Note #1: This piece is the last part of a series breaking down who we project to be the top 50 G League players for the upcoming 2019-20 season. In an easier way to select these players, we looked for guys that have already impressed against solid pro competition, whether they were in the G League, elite European leagues and even the NBA. That was due to how difficult it could be to project how former college players can perform at the G League level. If you want to catch up, click these links to check out part one, two, three and four
That was evident last year with former DII prospect Haywood Highsmith and 2018 All-American Trevon Bluiett. Highsmith shined at the G League level to the point where he landed a two-way with Meanwhile, Bluiett struggled due to getting inconsistent playing time with the Westchester Knicks and SLC Stars
Note #2: On Friday, November 1st, Northern Arizona Suns forward Troy Williams was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Shortly after that, the Northern Arizona Suns released him from their training camp roster. Prior to that news, Williams was scheduled to be positioned in the top 30 of these rankings. However, that obviously won’t be the case due to his removal from the Suns roster. In response to that, we’ve made some changes to this list to reflect this recent news.
10. Kadeem Allen - Westchester Knicks (two-way with New York): 15.3 points, 6.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 45% from the field and 41% from 3 on 2.3 attempts per game with Westchester Knicks. 53% True Shooting Percentage. 2.3 Ast/TO ratio.
10 points, 4 assists, .8 steals on 46% from the field and 47% from 3 on 1.9 attempts per game in 22 minutes per game with the New York Knicks. 57% True Shooting Percentage and 2.9 Ast/TO ratio
To be honest, Kadeem Allen shouldn’t be in his current position as a player with an NBA deal featured on this top 50 list.. Unlike some players that have been featured in this countdown, Allen was not a highly regarded five or four star prospect coming out of high school. In fact, he was the textbook definition of an unknown quantity to the point of spending his first two years post-high school graduation playing for a small junior college in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The North Carolina native was able to fit into his new Midwest home to the point where he won the NJCAA Player of the Year award for the 2013-14 season where averaging 26 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists on 46% from the field. Following that run, the young guard was picked up by the Arizona Wildcats. From the jump, he fit in nicely as a defensive-minded guard that can also get to the free throw line and throw the occasional assist. Those traits led to him getting named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team for the 2016-17 campaign.
After going undrafted, Allen signed a two-way deal with the Boston Celtics. However, most of his rookie year was spent with the Maine Red Claws, where he immediately shined as an elite defender in his new league. In 34 games, he averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game on 45% from the field. Despite that solid play in the G League, Boston waived him at the start of the 2018 offseason.
While he was solid with Maine, the following 2018-19 season might stand as the best season of his entire NBA career. That claim might not make sense when you just look at standard G League numbers as he averaged 15.3 points, 6.7 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 45% from the field and 41% from 3 on 2.3 attempts per game with Westchester. While those numbers are solid, it’s what he did on the other end of his two-way deal with New York.
Due to New York’s rough backcourt and status as an also-ran, the team gave Allen a spot in their rotation to prove himself. He excelled at that task by putting up 10 points, 4 assists and 2.7 rebounds on 46% from the field and 47% from 3 on 2 attempts in 22 minutes per game. Even if you look away from that obscene perimeter percentage, the young guard looked like a bonafide NBA player.
Due to New York’s penchant for snagging former elite NBA Draft prospects like Elfrid Payton, Allen will remain on a two-way deal for 2019-20. Although he might not get that opportunity with the big league club this year, Allen’s amazing defense, facilitating and ability to get to the rim will yet again allow him to be one of the G League’s best guards.
9. Frank Mason - Wisconsin Herd (two-way with Milwaukee); 6.8 points, 2.6 assists, 1.9 rebounds on 39% from field and 30% from 3 on 1.7 attempts per game in 90 career NBA games
A little more than two years ago, Frank Mason stood at the top of the college basketball world as the leader of a Kansas Jayhawks team that finished 16-2 in conference play and made it to the Elite Eight during the NCAA Tournament. That leadership was evident from his numbers as he averaged 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals on 49% from the field and an incredible 47% from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts per game.
This mix of efficiency, volume and team success were the keys behind the guard receiving numerous awards which include: John R. Wooden Award, Bob Cousy Award for best point guard, consensus 1st team All-American and Player of the Year from the AP, Naismith, Sporting News, Big 12 and NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches).
Mason’s tremendous production at the college led to the Sacramento Kings selecting him with the 34th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Despite his tremendous production at the college level, the point guard struggled during his run with the team. In 90 total games with Sacramento, he averaged 6.8 points, 2.6 assists, 1.9 rebounds on 39% from the field and 30% from 3 on 1.7 attempts.
Due to that rough production, the Kings placed Mason on waivers on July 4th. Fortunately for him, the guard didn’t have to wait long for his next opportunity as the Bucks signed him to a two-way contract on July 24th, just twenty days after ending his run with Sacramento. This move was meant to give Milwaukee more back-court after they lost Malcolm Brogdon to a long-term deal with the Indiana Pacers. Although he’ll have a chance to spend up to 45 days with Milwaukee, the Kansas alum is more likely to spend the 2019-20 season down in the G League with the Wisconsin Herd.
