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Seven Players To Watch During Day 1 Of The NBA G League Winter Showcase

Dakota Schmidt gives his take on the seven players to watch during the first day of the NBA G League Winter Showcase

Grand Rapids Drive v Canton Charge Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Starting at 2 PM Central/Noon Pacific Time, the 2019 MGM Resorts NBA G League Winter Showcase will tip off with a game between the Maine Red Claws and Canton Charge. That Eastern Conference showdown will be followed by six other games on the initial day of the event which will end with Sioux Falls going against the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. To help prepare you for that gigantic slate of games, each day we’re going to be doing a list of one player to keep an eye on during each match up. For example, we’ll feature one player from either Maine or Canton for that early game and the Skyforce or Clippers for the late game.

Maine Red Claws vs. Canton Charge - 2 PM CST

Sir’Dominic Pointer - Canton Charge

Although there have been flashy players that have put up more eye-popping numbers during the first month of the G League season, Sir’Dominic Pointer has been able to stand out as one of the finest two-way guys in the league. To rid the confusion, that status comes from how he’s been able to shine on both ends of the court rather than type of contract he has with an NBA team.

The biggest way Sir’Dom has been able to establish himself as a dual threat comes from his phenomenal work on the defensive end. Heading into the event, he’s averaging 12.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 2.1 blocks and 1.9 assists per game on 49% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 3.6 attempts per game. While those numbers might not seem too impressive at first glance, it’s important to note that Pointer is the only player in either the G League or NBA to average more than 2 steals and 2 blocks per game.

Although great defense has always been part of his resume, the Canton forward is arguably having the best offensive season of his entire career. That claim is backed up by him maintaining a career-best 62% True Shooting Percentage while his 12.5 points per game average only trails the average he maintained during his senior year at St. John’s.

His status as an elite defender and very efficient offensive weapon allows him to shine as one of the best call-up candidates in the G League. You’ll have a chance to see him play this afternoon in the Charge’s game against Maine.

Stockton Kings Vs. Delaware Blue Coats - 2:30 PM CST

Gabe Vincent - Stockton Kings

If there’s one player that has surprised me the most during the first month of the G League, it would definitely be Gabe Vincent. During his rookie year with the team, he stood as a forgettable, inefficient weapon that averaged 8.7 points, 2.6 assists and 2.3 rebounds on 38% from the field and 29% from 3 on 4.3 attempts per game. Those numbers allowed him to maintain a below-average 47% True Shooting Percentage.

After an active off-season, which included him playing with Nigeria during the FIBA World Cup, Vincent has taken a full 180 degree turn. That’s clearly evident from the numbers he’s putting up as Vincent enters the G League Winter Showcase averaging 24.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals on 47% from the field and 41% from 3 on 10.7 attempts per game. Those efficient numbers have allowed him to maintain a fantastic 64% True Shooting Percentage, a 17 percent increase over the previous season. As the clip below shows, he’s making a lot of those perimeter jumpers well behind the three-point line and occasionally with a hand in his face.

South Bay Lakers Vs. Lakeland Magic - 4:30 PM CST

Gary Payton II - South Bay Lakers

Since his rookie year with the RGV Vipers back in the 2016-17 season, Gary Payton II has stood out as one of the league’s best guards due to his knack as a facilitator, on-ball driver, and simply being an absolute force on the defensive end. All of those traits have persisted during his current 2019-20 campaign with the South Bay Lakers. The 6’3 guard will enter the Vegas event averaging 21.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 3.2 steals per game on 57% from the field. Aside from assists, where he’s just .09 behind the average from 2018-19, Payton II is currently maintaining a career-high in points, rebounds and steals.

Aside from being a statistical monster, Payton II has just been an absolute joy to watch whenever he steps on the court. A lot of that joy is due to his athleticism that allows him to fly up for offensive rebounds, push the ball up the court in transition, burst into the passing lanes and finish in traffic. One interesting thing that the veteran guard has been able to do this year is work as a screener and roll man. Although it’s extremely uncommon to see from someone that stands at 6’3, it makes sense when he’s working with veteran 6’9 forward Travis Wear, who excels as a perimeter weapon and passer.

While he’s been solid since the start of the year, Payton II enters the Vegas event on a hot note. Over the past 10 days, he’s had an amazing stretch of games putting up 30, 37, 25 and 38 points. Will that fantastic stretch continue during the G League Winter Showcase? We’re going to have to wait and see as South Bay will go against Lakeland this afternoon.

