Note #1: This piece is part three of an ongoing 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 and two.
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.
30. Tyler Ulis - Stockton Kings: 7.5 points, 4 assists, 1.7 rebounds on 40% from the field in 133 career NBA games
Our trend of talking about G Leaguers with rough injury histories continues with talking about the former Kentucky guard. These woes came to light last December where he had to undergo a surgery on his left hip which ended up keeping him out for the rest of the 2018-19 season. That unfortunate surgery came after the guard playing four games with the Windy City Bulls, where he averaged 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game on 39% from the field. Aside from that inefficiency, he still had a few solid games with the team as he did a great job working the ball around to his new teammates.
Although that was a very limited sample size, tremendous passing and inefficient shooting has been part of his offensive arsenal dating back to the guard’s stint with the Phoenix Suns. ulis will have an opportunity to improve as a scorer during the upcoming season with the Stockton Kings. It’ll be a great chance for the young guard as Stockton has a cornucopia of solid offensive weapons to pass the ball too. Those scorers will allow him to selectively pick his moments as a scorer, which could be the keys behind him being more efficient. If that does happen, don’t be surprised if he places higher when we do another top 50 list in April.
29. Brandon Sampson - RGV Vipers: 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists on 45% from the field and 38% from 3 with Windy City Bulls and the RGV Vipers
As someone that’s been writing about the G League for seven years, one of the biggest mysteries that has persisted is the fact that some players put up better numbers in their rookie year in the G League than they did in college. A prime example of this is looking at former LSU guard Brandon Sampson’s performance as a rookie year compared to his junior year in college. During his final season with LSU, he averaged 7.7 points and 2.6 rebounds on 48% from the field and 35% from 3 on 3 attempts in 19 minutes per game.
Despite playing against better competition after turning pro, Sampson was able to improve his numbers to the point where he stood as one of the best rookie guards in the G League. That status began at the start of the regular season where he was with the RGV Vipers. In his 18 games with the team, the 6’5 guard averaged 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 43% from the field and 39% from 3 on 7.2 attempts per game. His production with the team paid huge dividends for the LSU alum as the Chicago Bulls signed him to a two-way deal on December 26th.
Although some players may get off to a rough start with their new team due to struggling to build chemistry with their new teammates and understand the different sets the coach may run, that wasn’t the case for Sampson. With the Windy City Bulls, he was immediately a beneficial player that averaged 16.3 points, 4 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 48% from the field and 36% from 3 on 5.2 attempts per game.
While he was a productive player for Windy City, he didn’t stay with the Bulls organization for long as they waived him when free agency began on July 1st. After an off-season of not getting signed by an NBA team, Sampson will return to the Vipers as they hold his G League rights. Despite the Vipers having Sindarius Thornwell, Michael Frazier, and Kerwin Roach standing as intriguing backcourt talent, Sampson’s past success combined with solid upside should allow him to be a vital part of the Vipers roster this year.
28. BJ Johnson - Lakeland Magic (two-way contract with Orlando): 15.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 48% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc on 4.4 attempts per game with Lakeland Magic in the G League
Along with having one of the best names in the G League, the former La Salle forward excelled during his rookie year with Lakeland. Not only was he one of the best first year players, Johnson stood out as one of the G League’s best forwards through being a tremendous 3-and-D forward that can also drive to the rim and snag rebounds. In regards to his perimeter shooting, that praise comes from how his 44% three-point percentage stood out as the 3rd best average among forwards.
That tremendous shooting efficiency caught the attention of the Atlanta Hawks, who offered him a 10-day deal on March 1st. Although his time with the team was limited, the 6’7 forward didn’t look overwhelmed by the increased level of play. That was evident during a March 3rd game against the Chicago Bulls where he put up 11 points on 4-4 from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately, that great game wasn’t enough for Atlanta to keep him around for the long run as they waived the 6’7 forward on March 22nd. More than seven months after that, he’s returned for yet another run with the Lakeland Magic. Now being paired with elite facilitator Josh Magette, don’t be surprised if Johnson puts up the type of numbers that make us ranking him #29 as the worst decision imaginable.
27. Michael Frazier - Houston Rockets/RGV Vipers (two-way): 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game on 44% from the field and 38% from 3 on 7.4 attempts per game with RGV Vipers in the G League
In a similar vein to CJ Wilcox, the #38 ranked player on this list has had immense struggles with injuries. That came during the 2017-18 season where a torn quad injury led to him failing a physical with German club MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg. Along with preventing a payday, that injury kept him out for the entire year.
