bigs in the NBA G League. With a trifecta of a smooth outside touch, big and strong frame, and great athleticism, Bryant shined as a fantastic 3-and-Oop threat. That threat was elevated as he played with Scott Machado, who stood as arguably the best facilitator in the NBA G League.
Speaking of facilitating, Bryant showed a real knack for being able to dish it off. That’s evident whether he’s posting up or at the perimeter dishing it off to a cutting guard.
Ivan Rabb - Memphis Hustle/Grizzlies
15.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 blocks on 56% from field in 18 games
In a similar vein to Thomas Bryant, Ivan Rabb started the season in the G League with the Memphis Hustle due to the Grizzlies having a pretty jam-packed front-court. Rabb used that G League opportunity to his advantage as he shined as a mobile big that can work the pick-and-roll, crash the offensive boards and defend the rim.
Probably the most impressive of those traits is his work as a rebounder as he grabbed 3.2 offensive boards in only 28 minutes per game. That kind of efficiency put him above more experienced players like Marshall Plumlee and Emeka Okafor. In addition to that, he shined as a pretty solid facilitator for a 6’10 forward as he averaged 2.1 assists per game. His time in the G League seems to have paid off on the NBA level as he averaged 11.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game on 54% from the field during the month of April.
While its not always the best idea to utilize April games to determine how good a player actually is, due to most playoff teams resting their top players for postseason play, its a sign that Grizzlies should be a little optimistic on what he can be.
Derrick White - Austin/San Antonio Spurs
20.1 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game on 45% from field and 33% from 3 in 24 games
Over the last few weeks on Twitter and in a recent piece, I’ve been absolutely raving about how fantastic Derrick White has been both in the season and during the G League Playoffs. Below is an excerpt from my G League Finals preview piece.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have 2017 1st round pick Derrick White. In a similar vein to San Antonio Spurs rotation players Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes, White has spent the majority of his rookie season in the G League with the Austin Spurs. From the moment he joined the team, White has been an electrifying prospect as he put up 20.1 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game on 45% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc.
That fantastic play continued into the G League Finals as White put up 35 points, 3 assists and 3 blocks on 11-20 from the field, 3-6 from beyond the arc and 10-10 from the FT line in a Game 1 win over the Raptors 905. Considering how he was during the regular season and in the playoffs, as he helped lead the Spurs to a G League title win, there’s no doubt that White should be a candidate for Assignee of the Year.
Tony Bradley - Utah Jazz/Salt Lake City Stars
15.4 points, 10 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks on 58% from field in 24 games
Like the aforementioned duo of Thomas Bryant and Ivan Rabb, Tony Bradley spent a lot of his rookie season in the NBA G League. During his time with the SLC Stars, he shined as a hustle big that goes for offensive rebounds, loose balls and finds an open area to get easy buckets. Although he stood stands as a pretty raw player, his hard work led to him averaging a double-double for the season, a feat only accomplished by a handful of G Leaguers.
Probably the best example of how his hustle became beneficial is his work on the offensive glass. In only 30 minutes per game, Bradley averaged 3.8 offensive boards per game, which placed him 5th in the entire G League. That average was higher than All-NBA G League players like Amile Jefferson and Jameel Warney.
Alongside his work on the offensive glass, Bradley showed himself to be a pretty well-rounded defender as he showcased an ability to stick with guards from perimeter to paint.
Alfonzo McKinnie- Toronto Raptors/Raptors 905
13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 45% from field and 35% from 3 in 35 games
Unlike other assignees on this list, Alfonzo McKinnie is a player that spent time in the G League in prior years. During the 2016-16 season, he played with the Windy City Bulls where he averaged 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds on 51% from the field. That great play ultimately led to him being named to the 2017 G League All-Star game.
After a great season with the Bulls, McKinnie signed an off-season deal with the Toronto Raptors that was mostly looked at as a training camp invite. However, he defied expectations as he ended up making the Raptors 15-man lineup. Despite making the team, most of his play this season has come with the 905, where he’s expanded his game to become a better perimeter shooter and facilitator.
In regards to his perimeter shooting, his 3-point shooting percentage has improved from 31% on 2.7 attempts 2016-17 to 35% on 4.4 attempts in 2017-18. So while he’s always been a great defensive player and athlete, his improvements as a long-range threat allowed him to be a key member of a 905 team that made it to their 2nd straight G League Finals.