Windy City Bulls Vs. Texas Legends - 5:30 PM CST

Nate Mason - Texas Legends

If Gabe Vincent didn’t suddenly turn into the G League’s version of Klay Thompson, Texas Legends point guard Nate Mason would definitely be one of the favorites for Most Improved Player. Last year, the University of Minnesota alum was picked up by the Legends on February 2nd and was immediately able to implement himself into the team’s rotation. The young guard wasn’t awful as he averaged 10.2 points, 2.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds on 42% from the field and 36% from 3 on 3.2 attempts in 20 minutes per game. His weakness was definitely efficiency as he maintained a lackluster 50% True Shooting Percentage.

His status as a bench player persisted this year thanks to the presence of Mavs two-way player Josh Reaves, Dakota Mathias, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. However, that quickly changed as the combination of a few great performances and Rathan-Mayes getting traded to the AC Clippers vaulted him into the team’s starting lineup.

Since that transition, Mason has been fantastic as he’s averaging 16.8 points, 9 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2 steals on 42% from the field and 33% from 3 on 5.2 attempts per game in his 11 games as a starter. Those numbers look even better when you take a deeper dive into advanced stats as he’s maintaining a 3.2 Ast/TO ratio. That tremendous efficiency becomes even more impressive when you watch him play as the young guard makes his fair share of flashy passes.

Capital City Go-Go Vs. Iowa Wolves - 7 PM Central

Jordan McLaughlin (two-way player with Minnesota) - Iowa Wolves

Sticking with players that have improved since last year, Timberwolves two-way player Jordan McLaughlin has become more efficient compared to his rookie with Long Island. The USC alum enters the Winter Showcase averaging 15.1 points, 5.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game on 49% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 5 attempts per game. Those numbers have allowed him to maintain a 60% True Shooting Percentage, a significant six percent increase over what he averaged last year.

That improved efficiency has largely come from within the restricted area where he’s shooting a nice 69%, a significant eleven percent from the 58% that he maintained as a rookie. His progression on that end likely has to do with him having a quicker first step, which allows him to zoom past his perimeter defender and have a clearer path to the basket.

Fans will have a chance to witness McLaughlin’s improved on-ball driving skills and the other traits that he’s able to offer when the Wolves face off against the Capital City Go-Go later today.

Austin Spurs vs. College Park Skyhawks - 8 PM Central

Brandon Goodwin (two-way player with Atlanta) - College Park Skyhawks

Back in October and November, we had an extensive series breaking down the Top 50 G League Players going into the 2019-20 season. One of the players on that list was former Florida Gulf Coast guard Brandon Goodwin, who finished 4th after an incredible rookie year with the Iowa Wolves and Memphis Hustle. When that piece was written, I honestly had doubts that he would be able to improve on an extremely impressive rookie year where he averaged 22.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.3 steals on 49% from the field and 39% from 3 on 5.9 attempts per game.

However, that’s been the case during the first month of the G League season. In 15 games with the College Park Skyhawks, he’s averaging 19.7 points, 7.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals on 46% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 6.8 attempts per game. Although he’s taken a step back as a scorer, Goodwin has been able to make up for it by showcasing himself to be a phenomenal facilitator. That claim is backed up by stats as he enters Vegas averaging 7.9 assists with a great 2.5 Ast/TO ratio.

While those numbers are impressive, you become more amazed by his facilitating when you actually watch him play. From that perspective, you see a young guard with tremendous court vision that’s able to thread the needle to cutters while standing on the perimeter or make jaw-dropping no-look feeds while moving to the basket.

Sioux Falls Skyforce vs. Agua Caliente Clippers - 9:30 PM CST

Kyle Alexander - Sioux Falls Skyforce

After spending more than 1,600 words talking about guards and wings, we’ll finish off this piece talking about one of the finest young front-court talents in the G League. In only 27 minutes per game, 6’10 rookie forward Kyle Alexander is averaging 11.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game on 71% from the field for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. That efficiency combined with him hitting 76% from the free-throw line has allowed him to maintain a 79% True Shooting Percentage during his first sixteen games.

In addition to shining as one of the most efficient scorers in the G League, Alexander has stood as a premier shot blocker. Alexander has been able to stake that claim through being a 6’10 big with quick feet and a long wingspan. Those factors have allowed to make his fair share of chase down blocks.

The one thing that has prevented the rookie forward from being an All-Star would be his inability to stay out of foul trouble. Currently, he’s averaging 3 fouls in 27 minutes per game, which prevents him from staying on the court during the later stages of games.