Lamar Peters - Westchester Knicks
As someone that didn’t get a chance to watch him play with Mississippi State and wasn’t impressed by his statistics, I overlooked Peters when he was assigned to Westchester in late October. However, the 6-foot guard was able to quickly make me look like an absolute fool with how he was immediately able to shine as one of the best offensive weapons in the league. That label came from how he was an electrifying guard that was able to catch fire from 3 and be a fantastic facilitator.
His success in those areas was seen from him averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 42% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 9 attempts per game. He’s the only player to average at least at least 15 points and 6 assists on 39% from 3 to have never been on an NBA deal. That level of three-point efficiency is remarkable when he watch film and see the range that he was comfortable shooting from during his rookie year.
The rookie’s mix of excellent shooting and phenomenal passing allowed him to be a huge asset for a below-average Westchester team. Per 100 possessions, the Knicks were eight points better when he was on the court (110.4 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines (102.2 points per 100).
Josh Reaves - Texas Legends
While I unfortunately overlooked Lamar Peters prior to the 2019-20 season, 6’5 guard Josh Reaves is one player that immediately caught my eye. That immediate interest came after watching film of him playing amazing defense with Penn State where he both stood as a lockdown defender and can go into the passing lanes. Those traits allowed him to average 2.5 steals per game during the 2019-20 season where he was also named as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Although that great defense didn’t lead to him getting selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, the rookie didn’t have to wait long to find out his NBA fate as the Dallas Mavericks signed the guard to a two-way deal on July 29th.
Sending most of his rookie year with the Texas Legends, Reaves was essentially able to replicate that defensive success at the G League level. Along with averaging 2 steals per game, his impact on that end is shown by how opponents did offensively when the guard was on the court (107.3 points per 100) compared to when he was either sitting on the sidelines or with the Mavericks (110.9 points per 100).
Donta Hall - Grand Rapids Drive
Following a solid four-year run with Alabama which included two appearances on the SEC All-Defensive Team, the 6’9 big made his way to the Grand Rapids Drive after a brief training camp stint with Detroit. With that team, he was able to quickly establish himself as one of the best young front-court players that wasn’t on an NBA deal. While that may seem like high praise, it makes sense when you look at his numbers where he averaged 15.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1 steal and 1 assist per game on 67% from the field for Grand Rapids.
That quick success was due to Hall being a quick and athletic 6’9 player that also outworked the nine other players he was on the floor with. When you watch clips of him, his energy becomes immediately apparent whether that’s when he’s fighting for offensive rebounds or speeding up the court in transition before going up for a huge alley-oop.
Tyler Ennis - Raptors 905
After suffering a gruesome injury in the fall of 2018 during a game with Fenerbahce, there was a lot of curiosity about how he would look after spending a full year recovering and rehabbing. While that rehabilitation definitely continued into the start of the season, the Syracuse alum eventually looked like the player that Phoenix took with the 18th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
That stretch came in the later stages of the season where the veteran guard mixed tremendous efficiency, defensive tenacity, and new-found perimeter efficiency to be one of the hottest players in the league. In his last 10 games, Ennis averaged 18.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals on 48% from the field and 39% from 3 on 4.9 attempts per game.
Considering the struggles he went through during the prior 18 months, watching him play at that level was amazing to see. However, thinking back to that period actually gets a bit depressing as there was this feeling that he would’ve received a call-up if sports didn’t stop due to a horrifying global pandemic.