John Konchar’s Efficiency
No matter the sport or league, one tradition that has stood the test of time in my eyes is looking through the numbers and trying to find players that have irregular statistics. Whether it’s a mediocre starting pitcher starting the year with a fantastic 1.2 WHIP or a former All-Star shooting 30% from the field during the first few games, this type of unique production is usually blamed on small sample size.
During the first two weeks of the G League season, we’ve seen a plethora of examples of that phenomenon. To see the most glaring example of that, we have to go to Southaven, Mississippi, home of the undefeated Memphis Hustle. One of the most significant factors behind that perfect start is Grizzlies two-way player John Konchar.
In three games with the team, he’s averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on 79% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc on 6 total attempts. Those jaw-dropping numbers have allowed him to maintain an 87% True Shooting Percentage. While the season is still incredibly young, Konchar has already made history as that unbelievable number is the highest percentage that a G League guard has ever maintained after playing at least three games. his fantastic efficiency has mostly been the product of him taking high-percentage as only one of his 18 total shot attempts have been away from the corners or inside the restricted area.
Due to a calf injury that he suffered before the team’s November 18th game against South Bay, the rookie guard has only been able to three of the six games that the Hustle has competed in. However, the great all-around play he’s shown has pushed the IPFW alum to stand as one of the players to watch for the rest of the season.
The All-Around Great Play Of The Wisconsin Herd
If you were one of the few to listen to the media appearances that I made on Locked on Wizards or Hofstra’s official radio station, you’d that I had a lot of optimism about the Wisconsin Herd. Honestly, most of that optimism dealt with the talented duo of Frank Mason and Cam Reynolds, who are both on two-way deals with the Bucks.
Mason is a talented 5’11 guard that’s just two years removed from unanimous college player of the year for his unbelievable 2016-17 season with the Kansas Jayhawks. Meanwhile, Reynolds was coming off a fantastic rookie year, where he shined with the Stockton Kings before getting called up by the Minnesota Timberwolves and putting up substantial numbers at the NBA level.
That pre-season optimism has panned out as the Herd stand at 6-1 after winning a 112-106 game against the Westchester Knicks on Friday night. However, the Herd’s hot start has less to do with that talented duo, but rather a deeper core of weapons. An example of that depth is evident from how six players on the team’s main roster are averaging more than 10 points per game. That “current roster” clarification is necessary as Bucks assignees Dragan Bender and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, have averaged 21.5 and 14 points per game for the Herd, respectively.
The two most consistent cogs in that offensive attack have been guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker. Adams, a 2nd year guard that spent last year with the Erie BayHawks, has been on a tear during the first two weeks of the season as he’s averaged 19.8 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.2 rebounds on 47% from the field and 46% from beyond the arc on 7 attempts per game. Meanwhile, the other backcourt player has impressed in his first few games as a pro by putting up 18.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on five attempts per game.
Although that duo has helped push the team’s offense, Wisconsin has been more known for their work on the defensive end. After Friday’s game against Westchester, opponents average 98.6 points per 100 possessions against Wisconsin, the fourth-lowest number in the G League. The excellent performance is more an example of cohesiveness than anything else as there hasn’t been a dominating defensive player. Honestly, Jemerrio Jones might be the best example of that as he’s currently averaging 1.4 steals. However, his opponent on/off numbers has been problematic during the first few weeks of the season.
Due to starting the year 5-1 with only two games of Frank Mason and an inconsistent Cam Reynolds, it doesn’t make sense to be anything but optimistic about the Herd’s future. Because if they’re playing this solid with limited play from their two-way guys, how good can they possibly be when both men are firing on all cylinders in the team’s rotation? I honestly can’t wait to see.
The Unstoppable Andrew White
After a strong rookie year where he spent time with the Atlanta Hawks, White had a down season in 2018-19. During that season with the Maine Red Claws, he averaged 12.9 points and 3.8 rebounds on 43% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 6.4 attempts per game. Although those are solid numbers, he honestly took a step back from being one of the league’s top 50 players to being a reliable 4th option on a struggling team.
Fortunately, White’s play has taken a complete 180-degree turn since the end of the 2018-19 season. That turnaround has gotten to a point where he arguably stands as the best performing player during the first two weeks of the season. Praise is warranted as he’s averaged 20.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 57% from the field and 63% from beyond the arc on 6.3 attempts during his first six games with the Westchester Knicks. Aside from Pacers two-way guard Naz Mitrou-Long, who has shot 70% from 3 on 3.3 attempts per game, White stands as the most efficient perimeter threat in the G League.
