As hard as it might be to believe, we’re just three weeks away from NBA free agency beginning on June 30th. AT that point, the basketball world will start to figure out where All-Star talent like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker or Jimmy Butler will play during the 2019-20 season and beyond. While a lot of focus will be on a certain set of superstars, teams across the NBA will look at other ways to improve their team. One of those methods will be through signing younger players on two-way deals with the hopes of them turning into a diamond in the rough like Danuel House or Tyrone Wallace.
One thing that those two current NBA players have in common was that they started their professional careers in the G League. Within that league, the duo was able to showcase that they can produce against high-quality professional competition. Especially for younger pros, that singular ability is intriguing to teams as they’ll realize that they stack up well against solid G League competition while still having potential to grow as players.
Over the course of the next few days/weeks, we’re going to look at the twenty G Leaguers from the 2018-19 season that have a realistic chance of receiving two-way deals this summer. To clarify, this list is in no particular order so there will be no take on what prospect is a superior two-way candidate to another G Leaguer. The only qualification to make this list is that they’re not currently with an NBA team which means that you won’t be seeing Kendrick Nunn, Isaac Humphries and BJ Johnson, who were all late season call-ups.
Dusty Hannahs: Memphis Hustle
14.5 points, 1.4 assists on 48% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 4.2 attempts per game.
During the 2017-18 season, former Arkansas guard Dusty Hannahs shined on one of the lone bright spots on an expansion Hustle squad that finished the year at 21-29. That claim is backed up by him shining as a fantastic perimeter threat that put up 9.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 42% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts per game.
While he shined as arguably the best perimeter weapon in the league during that season, the young guard was still focused on improving himself to get to that next level in his game. That tremendous focus was evident from the moment the 2018-19 campaign started as Hannahs’ progression as an offensive threat was immediately shown.
In addition to his stellar perimeter shooting, which allowed him to hit 41% from three on 4.2 attempts per game, the 6’3 guard shined as a pretty solid on-ball driver that can finish at the rim with either hand. Despite being a little undersized at 6’3, that quality allowed him to be a decent finisher as he hit 59% on his shots from within the restricted area.
That growth as an on-ball driver combined with his already solid perimeter shooting allowed him to average a career-high 14.5 points on 48% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 4.2 attempts per game. Those shooting percentages allowed him to maintain a 60% True Shooting Percentage.
Hannahs’ ability to add great on-ball driving with fantastic perimeter shooting pushed Hannahs to be one of the offensive leaders for a Hustle team that made it to the G League Playoffs. That progression and ability to help lead a playoff team are two reasons why a team may decide to sign him to a two-way deal. Because honestly, Hannahs has upside to be a 2nd unit player that can come in for 10-15 minutes per night to nail 3’s and drive past a closing guard.
Jordan McLaughlin - Long Island Nets
15 points, 4.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals on 42% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc on 6.1 attempts per game.
Although they ended the 2018-19 season just one win away from being G League champions, the Long Island Nets still stood out as arguably the league’s most talented team. That statement is backed up by the simple fact that the main roster featured four players (Alan Williams, Mitch Creek, Tahjere McCall and Theo Pinson) that played at least one game in the NBA. In addition to that quartet, Brooklyn rookie Dzanan Musa played 36 games with Long Island, where he showed a ton of upside as a do-it-all offensive forward.
While all of those players were incredibly solid with Long Island, it would be wrong to overlook what guard Jordan McLaughlin did during his rookie season. From the jump, he shined due to his ability to immediately develop chemistry with McCall and Shannon Scott to create arguably the finest perimeter defenses in the G League. McLaughlin’s role within that unit was working as a ballhawk as he snagged 1.6 steals per game.
In addition to his solid defensive play, McLaughlin did a great job within his role as a 6’1 slashing point guard. For one, he did a good job of sharing the facilitating duties with Pinson, as the USC alum averaged 4.6 assists with a very solid 2.6 Ast/TO ratio. Despite his smaller frame, he was able to use a great first step, slick handles and change of speed moves as the ingredients to be a fantastic on-ball driver. Being able to finish with his left and right hand, he shot 58% from within the restricted area during his rookie year.
While that trifecta of skills were already in his arsenal dating back to his time at USC, McLaughlin used his rookie year with Long Island to improve as a perimeter shooter. That development was seen over the course of 2018-19 as he shot 31% from beyond the arc on 7.2 attempts per game during from opening night to New Year’s Day. From that point until the end of the year, the Nets guard shot an above-average 36% from beyond the arc on 5.2 attempts per game.
That progression as a perimeter shooter has established McLaughlin as a well-rounded offensive threat that can also impress on the other end of the floor. Considering the fact that he’ll only be 23-years-old during the entire 2019-20 season, it would be smart for an NBA organization to sign him to a two-way deal with the idea of continuing to allow him to progress in the G League with the ultimate goal of McLaughlin becoming a second unit point guard.
