Disclaimer: For this article, I only selected players that were drafted by NBA teams that have their own G League affiliate. This decision was due to how those players are guaranteed to have a great opportunity in the G League to grow as their progression is a top priority for the big league club. That isn’t the same for prospects drafted by NBA teams without affiliates as they’ll have to be assigned to another G League team that doesn’t have the same kind of on-court philosophy. In addition, they might receive limited playing time due to them not being a huge priority.
On Thursday night, 60 young men had the opportunity to hear their names called during the 2018 NBA Draft. That night represented a life-changing moment for every one of those young players as it meant that they have finally reached their boyhood dreams of reaching the NBA. Although that triumph may leave those prospects incredibly optimistic, a lot of them aren’t ready to immediately step in and be within their NBA team’s rotation.
To help get them prepared, those players will spend some of their rookie season in the G League in an attempt to refine any weaknesses they might have. While there’s a lot of rookies that will spend time in the G League next year, here are five prospects that I’m looking forward to watching in the upcoming season.
Aaron Holiday - Indiana Pacers (20th overall pick)
Four-fifths on the players on this list were selected due to the intrigue that will come from either watching raw prospects progress over the course of the season or Euro products get adjusted to the American game. However, I’ll make an exception for former UCLA guard Aaron Holiday due to how fun it’s going to be to watch him play when he makes his way to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
That entertainment will come from just how great of an offensive player I believe he can be on the offensive end. Optimism is due to him averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds on 46% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc on 6.2 perimeter attempts per game. His well-rounded offensive play allowed him to maintain a 61% True Shooting Percentage, an incredible average considering that he averaged the most field goal attempts in the Pac 12.
As far as carrying that over to the G League, Holiday shouldn’t have a problem as his perimeter jumper is smooth as butter, whether he’s working off-the-dribble or catch-and-shoot. If he does have success at that level, Indiana would have to find a way to sneak him into their point guard rotation despite having Darren Collison and Cory Joseph under contract until after the 2018-19 season.
Dzanan Musa - Brooklyn Nets (29th overall pick)
As the spotlight shined bright on Luka Doncic during the NBA Draft as he was selected 3rd overall by Atlanta before getting dealt to Dallas, there was another young European prospect who hid in the shadows. 6’7 Bosnian prospect Dzanan Musa stood as that overlooked player as he had to wait until the Nets snagged him with the 28th overall pick before hearing his name get called by Adam Silver.
Although he doesn’t have the accolades of Doncic, Musa was no slouch as he shined as a key player for Cedevita of the Adriatic League. In 23 minutes per game, he put up 12.4 points, 1.9 assists and 1 steal per game on 47% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. That lackluster percentage percentage might be due to the heavy workload that he’s experienced, as Musa spent the prior summer with the Bosnian National Team in European World Cup qualifiers.
When he’s clicking, Musa shines as an electric scorer that can hit you with a step-back 3 or cross-up a foe before taking it to the rim with his left. In addition to that, the 6’9 player has solid court vision as he can dish it in pick-and-roll or on the go.
However, Musa had to wait until the 29th pick due to worries about his defense and decision-making on the offensive end. Since it looks like he’ll immediately come to the States, the young Bosnian should spend some time with the Long Island Nets as he has clear flaws before he’s ready to be part of Brooklyn’s rotation. From witnessing that progression to his electric on-court style, Musa will be a fun player to watch in the G League..
Omari Spellman - Atlanta Hawks (30th overall pick)
After a strong freshman season where he helped lead Villanova to a national title, Omari Spellman left the comforts of a Jay Wright-led team to join the NBA Draft. Although that looked like a risky move, it ended up working out as he sneaked into the 1st round by getting selected 30th overall by Atlanta.
Due to their lack of depth in the front-court, Spellman might actually get a chance to get serious playing time from the jump as he stands alongside John Collins as the team’s lone power forwards. However, that situation can change if the Hawks decide to snag some veterans in free agency.
In the likelihood that he does play in the G League, Spellman will be an interesting player for the Erie BayHawks. The 6’9 forward shines as a very versatile offensive threat as he can fight inside for rebounds while shooting 43% from 3 on 3.7 attempts per game. In a league that can be lacking in front-court talent, a player with those skills could look like an All-Star.
Mitchell Robinson - New York Knicks (36th overall pick)
To be honest, Mitchell Robinson stands as the prospect on this list that I’m most excited to watch play in the G League. The intrigue surrounding the former McDonald’s All-American is due to the mystery that surrounds him as he hasn’t played a second of organized basketball since he graduated from high school in 2017.
Shortly after that, he made his way to Western Kentucky where he anticipated starting his college basketball career in the following fall. However, those plans quickly ended as Robinson packed up his bags, cleaned his dorm room and moved back to his mom’s house in Louisiana in late July. That move led to his suspension from that university and started an extremely messy summer and fall. If you want more information of this perplexing story, go check out this SBNation piece from last September.
Despite how great he might’ve been in high school, Robinson will definitely spend some time in the G League as he’ll have to get back in basketball shape while also getting adjusted to the pace and overall talent level of pro basketball. The G League is an ideal location for that as he’ll be able to get significant playing time with the Westchester Knicks without getting the major spotlight that comes from being an athlete in New York.
Once Robinson gets back into basketball shape, he could stand as one of the more entertaining players in the league as the 6’11 big is an elite athlete with a long wingspan, great hops and someone that can just glide his way down the court whether he has the ball in his hands or not.
Kostas Antetokounmpo - Dallas Mavericks (60th overall pick)
After a decent freshman year with Dayton, where he put up 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 57% from the field in only 17 minutes per game, Antetokounmpo decided to forgoe his college eligibility and declare for the 2018 NBA Draft.
Initially, that move seemed like a huge risk as the 6’10 forward had a limited role with Dayton due to how incredibly raw he is. Outside of off-ball drives or offensive rebounds, the 19-year-old prospect didn’t showcase much of an offensive game. Although he’s better on the defensive end as his quick feet and 7’3 wingspan allowed him to be a pretty solid help defender.
So while the Mavericks are definitely looked at as a rebuilding team, Antetokounmpo should spend most of his rookie career with the Texas Legends as he’ll need to develop a more refined offensive game and just get more on-court experience. Luckily, he’ll have an opportunity to learn from excellent Legends head coach Bob MacKinnon, who has helped push countless players to the NBA.