Back in October 2018, the NBA and its developmental G League announced a new path being created for athletes to play at the professional level in their hopeful way to make it to the NBA in the best of scenarios, prior to them being eligible to enter the NBA draft.
This whole new way of becoming an NBA player was labeled as a “Select Contract”, of which just a bunch of them will be offered each year starting this next summer in time for the 2019-20 G League season. The only official information and rules regarding who can or can’t get the contract says that the player in question must be 18 years old by Sept 15 of the year he’ll be entering the G League. Also, he must be considered “an elite prospect”. There is no limit to how many of these contracts can or will be offered per season, and the definition of “elite prospect” is vaguely descriptive if at all.
With that framework in place, though, we felt compelled to go through some the still not committed best players of the 2019 high school class, to try and put some potential Select Contract candidates on the table.
As there is no precedent in place, and it will only build with time, what follows is only what we could see as some cases worth taking in consideration by the G League committee given the task of handing the contracts out. There is no age limit on who can get one of those deals, so international players and those from other leagues around the USA could also try and get their chance, but we’re leaving those aside for this exercise. Here are some names to keep an eye on.
LaMelo Ball | PG | SPIRE Academy
The most obvious candidate and best player to make the list. The youngest of the Ball brothers has been making headlines for quite some time now, from his Chino Hills days to his late SPIRE spell going through the rocky landscapes of Lithuania’s pro-game.
Although his father LaVar recently said that he doesn’t want and probably won’t put his son in the G League even if given the chance of getting in through a Select Contract, there is still the possibility he ends there.
LaMelo was determined to play college ball and if he doesn’t it will be purely because he’s ultimately deemed ineligible, not because of lack of desire. The same can happen with LaVar’s hopes of LaMelo playing overseas clashing with Melo’s idea of staying in the States and making a name for himself in the G League prior to making the jump to the NBA.
Other players (Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay, or Terrance Ferguson) have moved places in years past to then come and make their way in the NBA. The Chinese or Australian leagues are legit pro-competitions full of mature players and they will post a challenge to LaMelo. The same goes for the G League, in which there are a few more youngins but still a mature body of athletes that will give Ball all they got.
In any case, LaMelo joining the G League would definitely boost his already known profile and put him closer to the NBA as scouts will have a better idea of what they’d be getting in him and Ball would probably have a more focused playing spell knowing all eyes that would be put on him while playing NBA’s farm systems.
Lester Quinones | SG | IMG Academy
It looks like Lester’s decision will come down to one of seven D-I colleges in the near future. He has named a bunch of names that could potentially land him and they don’t lack quality at all. We’re talking the names of Indiana, Michigan or the up-and-coming Georgia or Memphis programs.
After playing for an IMG Academy team that made it to the GEICO Nationals this season, Quinones has the profile the G League may be looking for while awarding a Select Contract. Per 247Sports Composite rankings, he’s currently the No. 65 best prospect of the 2019 class and is a top-10 shooting guard too.
We can’t expect household players making it to the G League instead of the NCAA circuit if given the chance, but this is one of the players still available (though not for long, it seems) that the developmental league should be targeting and hoping to get in the near future if they really want to make this a real path to the NBA for some of those HS kids.
Carl Lewis | C | Hillcrest Hoops
The case of Carl Lewis is one of the most interesting around the nation. The big man from Compton landed a couple of offers from D-I schools in 2017 (namely USC and St. John’s) and another one at the start of 2018 (Georgetown). No more news about his recruiting process has been known since then.
What makes this interesting is the fact that Lewis is currently a four-star prospect ranked No. 75 nationally. On top of that, he can’t have a better frame in the shape of an already developed pro-player. If he made it to the G League, his physicality alone would be of much help when facing any opposition. Of course, he still has a way to go in terms of his game and abilities, but one of the main burdens to most players would be the physical aspect of the game when making the jump and he’ll clear that easily.
Lewis is already a behemoth and would outpower anyone in the zone, although he is super raw at this point and a total coin flip in terms of how his future will look like in a couple of years regarding basketball.
This is the prototype of player that perfectly depicts the risks the G League will have to take when signing players to their new Select Contracts. It will be hard for them to snatch top-tier prospects from the blue-bloods of the collegiate ranks, so betting on high-upside kids like Lewis looks like the best way to go. There is a high risk involved in making those decisions, but a couple of good hits could make this new path to the pros look much better in a short time and help in poaching better talent.
Tristan Enaruna | SF | Wasatch Academy
Another completely different type of player that may be of interest to the G League, and that would himself be interested in signing with the NBA’s developmental league is the one represented by Enaruna. More than his game, which is totally legit and out of question in terms of quality, it is his background which makes his case interesting.
Enaruna has played for Wasatch this past season as a senior, yet he comes from the Netherlands. While players from across the pond are eligible for Select Contracts, they may not come with such a reputation as some high school kids may have given the less following that European leagues have on average, much less if talking about young kids like Enaruna is.
His game is widely considered as current-day fit as he can defend positions from one to five and adapt to any situation on the court. He can play big and small and while he wasn’t quite the name he has become once making it to the USA, he is now the No. 79 prospect of his class per 247 Sports, up from a paltry No. 151 spot he held earlier in 2018. That shows how perceptions can change if following the correct path.
If the G League can offer players something, that is exposure. Of course, Enaruna would rather play for Duke (if as rumored they end offering him a scholarship), Kansas, Miami or Texas and try to build his reputation by trying and making it to the national tournament come March next season. But for kids that came from Europe or Asia and played for some months at some prep school, tasted the American game and saw the potential of making money almost after crossing the ocean, the G League may look like a better option, or at least as a shortcut to surely cash in before they are ousted or deemed not good enough while playing NCAA ball.
The G League wouldn’t be making any risk targeting this type of player. Enaruna is a highly coveted prospect after all, and it is only his background (coming from abroad) that may cause doubts. What if those players are only looking for the money? Would they truly commit to the game once they get paid? There is always a risk in making those moves, but the wildest the G League goes, the best rewards it can potentially get.
Those are only four players that could make it to the G League this upcoming season via the newly introduced Select Contracts. There is nothing clear about who will or can ultimately make it, and most of the “elite prospects” that we can think of are almost locks to enter the collegiate ranks and play for D-I teams before turning pro.
Once we get a clear definition of what the league expects those kids to look like, it would be much easier to find potential targets and players that would fit what the NBA farm system wants to offer. Until then, we can only wonder and throw guesses at it.
With the prep-to-pros making a comeback soon, though, there is also the chance this new path never fully pans out and gets out of the picture with the one-and-done rule currently in place removed and players enabled to jump straight from high school to the NBA, thus making the G League mid-step unnecessary.
Until 2022, it seems, it won’t happen. We still have a few years left to have some fun coming with names that could explore this new avenue. We only hope some of the kids with that ridiculous upside make it to the NBA via G League. It would only strengthen the idea of it being a fundamental part of the whole NBA ecosystem.