Johnny Hamilton - Grand Rapids Drive
11.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.4 blocks on 58% from the field in 24 minutes per game
In his rookie year with the Grand Rapids Drive, UTA alum Johnny Hamilton was placed into a center platoon with G League veteran Adam Woodbury. That role definitely made sense as Woodbury was coming off a solid rookie year with the Reno BigHorns while Hamilton only had one post-high school season where he played more than a total of 200 minutes.
Despite that smaller position within the Drive’s rotation, Hamilton was still able to shine as one of the G League’s best front-court players. In 24 minutes per game, he averaged 11.2 points, 8.6 rebonds, 1.3 assists and 2.4 blocks on 58% from the field. From an offensive perspective, the 7-footer made his mark through being an alley-oop target and rebounder. HIs knack as a lob threat is due to his incredibly soft hands and excellent hops. With that other skill, Hamilton was fantastic as he snagged 3.8 offensive rebounds per game.
As a strong, quick and athletic 7-foot, 240 pound big, Hamilton was able to establish himself as one of the G League’s best front-court prospects through being a lob threat that can also snag a bunch of offensive boards. While the 25-year-old big might be close to reaching his upside, Hamilton currently has the frame, mobility and skill set to be a team’s Malt-O-Meal version of Clippers-era DeAndre Jordan. That kind of player could definitely be worthy to receive a two-way deal from a team looking for some front-court depth.
Aaron Epps - Northern Arizona Suns
10.3 points and 6.6 rebounds on 50% from field and 37% from beyond the arc on 4 attempts per game.
While Johnny Hamilton is more of a retro front-court player that does his damage inside the paint, 6’10 forward Aaron Epps filled the opposite position during his rookie year. WIth the Northern Arizona Suns, he was arguably the league’s best stretch 4 as the LSU alum averaged 10.3 points and 6.6 rebounds on 50% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 4 attempts in 24 minutes per game. His knack as a perimeter threat is due to incredibly awkward shooting stroke. Despite the awkwardness, the shot still works as it’s quick and has a high release point
In addition to being a solid perimeter shooter, the 6’10 forward can also contribute as a rollman, posting up on the right block and snagging offensive boards. Among that trio, his work as a rebounder is definitely his best trait as Epps averaged 3.6 offensive boards per 40 minutes during his rookie season. A combination of solid athleticism and ability to recognize where the ball is going to end up after it bounces off the rim were the keys behind that success.
As a 6’10 forward that can shine as an effective perimeter shooter, solid roll man and decent offensive rebounder, Epps definitely has the offensive tolls that makes him a perfect fit for the modern-day NBA. However, his work on the other end of the court is definitely a question mark as he only averaged 1.8 blocks per 100 possessions, which puts him towards the end of the line among players that are 6’10 or taller. While he may struggle on the defensive end, versatile play on offense allows Epps to be a solid two-way candidate.
John Gillon - Erie BayHawks/Greensboro Swarm
13.4 points, 6 assists, 2.7 rebounds on 43% from field and 37% from beyond the arc on 4.1 attempts per game.
Over the past two seasons, Syracuse alum John Gillon has stood as one of the more underutilized guards in the G League. That label comes from the fact that he’s been able to put up fantastic numbers on most of the teams that he’s been with, but has been mostly relegated to a role as a team’s 6th man or 1st guard off the bench. That fact is exemplified by him only starting in 40 of the 79 games that he’s stepped on the court for during his career.
Despite having a limited role, he’s still been able to stand as one of the more reliable offensive guards in the G League. Last year when he played for both the Erie BayHawks and Greensboro Swarm, he showed that fact by averaging 13.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 6 assists on 42% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 4.1 attempts in 29 minutes per game. Those solid averages combined with him shooting 88% from the free throw line were the keys behind him Gillon maintaining a 61% True Shooting Percentage.
The efficiency persists when we move over to his work as a facilitating. Averaging a career-high six assists per game, Gillon maintained an incredibly solid 2.3 Ast/TO during his time with both Erie and Greensboro. That efficiency becomes impressive when you watch his film and realizes that a lot of his assists come from when he’s working in the drive-and-kick, which can be a dangerous, turnover causing play for a lot of young facilitators.
After a solid sophomore season in the G League where he remained consistent no matter if he was a Swarm or BayHawk, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to think that a team could use a two-way contract on this guard. Because while he may be undersized as a 6-foot guard, the G League veteran has been able to counteract that through being an efficient all-around scorer and facilitating at a high rate. Those two traits are definitely a good reason as to why John Gillon should be a two-way candidate this summer.