On Friday afternoon, the G League announced their list of participants that will attend this year’s Player Invitational that will take place on Sunday, August 12th in Chicago. From tenacious rim protectors, 3-and-D wings, sharpshooting guards to 5’5 dudes that can jump out the rim, this year’s event will really have a great array of prospects looking to impress NBA or G League scouts and coaches. Alongside that, we’ll also see the introduction of two prospects that have been honing their game in the NBA Africa Academy in Senegal.
To help celebrate that diverse crop of talented players, we’ve compiled a list of the eleven most intriguing prospects that will be attending this year’s G League Player Invitational in no particular order.
Taren Sullivan – Findlay (Division II)
When you look back at the players from last year’s G League Showcase, one of the names that immediately stands out is Jaylen Morris. That’s due to how the former Division II player was able to use the event to prove to that he can play at the same level as prospects that played at major conferences. Obviously, that was a major success as Morris was signed by the Erie BayHawks where he played well enough to get acquired by the Atlanta Hawks towards the end of his rookie season.
One year later, Findlay alum Taren Sullivan might be the best candidate to follow in those footsteps as the Division II standout has the ideal skill set for modern-day pro basketball. Standing at 6’6, Sullivan is an athletic wing that averaged 17.2 points, 6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals on 53% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc on 3.3 perimeter attempts per game. As apparent from those numbers, he’s a really well-rounded player as Sullivan was able to shine as a facilitator, off/on-ball driver, mid-range threat and perimeter shooter.
Timothy Ighoefe & Amadou Ndiaye – NBA Academy (Africa)
Alongside the former college prospects, this event will also feature two players (Amadou Ndiaye and Timothy Ighoefe) that have been honing their game at the NBA’s African academy in Senegal. Although there isn’t much info about either of these two men, aside from their participation at that academy or Basketball Without Borders, it’ll still be interesting to see how they stack up. In the little that we do know, both Ighoefe and Ndiaye are centers as they’re 6’10 and 6’11, respectively. Alongside that, they made a trek to Europe last year to scrimmage and practice against prospects for Espoirs Paris-Levallois and Crvena Zvezda Red Star.
Of course, that challenge is going to be elevated in the G League Player Invitational as the two young men will be competing against former college bigs like Doral Moore, Ben Lammers and Anas Mahmoud.
Ajdin Penava – Marshall
From just looking at base statistics, some may be surprised that Penava hasn’t been picked up by an NBA team on a training camp deal yet. As a junior, he averaged 15.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and an NCAA-best 3.9 blocks on 56% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc on 2.8 attempts per game. Although that production did come when he was playing against mid-major competition, it’s extremely rare to see a player that can be an incredible shot blocker while also being impressive as a perimeter shooter, on-ball driver and facilitator.
However, there are some concerns about Penava as he’s an extremely lanky 220 pound forward which allowed him to get outmuscled against Conference USA competition. In addition to that, he had trouble staying on the court as Penava averaged 3.6 fouls in only 29 minutes per game. The 6’9 forward will look to prove that he’s improved on those flaws when he makes his way to the NBA G League Player Invitational.
Malik Pope – San Diego State
Prior to the start of the 2015-16 NCAA basketball season, then-ESPN analyst Chad Ford had San Diego State sophomore Malik Pope positioned 7th in his NBA Draft big board. That extreme optimism came from Pope being an athletic 6’10 forward with a 7’2 wingspan that could knock down 3’s and had explosive leaping ability. Unfortunately, that optimism didn’t exactly lead to immediate results, as he averaged 7.3 points and 5 rebounds on 40% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc in that 2015-16 season.
That less than stellar season ultimately eliminated the intense excitement around Pope as the San Diego State prospect wasn’t developing at the level that people like Chad Ford initially hoped for. With those high hopes pushed aside, Pope was slowly able to develop into a solid prospect during his remaining time in college as he averaged 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 52% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc during his senior season.