While his production at the pro level hasn’t been great so far, he should fit in well in a G League setting that relies on spacing and up-tempo play. In addition to that, he should get numerous opportunities to score by being able to work alongside the likes of Jaylen Adams, Cam Reynolds and Rayjon Tucker. Those keys could push Mason to play more to the level he did with Kansas than with the Sacramento Kings
8. Josh Gray - Erie BayHawks ( two-way with New Orleans): 19.4 points, 6.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals per game on 45% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc in 2017-18 with Northern Arizona
Over the course of the last five years in the G League, the rise of Josh Gray has to be one of the more inspiring stories. After an inconsistent two-yea run with LSU, the 6’1 guard tried out with the Northern Arizona Suns in an attempt to get a step closer to reaching his NBA dream. That tryout paid immediate dividends as he averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 44% from the field and 36% from 3 in 25 minutes per game as a rookie.
After a solid rookie year, the LSU alum continued to make strides during his second year with Northern Arizona. In 34 minutes per game, he averaged 19.4 points, 6.4 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals on 45% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 6.6 attempts per game. Those numbers represented Gray improving from both a per game and shooting percentage perspective.
Following spending the 2018-19 campaign with South Korea, Gray returned to the United States to sign a two-way deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. The restrictions of that deal will ultimately push the young guard to spend a lot of time in the G League with the Erie BayHawks. Although they’re technically an expansion team, the LSU alum will have a great opportunity to shine as a facilitator through playing with Zylan Cheatham, Rakim Sanders, Aubrey Dawkins, Javon Bess and Kavell Bigby-Williams
7. Ivan Rabb - Westchester Knicks (two-way with New York): 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game on 55% from the field, 40% from 3 on 1.5 attempts per game in 24 total G League games with Memphis Hustle
Back in the last segment, we took a look at Tyler Ennis and Henry Ellensen and examined their paths from intriguing draft prospects to now spending the 2019-20 season in the G League. While he wasn’t a 1st round selection like the other two players, forward Ivan Rabb is a former McDonald’s All-American who played two years with the Cal Bears before getting with the 35th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Unlike his counterparts, our subject was a productive player at the NBA level as he put up 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1 assist in 14 minutes per game in 85 career games. Despite that production, his run with the team didn’t last long as the Grizzlies placed him on waivers on October 19th. After becoming a free agent on the 21st, the forward didn’t have to wait long to find his next job as he signed a two-way deal with the New York Knicks on the 23rd.
This situation is actually good for the 6’10 player as he can spend most of the 2019-20 progressing as a player in the G League without dealing with the pressure of being an NBA player. In addition to that, his past success at the G League level should lead you to believe that he’ll immediately stand as one of the best front-court players in the G League.
6. PJ Dozier - Windy City Bulls (two-way with Denver): 21.1 points, 6.7 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 46% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 5.1 attempts per game
Among 2nd year G League players, the South Carolina alum probably took the biggest leap during his season with the Maine Red Claws. Compared to his rookie year with the OKC Blue, where he 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals on 46% from the field and 34% from 3 on 3.7 attempts per game, Dozier made statistical improvements in all facets of the game. His leap as a facilitator was definitely the most glaring as the 6’6 guard honestly stood as one of the league’s best distributors. Actually, we noted that fact back in a piece from this past February.
Despite his tremendous play at the G League level, the Celtics waived the young guard on July 1st. After spending summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Denver Nuggets signed him to an exhibit 10 deal before the start of training camp. The Nuggets obviously had plans for the 6’6 guard when they made that initial move as Denver converted that deal to a two-way contract on October 17th.
Due to Denver not having a G League affiliate, he started the 2019-20 season at the minor league level with the Windy City Bulls courtesy of the flexible assignment rule. While it might take a while for him to build chemistry with his new teammates, there’s confidence that he’ll eventually recapture his status as one of the league’s best point guards.
5. Walt Lemon - Fort Wayne Mad Ants: 20.9 points, 8.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals on 49% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc with Maine Red Claws & Windy City Bulls
Back in late March, there was a piece entitled “How Walt Lemon Deserved To Get Called Up By the Chicago Bulls. That extensive piece went into how his presence essentially changed the path of the Windy City Bulls to the point where they made their first playoff appearance in franchise history.
After that piece was posted, Lemon made that analysis look spot on as he impressed during a short run with the Chicago Bulls. In 6 games, he averaged 14.3 points, 5 assists, 1.8 steals and 4.5 rebounds on 44% from the field in 28 minutes per game. That stint with the team was headlined by him putting up 24 points, 8 assists and 2 steals on 11-16 from the field and 2-2 from the FT line performance in an April 3rd game against the Washington Wizards.
Despite those solid numbers, Lemon was plagued by inefficiency during his short run with Chicago as he maintained a 47% True Shooting Percentage. That inefficiency combined with them selecting point guard Coby White in the 2019 NBA Draft were the keys behind Chicago waiving Lemon on July 6th.
