The 2018 G League Player Invitational will take place August 11 in Chicago, giving the minor league’s teams another opportunity to scout and evaluation new talent for the upcoming season.
Recently rebranded, the showcase once known as the “national tryout” will feature promising talent, including many prospects who hail from big time collegiate programs. They have experience competing on starry stages and should be able to hold their own against the NBA level talent often hitting the hardwood in the minor league. As the G League cements its reputation as the second best basketball league in the world, reeling in meaningful talent is an all the more crucial task. Disappearing are the days where passionate fans come out for a day to live out their dream: if you’re competing at the Player Invitational, you should have legitimate professional aspirations and the interest is likely mutual. This event can make a difference not only for G League teams, but their big league affiliates as well and it’s by no means a waste of time.
The stakes are high, but the odds aren’t exactly in the players’ favor. There’s a boatload of pressure to stand out. As the G League continues to create seamless relationships between its teams and their NBA affiliates, big league executives frame the minor league squads more than ever before. There are only ten spots per team, and NBA teams are allowed to allocate four players from their training camp as “affiliate players.” That’s 40% of the roster right there, and it can’t be ignored that teams also run their own local tryouts in the fall and typically find decent enough talent through this avenue as well. The annual G League Draft is another tool at the disposal of teams. Needless to say, rosters can fill up relatively quickly, and this roster limit does not even take into account two-way players or NBA assignment players. While neither of these will cost an aspiring athlete a minor league roster spot, such a presence on the team will obviously eat into their opportunity to get on the court during the season.
It’s up to the participants of the Player Invitational to stand out throughout the day’s competition, while also staying prepared for the uphill roster battle that awaits them in the months to come. It’s not easy, but the end result could turn out to be a high reward if all goes well.
The aspiring pros aren’t the only ones with something at stake during the Player Invitational. In past years, many former NBA players with coaching aspirations (Cavaliers’ assistant James Posey, Texas Legends assistant Zendon Hamilton, and former All-NBA Second Team selection Rod Strickland among them) have taken part in the event to show teams they are interested and capable of beginning that next phase of their careers. The event also serves as a proving ground for aspiring referees, who are often hired to work G League games thereafter. There are benefits all around.
Affiliate players may take up a big chunk of a G League’s roster, but it’s not out of the question to think that participants of the Player Invitational could impress enough to garner NBA training camp invites, despite flying under the radar until this point. Last season’s success stories include Rodney Purvis and Jaylen Morris, who both went on play in the NBA with the Magic and Hawks, respectively. Daniel Dixon and Luke Petrasek (Celtics and Hornets, respectively) were also among those to receive big league camp invites and then begin their careers in the G League.
The stakes are high and the opportunity at hand is grand. Players must bring their “A game” upon hitting that Chicago hardwood. But as past success stories have proven, a G League contracts isn’t necessarily the only thing at stake. This is a chance to impress enough to head to NBA training camp and beyond, essentially putting even more money in one’s pocket. With that in mind, these guys are motivated and teams will be on the lookout. The talent pool is of high quality, which means these otherwise undiscovered prospects are there for the taking.