The 2018 NBA G League Elite Mini Camp came to a close on Tuesday, finishing up two days of exhilarating competition featuring forty of the top prospects the minor league has to offer.
While big league executives will remain in Chicago the rest of the week to take in the NBA Draft Combine, it wasn’t before these G League athletes did all they could to leave a lasting impression.
“There was real good energy in the gym. During practice and drills, each group of coaches was doing something unique with their squad,” Northern Arizona Suns associate head coach Tyler Gatlin told RidiculousUpside.com. “By the time the games start, guys are ready to be let loose.”
The coach said there’s value in watching the prep work before the games begin, because it allows coaches and scours alike to observe how players adapt to new defensive coverages, offensive sets, and simulated action. When competition officially began, there were clearly a few standouts.
“I really liked Rashawn Thomas. He has that blend of being physical and smooth. He was handling the ball and being super efficient. He makes good plays in traffic,” Gatlin said. “Defensively, he’s someone who can play good help defense and create deflections or come up with a block. He’s such a mismatch on both ends because he’s hard for guards to shake and go by. He’s so big that he can stand up to guys when they try and post him up.”
Thomas averaged 13.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.4 steals for the OKC Blue this past season. He wasn’t the only first year G League guard to pick up where he left off.
Suns guard Josh Gray was one of five call-ups achieved by Northern Arizona this past season. There’s no doubt such recognition should be a reflection of the solid development job by head coach Cody Toppert, Gatlin, and the rest of the staff. It made sense that Gray shined during the camp as well.
“He handled the ball really well. He got into the paint and scored. Josh has been in Louisiana training on his own,” Gatlin shared. “He was really good in day two once he adjusted to the level of competition.”
“Demarcus Holland improved all year long and it showed. He’s beast. Even some of the best point guards out there have difficulty getting around him,” the Suns assistant said. “He has work to do offensively, but still has the tools to be successful. He’s a consistent three-point shooter off the catch and he’s very good in transition.” Gatlin added that Holland is someone who can make his way down court in very few dribbles and then executive plays, whether than means finding the open man or creating his own offense. The guard averaged 8.5 points on 47% shooting and 1.1 steals through 50 appearances for the South Bay Lakers.
The G League is a guard heavy atmosphere, but Gatlin said the league did a good job of balancing out the teams. Whereas backcourt players fought tooth and nail to stand out amongst the rest, perhaps it was easier to spot the gifted big men out on the court. The coach praised Diamond Stone and Devin Williams, but not before raving about Windy City Bulls forward Jaylen Johnson.
“I really liked him. He’s a big dude who has a good feel for the game. He can catch the ball at the top of the key and read what the defense will do next. He follows that up by setting good screens and pivoting in traffic. He has good footwork and is in great shape,” he said.
Still just 21 years old, Johnson could have quite the future ahead of him if he continues building on his 11.5 point and 7.5 rebound per game rookie campaign with Windy City.
The NBA is often starving for talented bigs, so perhaps Johnson will have an expedited path to The Association. It’s clear, however, he wasn’t alone. As Coach Gatlin shared, there were more than a few prospects that intrigued big league staffs at the Elite Mini-Camp.