The NBA G League Atlantic Division continued to have great success during the 2018-19 season and was well represented in the postseason. The Long Island Nets (No. 1 seed), Westchester Knicks (No. 3 seed), and Raptors 905 (No. 4 seed) each owned at least 29 wins. The three teams were amongst the final four teams in the Eastern Conference, while the Nets advanced to the G League Finals.
Each team has built a winning organization, while emphasizing on the development and growth of their players. The Atlantic Division is the only division that saw three teams (Knicks, Nets and 905) win 27+ games and see at least two call-ups in the past two seasons.
Under head coach Mike Miller, how have the Westchester Knicks maintained great success en route to their second straight postseason berth?
The Westchester Knicks have formed their identity behind their defensive presence. Under Westchester head coach Mike Miller, his teams have been known for their superb defense, while having different players come up huge on the offensive end. The Knicks have gone 29-21 due to their collective effort from the entire team, along with the strong play from their assignment and two-way players. Since arriving in Westchester via trade, Jameel Warney has been playing at a MVP level. He can score in bunches, finish through double teams, and has been solid on the defense end. Billy Garrett has improved his game in year two and has been a high level contributor.
With two-way players usually being the stars on the team, how have the two-way players made an impact on the team’s success this season?
New York’s two-way players Isaiah Hicks and Kadeem Allen have played a huge role in the success of the team. Hicks’ presence on the defensive end has been valuable. He has been one of the top shot blockers in the G League the past two seasons. On the other end, his progression and confidence on the offensive end has added another dimension to his game.
Allen has been a solid contributor for the team all season and can impact the game in many ways. He is known for his defense, but he is the engine for Westchester. The second-year guard can finish strong at the rim and find his teammates in good spots on offense.
Kadeem Allen has spent time with New York this season, along with John Jenkins earning an NBA call-up. How important has the depth of the team been this season?
Billy Garrett started the season coming off the bench, but continued to take his game to another level when his role increased. As his role increased, Garrett showed he could give Westchester 15-20 points a game. He has become more efficient with his shot and has shown maturation in his game. Garrett scored 20+ points in 11 of his last 16 games.
Stephen Zimmerman has played really well since returning from the USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team. He is crashing the glass, creating second chance opportunities, and is getting good looks at the basket. Sekou Wiggs has taken the lead with the second unit with his energy he provides and ability to drive to the basket.
The Long Island Nets have experienced prosperity during the 2018-19 season. The Nets finished with a G League best 34-16 record and advanced to their first championship game. Long Island saw two players earn a combined three NBA call-ups. A lot of the team’s success was due to first-year head coach Will Weaver, the depth of the team, and the Nets’ two-way players, Theo Pinson and Alan Williams.
Under first year head coach Will Weaver, how have the Long Island Nets been able to do so well, including winning their last nine games? (Note: Interview was done on Mar. 13; Nets won 10 straight)
A big thing to their success is that they’re a very formed group. I just did an interview with Will Weaver where they play a lot of team ball. With the Nets, you see they’re more team oriented. It’s not like a one-man show where there’s not one leader of the team. There’s always a good amount of players that are scoring in double figures. Even if Theo Pinson is not in the line-up, they have good reinforcements. Jordan McLaughlin has been playing great ball. He’s a crafty small guard out of USC and produces a good ten points and six assist games on a regular day. I would say a big credit to what Will Weaver is doing is that his team is playing great team ball.
In the recent weeks, there has been call-ups of Mitch Creek and Tahjere McCall. How have the players been able to step up and kept the success rolling? How much of this success during the nine game winning streak is due to the depth the team has?
They play great team ball. That’s due to their depth. McCall is mostly their best all around player and he’s mostly the foundation of what the Long Island Nets’ success has really been. He plays great on both ends of the floor. He plays great defense and plays great offense. He’s crafty. He’s not just a shooter. He drives the ball and it came to no surprise that he got the 10-day contract because of what he’s produced on Long Island for some period of time. He’s consistent.
They have (Dzanan) Musa. They had (Okaro) White. They have a streaky shooter in (Shannon) Scott. They have Kamari Murphy, who is a solid player on both ends of the floor. They have (Theo) Pinson and (Alan) Williams who are their main stars. Their depth is a big reason why they’re able to be unphased by this player getting called up and going to the Brooklyn Nets. The main point to their success has been the team ball and the team chemistry that they played with despite all the call-ups.
Usually the two-way players are the big stars on each team and are usually a driving force in the team’s success. How important have the two-way players been in the team’s success this year?
I would say they’ve been probably the biggest impact to the success this season. When I spoke to Will Weaver the other day, he said that his skill set and the way he sees the game is very rare for a kid that age. He’s not just a shooter or not just a driver or a mid-range guy. He’s all around. I would say Theo Pinson has been a real impact to their success. With Alan Williams, he’s great on both ends of the floor. He’s a great rebounder and a great scorer. You know that you can expect a double-double from him. I would kind of classify them as the cornerstones of Long Island’s success this season.
After appearing in the past two NBA G League Finals and capturing one championship, the Raptors 905 have maintained great success under first-year head coach Jama Mahlalela. The 905 have won at least 29 games the past three seasons, while seeing two players called up to the Association this season.
Under first year head coach Jama Mahlalela, how have the Raptors 905 maintained one of the best records in the G League and clinched their third postseason berth? With two-way players usually being the stars on the team, how have the two-way players made an impact on the team’s success this season?
Towards the first few months of the season, their success was largely due to the play of Chris Boucher and to a lesser extent Jordan Loyd. For Boucher, he honestly looked like the G League’s version of Giannis Antetokounmpo with how he was able to easily rack up points through his work in transition, on-ball drives, block shots and snag a bunch of offensive boards. After Boucher signed a standard deal with Toronto and started to spend more time with the big league club, Jordan Loyd really stepped up as that real offensive leader and honestly stands out as one of the favorites for MVP. Alongside that, Jama Mahlalela has done an excellent job of bringing in newcomers like Wade Baldwin, Jordan Howard, Josh Adams and Derek Cooke and immediately finding ways to have them become crucial parts to the team’s rotation.
Jordan Loyd has spent time with Toronto this season, along with Chris Boucher’s two-way contract being converted and Malcolm Miller’s call-up. How important has the depth of the team been this season?
Depth has definitely been a big part behind the 905 having sustained success in an extremely competitive Eastern Conference. Like you mentioned in the question, both Boucher and Miller have spent the majority of the past few months at the NBA level which has left Jordan Loyd as the main go-to guy on offense. Thankfully, the 905’s front office has done a really great job of bringing in guards like Wade Baldwin, Jordan Howard and Josh Adams who have all shown that they can be explosive on the G League level.
Of course, that explosiveness has helped by the fact that head coach Jama Mahlalela has done an amazing job of allowing them to have them fit into their own role on the offensive end while pushing that trio to play that trademark 905 defense that fans have loved and opposing offenses have feared. That added depth is also in the front-court as the likes of Mikyle McIntosh and Derek Cooke Jr. have both made a positive impact on the team with their work on the offensive glass.