After spending those 12 months rehabbing, Frazier returned in 2018-19 season as a member of the RGV Vipers. The 6’4 guard honestly looked like a completely different player as his facilitating, perimeter shooting and defense reached a level that fans didn’t see since he was balling out with the University of Florida. That progression from how he was back in 2015-16 with Iowa, South Bay and the LA D-Fenders pushed the G League to award him with the Most Improved Player of the Year award.
Following a tremendous 2018-19 season, Frazier will make his return to the RGV Vipers as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets. Although the team will have a plethora of backcourt options like Sindarius Thornwell, Kerwin Roach, Brandon Sampson and William McDowell-White, his experience with the organization, status as a two-way player and great skill set should allow him to be a huge part of the team.
26. Vander Blue: Santa Cruz Warriors: 21 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.6 steals on 43% from the field and 34% from 3 on 4.5 attempts per game in 225 career G League games
To be honest, the opportune word to describe Vander Blue’s pro career would be frustrating. That feeling deals with how he spent a three-year span between 2014-15 and 2016-17 standing as a guard that always seemed to be on the cusp of landing a stable role with an NBA team. Although he got a 10-day from the Lakers in 2015 and then a two-way in 2017, those stints were short as he only played a combined 45 minutes with Los Angeles.
At the same time he struggled to was struggling to get into the NBA, Blue stood as one of the best players in the G League. The height of that came during the 2016-17 campaign where the guard put up a league-high 24.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.6 steals on 43% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 5.1 attempts per game.That level of production was enough to help lead the LA D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers) to a 34-17 record. Blue standing as an electrifying and efficient offensive weapon for a great D-Fenders team were the keys behind the league naming as their Most Valuable Player.
In the two years since that amazing season, things haven’t been the best for the 6’4 guard. Like we mentioned at the top of this part, Blue was a two-way player with the Lakers during the 2017-18 season. In addition to not getting a lot of minutes with Los Angeles, his performance in the G League took a step down. In 15 games with South Bay, he averaged 19 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals on 39% from the field and 33% from 3 on 3.1 attempts per game. That efficiency turned even further south in 2018-19. With both the Wisconsin Herd and Texas Legends, he had 10.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals on 38% from the field and 25% on 3.1 attempts per game.
Despite his rough play over the last two years, Blue deserves a spot on this list due to standing as one of the top scorers in G League history at the tender of 27-years-old. Although that tremendous play is a few years in a rear view, he’s still in the prime of his basketball career. So while he might not reach that MVP level, there’s reasons to be optimistic he can be a really solid player this year with the Santa Cruz Warriors.
25. Drew Eubanks - Austin Spurs (two-way with San Antonio): 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 assists on 65% from the field for the Austin Spurs
During the 2017-18 G League season, the Austin Spurs won their 2nd G League title through sweeping the Raptors 905. Although current San Antonio guard Derrick White and guard Nick Johnson were the leaders behind that title win, their path to that series was paved by the defense of front-court weapons Amida Brimah and Matt Costello. Both players defended the paint in amazing fashion as Brimah and Costello averaged 2.6 and 2.2 blocks per game, respectively.
After Costello left to make more money to play in European leagues, the Spurs needed another front-court weapon to work alongside Brimah. That replacement came from former Oregon State center Drew Eubanks, who was added after receiving a two-way deal from San Antonio in September 20th. While that deal gave him an opportunity to spend time in the NBA, most of his rookie year was spent in the G League with the Austin Spurs.
The 6’10 rookie did a fantastic job in that role through being a solid threat on both ends of the floor. From an offensive perspective, he excelled through having a steady mid-range jumper, excellent touch in the low-post and a knack for driving to the rim with his right hand. Those traits combined with his great work as a rim protector allowed Eubanks to be one of the best bigs in the G League.
24. Hollis Thompson - Stockton Kings: 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 43% from the field and 35% from 3 on 4.4 attempts per game in 2018-19 season with Northern Arizona Suns of the G League. 7.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists on 41% from the field and 39 % from 3 on 3.5 attempts per game in 265 career NBA games
In terms of the players in this top 50 list, Hollis Thompson is the most experienced when it comes to games played in the NBA. That was due to him being a steady perimeter threat during his four years with the Process-era Philadelphia 76ers. While he hasn’t played a minute of NBA basketball since the New Orleans Pelicans waived him on March 15th, 2017, that experience has remained valuable during his recent run in the G League, as he can be looked upon to be a steady, reliable force both on and off the court.
