As has always been the case, the crop of rookies in the NBA G League during this past season was a mix of talented players with diverse skill-sets.
From versatile bigs (Johnathan Motley and Amile Jefferson), superb defenders (Amida Brimah,, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Kadeem Allen) or just guards that just electrify on the offensive end (Rodney Purvis and Milton Doyle), this year featured a wide array of talented first-year players. That array of solid rookies made it difficult for me to pick just six players as finalists for G League Rookie of the Year.
Although it was tough to decide on the finalists, it was pretty easy to decide the winner; Windy City Bulls guard Antonio Blakeney. That confidence was due to the simple fact that Blakeney had the best offensive season of any player that has stepped foot in the NBA G League since it started in 2001-02.
With the Windy City Bulls, he averaged 32 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals on 46% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 7.9 perimeter attempts per game. To put that huge scoring average in perspective, the 2nd and 3rd best scorers in the G League, Trey Burke and Quinn Cook, 26.6 and 25.3 points per game, respectively.
In addition to that incredible volume, Blakeney was able to maintain a solid level of efficiency as he maintained a 58% True Shooting Percentage, That combination obviously allowed him to be a gigantic asset to Windy City. Per 100 possessions, the Bulls were seven points per game better when he was on the court (111.9 points per game) compared to when he’s on the sidelines (104 points per game). Those seven points is the difference between Windy City being the 8th best offense and the 2nd worst in the G League.
That impact allowed the Bulls to maintain a 17-15 record when Blakeney was in uniform. In comparison, they were 7-11 when he was either injured or with the Chicago Bulls due to his status as a two-way prospect.
Although there were a wide array of first-year players that had terrific seasons and showed ridiculous upside (pun intended), Ridiculous Upside gives the nod to Antonio Blakeney as their 2017-18 NBA G League Rookie of the Year.
Runner-up for Ridiculous Upside’s Rookie of the Year:
Johnathan Motley - Texas Legends
The Dallas Mavericks two-way prospect had an amazing season with the Texas Legends as he averaged 22.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.1 blocks per game on 56% from the field. As a player that impressed on the offensive glass and as an extremely versatile big that was a threat in pick-and-rolls, Motley stood as one of the best front-court players in the league. While he spent the final few weeks in the NBA, his great play was a huge factor behind the Texas Legends making their first ever appearance in the G League playoffs.
Last season’s winner(s): Abdel Nader & Jalen Jones, Maine Red Claws