Though G League players are poised for salary increases next season, such wages are obviously still a far cry away from the millions NBA players earn. The perceived glamorous life of a professional athlete is not always all that it’s cracked up to be. This leaves certain minor leaguers discouraged, but Raphiael Putney isn’t one of them.
“I love playing basketball. I try to do it yearly, so that I can stay in game shape at all times, not just working out. I’m ready whenever. If I’m in shape and my body feels good, hopefully that call will come,” he told RidiculousUpside.com.
Some players are bitter if they need to sacrifice an offseason to play year round and make ends meet. Ironically enough, Putney has in fact found himself on an exotic island of sorts, but he isn’t exactly laying back to sunbathe each and every day. Instead, he’s hitting the hardwood alongside former NBA lottery pick O.J. Mayo in Puerto Rico.
“Being here is like a paid vacation, but I’m able to stay ready and get better,” he said.
Fresh off finishing his third G League season, Putney averaged 16.3 points on a 46/34/79 shooting clip, to go along with 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals. Listed at 6’10” and 185 pounds, he’s an unique talent with tremendous versatility. He can score the ball in different ways and defend multiple positions. At 28 years old, Putney is an experienced athlete. He’s not the same spring chicken scouts may discover through the NBA Draft, but perhaps that isn’t a bad thing. His experiences have made him who he is today: a seasoned-veteran who can make smarter decisions, all while boasting that same level of athleticism. The fact that Putney plays professionally around the clock helps him stay fresh and active.
Putney left for Puerto Rico as soon as the G League playoffs ended. He returned to compete at the minor league’s Elite Mini-Camp for two days in Chicago, only to hop back on a plane the same evening camp ended to reunite with his international squad. NBA Summer League is less than two months away. To him, the grind is all worthwhile.
“I wanted to come back one time and let the scouts see me with top prospects in the G League. I’m still in shape, because I’m playing in Puerto Rico,” he added. “Teams know what I’m capable of doing. It’s a matter of time and it’ll come down to what an NBA team needs.”
He couldn’t be more correct. Whereas one NBA team may prefer a younger prospect, another could value the on-the-court awareness Putney brings to the table. He demonstrated such leadership with the Erie BayHawks this past season. A G League athlete of Putney’s stature could easily get frustrated that despite his continued efforts, younger players have benefitted from two-way contracts and NBA assignees may impact the game action he receives on a nightly basis.
“The two-way guys are trying to prove themselves too. It’s difficult to go back and forth, but they were professional whenever they came to Erie,” he pointed out. “Jeremy Evans and Josh Magette made it easier for me because they’re experienced and understand the game. They made me better, because I felt like I was playing alongside NBA-like guys every night.”
“I liked the Hawks’ offense. There’s a lot of spacing. The ball flows and there’s a lot of movement. I clicked early on with Jeremy and Josh and we focused on winning games. The team had a lot of guys that people were unfamiliar were. People didn’t know who they were. Everyone came a long way.”
The G League receives plenty of criticism for their underwhelming player salaries. While they’ve made recent strides with decent increases (not to mention, insurance coverage and housing costs), it’s difficult for minor leaguers to watch NBA players earn the big bucks. Given his enthusiasm and continued patience (with the production to cement his promise), Putney’s year-round grind makes him someone big league teams should not only want in their locker room, but on the floor.