That consistent shooting from beyond the arc has almost entirely come from catch-and-shoot looks. While there have been some occasions where he uses a pump fake to get his man in the air, takes a step to the left or right, and then nails the jumper, most of his made perimeter shots have come from that singular way.
White’s excellent perimeter shooting, combined with being able to attack closeouts, has pushed the 6’7 wing to be a legitimate call-up candidate. Will that be with the struggling Knicks or one of the other 29 NBA teams? We’ll have to wait and see. However, it’s already clear that the 3rd year guard is currently playing the best basketball of his career and might reach heights he’s never reached before since turning pro.
DeVaughn Akoon Purcell: G League Lou Williams?
Last year, G League fans had a brief opportunity to former Illinois State guard DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell when he was on a two-way deal with Denver. That run in the league only lasted two games, where he averaged 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 44% from the field and 58% from beyond the arc with the Delaware Blue Coats. However, that run was short as the Nuggets waived him on December 16th so the guard can take his talents to Israel.
Nearly 11 months since leaving the United States, Akoon-Purcell returned to the G League as an affiliate player for the Oklahoma City Blue. While head coach Grant Gibbs placed the guard in the 2nd unit due to the presence of Luguentz Dort and Myke Henry, our subject has been able to still shine as one of the best scorers in the G League.
In his role as the team’s 6th man, he’s been fantastic through averaging 23.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.6 steals on 64% from the field and 58% from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts in 28 minutes per game. His efficiency from beyond the arc is notable when you realize that a lot of the made shots have come courtesy of step-backs, which is evident as a more inefficient type of attempt than catch-and-shoot. Those numbers have allowed him to maintain an unbelievable 84% True Shooting Percentage.
Akoon-Purcell’s tremendous efficiency has unsurprisingly had a significant impact on the OKC Blue’s offense as they’re eleven points better when he’s on the court (112.9 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the bench (101.8 points per 100). With the type of impact he’s made on the team, it’s unsurprising that the Blue is tied with the Red Claws for having the best offense in the G League through averaging 110.8 points per 100.
After his first five games with the OKC Blue, Akoon-Purcell has established himself as one of the best offensive weapons in the G League. Similar to what we mentioned with Andrew White, that elite status has pushed him to be a potential NBA call-up candidate. Honestly, he has a better chance to get promoted as he combines stable perimeter shooting with an ability to get to the paint as an on/off-ball driver.
Keep An Eye On Kenny Wooten
After it became clear that former UCLA forward Kris Wilkes wasn’t in the position to sign a deal with the New York Knicks, the big league squad spent most of the off-season with an open two-way slot. During that period, former Oregon forward Kenny Wooten stood as one of the more logical options to receive that deal due to being a 21-year-old forward that made it to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team during his two years in college. That status as a young rim protector would’ve made him an excellent compatriot to Kadeem Allen, New York’s other two-way player.
However, that ultimately wasn’t meant to be as the Knicks signed Ivan Rabb to a two-way on October 23rd, just four days after the Memphis Grizzlies waived him. Although the Oregon alum wouldn’t take the route that was in my mind, he remained within the organization through being an affiliate player for the Westchester Knicks.
While the G League season is still incredibly young, the 6’11 forward has shown himself as a player that’s at least worthy of a two-way deal. Most of his value has come on the defensive end as Wooten has reclaimed his status of an elite rim protector that he previously had in the Pac 12. After six games, he’s currently 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds (2.8 offensive), 1.7 assists and 3.3 blocks on 54% from the field in only 25 minutes per game. Those numbers allow the rookie forward to currently sit in the top-25 in blocks (4th) and offensive rebounds (21st).
After already establishing himself as one of the finest rim protectors in the G League, it makes sense for some to look at the young forward as a potential call-up candidate. However, the Oregon alum needs to show himself as a more consistent force on the offensive end, as he’s scored more than five points in only two games. That lack of scoring might turn some teams off as they could view him as a liability on that end of the floor.
Despite that negative stance, Wooten has been one of the more entertaining players during the first two weeks of the G League season. As the year continues, he’s going to stand as someone that fans should keep an eye on.