After spending part of training camp with the Indiana Pacers, Lemon was waived by the team on October 16th. We ultimately learned that those moves were the keys behind him being a returning player for their G League team as the Fort Wayne Mad Ants traded for the guard’s rights on the same day he was removed from Indiana’s roster. He’s no stranger to that organization as the 6’3 guard spent the 2015-16 and 2017-18 season with the Mad Ants.
4. Damion Lee - Santa Cruz Warriors (two-way with Golden State): 20.2 points, 6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals on 47% from the field and 40% from 3 on 5.1 attempts per game
Despite what some Twitter trolls might tell you, Damion Lee is a talented player that’s worked his ass off to get in his current position. That tremendous determination started in 2011 where he made into Drexel’s starting lineup despite being a lightly recruited two-star prospect. Over the course of his remaining three years in college, he continued to shine in the CAA before finishing his college career with Louisville.
After going undrafted in 2016, he made his way to the G League as a member of the Maine Red Claws. After starting his rookie year on a red hot note by averaging 17.8 points with a 63% True Shooting Percentage, Lee tore his ACL on December 22nd, which sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
That setback didn’t stop Lee from continuing to push for his dreams as he’s since gone on to develop his game with the Santa Cruz Warriors which led to a call-up by the Hawks in 2017-18 and being on a two-way deal with Golden State in 2018-19. That performance during his first year within the Golden State organization is what really stands out. With Santa Cruz, the 6’5 guard averaged 20.2 points, 6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals on 47% from the field and 40% from 3 on 5.1 attempts per game.
One year later, Damion Lee started this season within Golden State’s rotation due to a cornucopia of injuries. Unfortunately, our subject hasn’t avoided the injury bug as a fracture in his right hand that will keep him out for two weeks.
After returning from that injury, there’s a good chance that Lee will return to the G League due to his status as a two-way player. Once he returns to the league, the guard should immediately stand out as one of the best guards due to a well-rounded offensive approach that allowed him to shine during the 2018-19 season.
3. Brandon Goodwin - College Park Skyhawks (two-way with Atlanta): 22.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.3 steals on 49% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc with the Iowa Wolves and Memphis Hustle
Shortly after the Denver Nuggets signed him to a two-way deal, we had an extensive breakdown piece on then-rookie guard Brandon Goodwin. That article focused on the tremendous start he had with the Memphis Hustle, impact on both ends of the court and his future with Denver. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him play at the NBA level as Goodwin played a total of 57 minutes while with Denver.
Although he didn’t do much in the NBA, Goodwin shined in the G League to the point where he was in the running to win Rookie of the Year. That tremendous play with both the Memphis Hustle and Iowa Wolves (where he was assigned while with Denver) ultimately pushed him to receive a two-way deal this off-season with the Atlanta Hawks.
As a member of Atlanta’s organization, Goodwin will be the star player for the new-look College Park Skyhawks. While the NBA affiliate is hoping that he’ll progress over the course of the season, they should already be excited for his play as the guard put up 27 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals on 9-16 from the field and 1-4 from 3 for College Park in their recent win over Long Island.
2. Yante Maten - Maine Red Claws: 23.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks on 54% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 3.5 attempts per game with the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the G League
If it wasn’t for the unbelievable that Chris Boucher had with the Raptors 905, there’s a very good chance that we would’ve named Yante Maten as G League MVP. He honestly seemed on that path during the early stages of the season averaged 27 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 blocks on 59% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc during the first 20 games of the season.
Unfortunately, an ankle injury that he suffered on January 2nd pushed those great numbers to take a significant dip for the remainder of the season. That’s evident from how he played during his last 10 games with Sioux Falls where the Georgia alum averaged 16.5 points, 8 rebounds on 42% from the field and 18% from beyond the arc on 3.3 attempts per game. His rough production during the final weeks of the G League season combined with him only playing 13 minutes at the NBA level pushed the Heat to waive the forward on July 29th.
After not catching on with another NBA team on a two-way or guaranteed contract, Maten will be spending the 2019-20 season with the Maine Red Claws as an affiliate player. Due to his tremendous production during the first few months of the 2018-19 season combined with his high status on this list makes Maten stand as a player worth keeping an eye on.
1. Johnathan Motley - AC Clippers (two-way with Clippers): 24.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.2 assists on 55% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc on 3 attempts per game
For the second straight season, Ridiculous Upside is proud to announce that Los Angeles Clippers two-way player Johnathan Motley as the best player in the G League. Just as we mentioned at this point last year, the 6’10 forward stands at the top of the mountain due to being an efficient big that has been able to shine in a variety of different ways.
Although that was the case last year, he progressed during his sophomore year by averaging 24.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 3.2 assists with a 61% True Shooting Percentage. A lot of that development came as a facilitator as his numbers made a significant increase from 2 to 3.2 assists per game.
In addition to progressing as a distributor, both his volume and efficiency progressed from the prior year where he averaged 22.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2 assists on 56% from the field and 28% from 3. Considering how those numbers allowed him to be at the top of this list last year, it only seems right that he stays in this position after improving as a player during the 2018-19 season.