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Could BIG3 Players Use G League As Path Back To The NBA?

After playing in the BIG3, veterans like Amar’e Stoudemire and Glen “Big Baby” Davis may be open to using the G League as a bridge for an NBA return.

Basketball: Big 3- Championship Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Whereas the BIG3 gains plenty of fanfare over appearances of popular NBA veterans like Quentin Richardson, Carlos Boozer, and Cuttino Mobley, plenty of G League alumni strutted their stuff during competition this summer as well. For some of the older veterans, the narrative is often a question of, how much do they have left in the tank? As far as the aforementioned minor leaguers are concerned, the BIG3 can be a platform to prove they belong alongside some of the more notable players to grace the NBA stage.

Andre Emmett definitely stood out. He has a ton of great post moves and is a really nice shooter. He’d be knocking down everything during shoot-around,” BIG3 podcast host and writer Oliver Maroney told “Andre was unstoppable during the BIG3 semifinals in Dallas. Each half is up to 25 points, and he had around 23 of his team’s 25 in the second half. He was just on another level.”

Emmett averaged 22.6 points for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants back in 2014-15, but he wasn’t the only G League alum to shine. Still just 31 years old, Jermaine Taylor (who played for the Salt Lake City Stars this past season) was another bright spot. “He played well. He’s active on the glass and tipped in a lot of put-backs and dunks. He’s an athletic guy who was a saving grace for his team. Xavier Silas is another person who I think would say he’s grown from the experience, being around veterans and champions,” Maroney added.

Now that the BIG3 season has come to a close, many players will spend time with family and go back to life after basketball, whether that means relaxation, broadcasting, scouting, or something else. But a select few are gearing up for the fall and another professional season. This could mean opportunities in the G League await.

“David Hawkins has played overseas and I know he’s considering the G League and NBA training camp opportunities. He was an MVP candidate for the BIG3, definitely a top four player in the league. His shooting ability is incredible,” Maroney pointed out. “He’s built, always lifting weights. The guy’s a gym rat. He’s won championships in Italy, but was just never given a legitimate shot in the NBA. He won’t hold out for a European deal, but will certainly entertain two-way contract offers.”

While Hawkins is still craving that first chance at the NBA, there are veterans who are hungry for another shot and may be open to using the G League as their springboard back in.

“75% of the BIG3 guys would probably have an itch or interest in the G League or NBA. It just depends on the player’s feelings. I think Amar’e Stoudemire has been very outspoken about coming back into the league. He’s someone I think should be back in the NBA,” Maroney asserted. “He was competing in Chris Brickley’s runs before the BIG3 Finals with guys like Kevin Durant and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Stoudemire turns 36 in November, but his last few seasons were muddled by injuries. He played overseas last year and could believe he has unfinished business. But NBA teams may require him to prove himself first.

Corey Maggette is another guy. He came off a torn Achilles last year to become the MVP of our league. If he wanted to get back into the NBA, I think he could do it. He’s one of the fittest human beings I’ve ever seen. He’s strong and focused on his jump shot. His three-point shooting has improved since he was last in the NBA.”

Of course, grinding it out against younger, less established players when you have already accomplished so much, isn’t for everyone.

“Glen Davis (32 years old) shined for this. He loves the game and is still a really good basketball player. He may be big and could be out of shape, but he’s still very good. He benefits from the once-a-week format. A guy like him has a high basketball IQ. It’s just a matter of whether or not he still has the legs to go up and down the court every day,” the podcast host added. “Does he want to play in the NBA again and grind it out? He has passion, but he knows that if he comes back, he’ll have to accept a training camp invite and fight it out for one of those last roster spots.”

Maroney said the BIG3’s players participate for their love of the game. A return to the court means a revitalized competitive nature and added camaraderie. The games are physical. For some, this is the first time their younger children get to see them hit the hardwood. They may not do it for the money, but the paycheck doesn’t hurt. They would not be provided the same luxuries in the G League.

“These guys are making decent money in the BIG3. I think they’re making more than G League players on a per week basis. They get a percentage of the pot at the end of the season, depending on where their team finishes,” he explained. “Each week, they get paid. Everyone is playing for something, but none of these guys act like they need it. They sign autographs for hours after games.”

But make no mistake: despite playing just once a week, BIG3 is intense and it keeps those still aspiring to break in (or back in) to the NBA on their toes.

“It’s an unique experience overall. The referees allow a lot of contact. It toughens guys up and helps them understand who the best players are and how they match up. This game is fast-paced. There’s a fourteen second shot clock. These guys have to play hard-nosed, one-on-one defense. This isn’t your average 3 on 3 basketball game,” Maroney concluded.