Once you reach the highest level of basketball, in this case, the NBA, everybody is able to score. The majority of players in the league all have experience in high school, college, or both in being the offensive focal point of a team. In order to truly stand out, players need to be able to do more than just score.
The G League is filled with players who were all top scorers at one point in time; many of them with aspirations of playing in the NBA. For those that do make it to the next level, it’s unlikely that they’ll be asked to replicate their offensive prowess. Instead, they’ll likely be asked to fill a niche role possibly outside of the realm of scoring.
One player who brings a lot to the table outside of scoring is Donta Hall. Hall is in his rookie season with the Grand Rapids Drive, the affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. He went undrafted this past summer in the NBA draft after completing a four-year college career at Alabama.
Hall wasn’t known as much of a scorer while in college. He averaged 10.5 points per game as a senior and 7.5 points per game overall at Alabama. But where he was able to make his mark was on the glass and on the defensive end of the court.
“I bring a lot of energy,” Hall told Ridiculous Upside. “That’s running up and down the floor, blocking shots, dunking the ball around the rim, getting rebounds, just having fun with the game.”
Hall’s main strength lies in his ability to be a defensive anchor in the paint. He is a talented shot-blocker who is very mobile and can cover a lot of ground quickly on the defensive end. He blossomed into an elite defender his last couple of years at Alabama when he was named to the SEC All-Defensive team as a junior and senior.
He averaged 1.7 blocks per game throughout his four-year college career, and that skill has translated over to the pro level. Through 30 games this season with Grand Rapids, he’s averaging 1.4 blocks per game. It’s his ability to do everything else that he believes is his main strength. It’s what will get him looks from NBA teams.
“Offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, guarding the post, situations like that,” Hall said. “It’s doing my work early, that’s what I do. Rebounding the ball on the offensive end and running out in transition.”
Hall’s strength as a rebounder has also translated to the pro game. He suited up with the Pistons summer league team in Las Vegas, his first experience against pro players. His defensive energy was on display with 2.2 blocks per game, but he averaged nearly as many rebounds (5.4) as points (6.0).
He’s started in all but one game for the Drive this season, and he’s pulling down 10.2 rebounds per game, 4.0 on the offensive end. Although he wasn’t known as being a scorer, he is a capable and efficient one if need be. He’s averaging 15.1 points per game on 65.2 percent shooting from the field by being able to secure second shot opportunities and finishing strong at the rim.
Now having experienced the G League for the first time, he’s been impressed with the level of competition. He believes the league will certainly help with his development and help him prepare for his ultimate goal of the NBA.
“It’s great competition at this level, getting ready for the next level up or overseas. It’s all just hooping,” Hall said. “Everybody’s going to compete, everybody you’re matched up against is going to give you their best. You have to give them your best, push each other.”
After his strong showing in summer league, Hall was invited to Pistons training camp this fall. He signed an Exhibit 10 contract, enabling him to join the Drive if he didn’t make Detroit’s final roster. He ended up being one the final cuts of the preseason and he immediately joined Grand Rapids.
While he was in camp, the Pistons had a plethora of big men for him to learn from. He made sure that he soaked up as much as he could from them. He wanted to take away as much as possible in terms of being a productive big man in the NBA.
“I loved it, being around Dray [Drummond], Blake [Griffin], Christian Wood, just playing under those guys and learning the ropes,” Hall said. “Learning what being an NBA player and a big man is all about.”
Hall probably needs a little bit more seasoning in the G League, but there’s no question that his defensive and rebounding abilities are elite for this level. Another go-round in summer league and another training camp invitation, and it’s not too far-fetched to picture him on an NBA roster for the 2020-21 season.
For now, though, Hall is keeping his mind focused on this season with Grand Rapids. He’s using each day to grow and improve as a basketball player as best as he can.
“Just keep working on my craft and show what I’m here for,” Hall said. “I’m trying to get my mind stronger on and off the court. Keep my energy high and my physicality high, and just keep being me.”