On Thursday, we posted a piece breaking down why five-star prospect RJ Hampton’s choice to play in Australia rather than the G League was a sign that the NBA’s little brother needed to make adjustments to their Professional Path program. The article provides more detail, the main premise lies behind the allocation process that assigns prospects to individual G League teams gives little freedom to the players and is mired in mystery.
Despite the Hampton story that could be considered an indictment on the league itself, it’s actually fair to say that the G League had a pretty good week.
In regards to their future, that comes from the tremendous amount of underclassmen that decided to stay in the NBA Draft after the early-entry deadline passed on Wednesday, May 29th. As pointed out in a great piece from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, a record-high 86 underclassmen have decided to remain in the NBA Draft pool ahead of next month’s event. That high number continues a recent trend that’s been going on over the past few years. 59 underclassmen remained in 2016, 64 in 2017 and 79 in 2019
With only 60 draft spots available, it would seem like many of this year’s 86 underclassmen that decided to stay in the draft made a mistake. Because when you factor in elite seniors (i.e Cam Johnson, Dylan Windler, Matisse Thybulle) or international players (Sekou Doumbouya and Goga Bitadze) that will also likely get selected, those potential opportunities seem like slim pickings.
While the unchosen few may feel some initial disappointment, they still have plenty of reasons to remain optimistic after the 60th overall pick is called out. Because right now, there’s more hope than ever for those undrafted players to keep their NBA hopes alive. That reinvigorate optimism comes from the opportunity for them to make good money from either signing a two-way or an Exhibit 10 deal or remain one step from the NBA by playing in the G League.
In the 2019-20 season, those players who sign two-ways and spend all year in the G League will make up to $79,568. Obviously, that amount will grow if they spend time in the NBA by receiving the league minimum in the up to 45 days they’re with their big league squad. Players that sign Exhibit 10 deals receive a bonus ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 if they sign a G League deal after being waived, get assigned to that team’s affiliate and then remain there for up to 60 days. In addition to receiving that bonus, those players will also receive the standard G League salary of $35,000. That means, they’ll make $85,000 for a full season even if they don’t spend a second in the NBA.
Just three years ago, the presence of two-ways, Exhibit 10’s or even G Leaguers receiving $35,000 during the season wasn’t a reality. These added benefits allow the players who decide to leave school to finally make decent money playing professionally in the G League without having to travel across the globe to play overseas. It’s likely these recent developments have influenced so many underclassmen to turn pro despite not having much of a chance to get drafted.
For the G League itself, the increased number of underclassmen entering the draft pool - and therefore the number of those expected to sign those aforementioned deals - will be a huge boost for the league. Just a few months prior to this, many of these prospects stood out as all-conference talent in the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, ACC or Pac 12. That influx of high-level, well-known talent will do wonders to the quality of competition that you see on a game-by-game basis.
Another way that the increased level of solid underclassmen would help the G League is through drawing eyeballs. Whether it’s from diehard NBA fans looking for that next diamond in the rough or folks that are looking for more quality basketball to watch during the winter, this direction should only bring more attention to the league. That added attention could pay huge dividends in the future as broadcast companies, whether they’re online or cable, will be more willing to put G League games on the air as they’ll recognize the growing fanbase.
While the jury will remain out about the league’s popularity will evolve in 2019-20 and beyond, it’s clear that increased amount of underclassmen entering the draft pool is a good sign for the G League’s future.
From the perspective of the players, it’s clear that a lot of these guys are very comfortable with entering this process knowing that it’s likelier that they’re going to spend their rookie year in the G League, whether it’s on a two-way, Exhibit 10 or just a standard league contract. Players having that point of view is a sign that the league itself is becoming a more attractive place to play as there are more opportunities to get good money.
When it comes to the G League itself, the influx of talented underclassmen will make the G League a more attractive product for multiple reasons. For one, these type of young players will play alongside/against NBA alums, G League vets, assignees and international standouts to create a unique and diverse talent pool that will be fun to watch on a night-by-night basis. Even if fans aren’t interested in diverse types of players, they can watch it from the perspective of seeing which of these young prospects could help their favorite NBA team through getting signed to a 10-day or two-way.
No matter how the 2019-20 season shakes out, these examples make it clear that future of the G League is extremely bright and something that any basketball fan should keep an eye on.