In regards to his on-court play, Thompson was a solid offensive weapon last year with the Northern Arizona Suns as he averaged 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 43% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 4.4 attempts per game. Those numbers allowed him to lead his team in points and rebounds, among guys that played more than 10 games with the Suns.
After another summer of not getting picked up by an NBA team, Thompson will return to the G League as a member of the Stockton Kings, as the team acquired his G League rights back in September.
23. Naz Mitrou-Long - Fort Wayne Mad Ants (two-way with Indiana): 18.8 points, 4.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds on 44% from the field and 33% from 3 on 7.2 attempts per game with SLC Stars in the G League
Back in September, I wrote an in-depth piece breaking down the on-court play of current Pacers two-way guard Naz Mitrou-Long back when he was with the SLC Stars. To avoid repeating myself and making this piece even longer, I suggest reading that to learn more about the 6’4 guard.
In terms of his potential work in 2019-20 with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the guard should continue the solid play that he’s exhibited over his first two seasons in the G League. Honestly, there’s a significant chance that his efficiency will improve from what it was last year due to playing with elite facilitating point guard Walt Lemon. If Mitrou-Long can take advantage of the open opportunities that will come from that new pairing, he’ll positioned a lot higher when the postseason top 50 list starts up next April.
22. Xavier Munford - Delaware Blue Coats: 17.9 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals on 47% from the field and 37% from 3 in 167 career G League games
Over the past half-decade of G League basketball, 6’2 guard Xavier Munford has stood out as one of the league’s cornerstone guards. A lot of that is due to longevity as he’s played more than 10 games in each G League season since his rookie year in 2014-15. Aside from that mediocre rookie year, he’s also been one of the league’s best scoring guards through averaging anywhere between 18-20 points per game on solid efficiency. That type of production is largely due to his versatile nature as someone that’s a very capable on-ball driver and perimeter shooter. In a league where most guards only shine in one of those areas, our subject has been able to consistently stand out due to those tools.
While he’s been consistent for the last five years, the best season came in 2017-18 when he was on a two-way deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. WIth the Wisconsin Herd, he averaged 24.4 points, 5.2 assists, 5 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game on 51% from the field and 44% from 3 on 5.3 attempts per game. Honestly, he probably would’ve been the league’s MVP if his team didn’t go 21-29 during their inaugural season.
Although the probability of him matching that production again is limited, Munford should still be a fantastic point guard with the Delaware Blue Coats. In addition to his upside as a scorer, the veteran will have an ability to shine as a facilitator due to working with weapons like Jared Browridge, Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle.
21. Daryl Macon - Sioux Falls Skyforce (two-way with Heat): 19 points, 6.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1 steal on 42% from the field and 34% from 3 on 4.9 attempts per game with Texas Legends
Despite a tremendous senior season with the University of Arkansas where he was named to the All-SEC First Team by the Associated Press, Daryl Macon wasn’t selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, he didn’t have to wait long to get picked up by a team as the Mavericks signed him to a two-way deal on July 30th, a little more than a month after that draft.
As is the case for most two-way players, the 6’3 guard spent a lot of time in the G League with the Texas Legends. From the jump, he immediately stood out as one of the league’s best guards through knack at standing out as both a facilitator and scorer. WHen it came to putting in the basket, Macon was fantastic through using quickness and great dribble moves to make drives to the rim.
Although he can be a more efficient perimeter shooter, the young guard shows upside in this area through having a quick shooting stroke that can be used in catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble situations. Moving onto his work as a facilitator, he was one of the league’s finest through a great ability to throw precise passes over to his teammates while on the move. While those types of passes had a sense of danger. Macon was efficient through maintaining a 2.3 Ast/TO ratio.
Although the Mavericks waived him after the end of the 2018-19 season, Macon quickly found out his next pro destination through getting a training camp deal with the Miami Heat. Shortly before the start of the regular season, Miami awarded him with a two-way contract. Of course, he’ll likely spend a lot of time with the Sioux Falls Skyforce, where he’ll be joined by talented players like Davon Reed, Mychal Mulder, Chris Silva and Jeremiah Martin.