Anas Mahmoud – Louisville
Last year, Mahmoud stood as the best rim protector in the ACC, as the Louisville big averaged a conference-high 2.9 blocks in only 23 minutes per game. That great production was because of how the 7-footer combined his impressive frame with pretty quick feet. His solid footwork helped keep him out of foul trouble as he only averaged 1.9 fouls, the 2nd lowest average among ACC centers.
Now that he’s making his transition to the pro game, Mahmoud should look to showcase a developing offensive repertoire to coincide with his great work on defense. If he can show that at the G League Player Invitational, then it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Louisville alum at least receive a training camp invite.
Bryant Crawford – Wake Forest
Staying in the ACC, Wake Forest alum Bryant Crawford will be making his way to the G League Player Invitational after a solid college career. During his senior year, the 6’3 guard impressed by putting up 16.9 points, 4.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 41% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc on 5.1 attempts per game. That solid production allowed Crawford to be on the ACC’s All-Honorable Mention Team.
As he makes his transition to pro ball and potentially the G League, Crawford stands out as a prospect that fans should keep their eyes on. The 6’3 guard is a solid facilitator in pick-and-rolls as he does a nice job of building immediate chemistry with any big that he’s working with. Alongside that, he can either use his quickness to explode to the rim or stay at the perimeter and be a solid threat from beyond the NBA three-point line.
Junior Robinson – Mount St. Mary’s
Although each of the players on this list all stand as intriguing prospects, this former Mount St. Mary’s guard definitely stands as the most exciting of the bunch. That’s due to how the diminutive 5’5 guard combines unlimited range with an incredible vertical leap can excite the masses.
In addition to that, he also has extremely tight handles as he can shake a defender out of their sneakers with a tight crossover or step-back move. All of those traits allowed him to shine in college as he put up 22 points, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals on 45% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 6.3 perimeter attempts per game.
Although those skills allowed him to light it up against mid-major competition, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see if Robinson can continue to produce when he’s matching up against talented pro players.
Kameron Chatman – Detroit Mercy
Sticking with mid-major prospects, we go from an electrifying 5’5 guard to a former Detroit Mercy wing that has both the frame and skills that fit right in with the modern-day NBA. Standing at 6’9, Chatman averaged 17.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals on 47% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 5 perimeter attempts per game during his lone season with the team. That great production pushed him to be included on the All-Horizon League Second Team.
In terms of the G League, Chatman stands as someone that can be a breakout player as the 22-year-old prospect already has a great offensive skill-set. From inside the arc, he can use nice cross-over and step-back moves to create some separation. Those moves also come in handy when he’s working beyond the arc as his smooth shooting stroke allowed him to shoot an efficient 41% from beyond the arc. As a 6’9 forward, his great stroke should allow him to shine as a stretch 4 in the upcoming G League Player Invitational.
D.J. Hogg – Texas A&M
Our look at 3-and-D wings continues with Texas A&M alum D.J. Hogg. His feathery outside touch was shown during his final year with the college as he put up 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 41% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 5.4 attempts per game. A lot of that work was done in the catch-and-shoot as he can go from capture to release in a blink of an eye.
In addition to that smooth release, 6’9 forward can also shine as a faciliator as he averaged 2.6 assists per game with a 1.6 Ast/TO ratio. Although he isn’t the most athletic or versatile player on this list, those traits should allow him to be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on both before and after the G League Player Invitational.
B.J. Johnson – La Salle
Last but certainly not least, the La Salle alum is yet another forward that has a pretty solid shooting stroke. Johnson’s jumper first caught my attention during this spring’s Portsmouth Invitational as he averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds on 43% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc on 4 attempts per game. In addition to that great stroke, the 6’7 forward is also a great athlete that’s capable of going up for alley-oops and snagging offensive rebounds. That work on the offensive glass was apparent during his time at Portsmouth as Johnson snagged 2.7 boards per game.
With that solid offensive game, Johnson should definitely stand out as one of the better wing prospects in the upcoming G League Player Invitational.