Compared to other years, picking just six players to be finalists for Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 G League season was difficult. The amount of prospects that came out of the gate during their first years as pros and just shined was amazing to witness and something that I haven’t seen for a while. Whether it was Devontae Cacok standing as one of the best rebounders to step on a G League floor or Marial Shayok being one of the most reliable scorers, the rookie class during this past G League season had it all.
Despite the hours of thinking, examining statistics, and on/off numbers, I’ve trimmed the list of more a dozen rookies that were in the running to six players. Without further ado, here’s Ridiculous Upside’s finalists for G League Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season.
Lamar Peters - Westchester Knicks: 17.7 points, 7.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on 42% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 9 attempts per game
While Knicks two-way player Kenny Wooten was definitely in consideration to be among the finalists for G League Rookie of the Year, Peters gained the edge through playing more games (Peters played 32 while Wooten played 27) and progressing over the year to the point where he was Westchester’s top scoring threat at the end of the season. The Mississippi State alum being an incredibly dynamic offensive threat that has the speed to fly to the paint, can consistently hit shots from well beyond the arc, and really good court vision that allowed him to be one of the best passers in the G League.
With those tools, Peters stood out as one of the more entertaining players in the league because there was always a chance he’d do something awe-inspiring whenever the Knicks had the ball. Along with the excitement that he was able to bring, the young guard was also a bright spot on a fledgling Knicks team that finished the year at 17-24. His impact is shown by how the Knicks’ offense was eight points per 100 possessions 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).
Devontae Cacok - South Bay Lakers: 19.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals on 66% from the field in 24 minutes per game
Last season, Los Angeles rookie big Angel Delgado stood out like the brightest diamond in the G League for the Agua Caliente Clippers. In 33 games, he averaged 18.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game on 61% from the field. That ability to snag boards put him in a tier above other of the great missed shot snaggers in league history as his 21.9% Total Rebounding Percentage put him at the top in G League history. That tremendous ability was one of the key factors behind the league naming him as their Rookie of the Year for the 2018-19 season.
While I knew that the league would have great rebounders in the following season, my imagination didn’t think we’d see someone at the level of Delgado. However, that happened with a 6’7, 240 pound forward from UNC Wilmington. Despite being a few inches smaller than other men that he competed against in the paint, Cacok was able to overcome through the mix of athleticism, great awareness, and simply working harder than the competition. Those factors allowed the Lakers two-way forward to average 29.3 points and 18 rebounds on 66% from the field per 36 minutes.
Aside from tremendous rebounding, those incredible numbers were due to Cacok being an exciting offensive weapon that can be an alley-oop threat in transition or be able to take the ball to the rim by himself.
Marial Shayok - Delaware Blue Coats: 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on 46% from the field and 36% from 3 on 7.4 attempts per game.
As I recently explained in part #5 of the “Let’s Appreciate Some G Leaguers” series, Marial Shayok was able to stand as one of the best and more consistent scorers in the G League during his rookie year. From day one, the Iowa State standout played with the confidence of a more experienced player that had a year or two to get his feet wet against the better competition that you see in the league.
Shayok’s status as an elite scoring threat on a Blue Coats team that was in the thick in the playoff hunt is good enough reason to have him as one of the six players in the hunt for G League Rookie of the Year.
Zylan Cheatham - Erie BayHawks: 16.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 53% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 2.6 attempts per game.
While Devontae Cacok stood out as the rebounding king of the G League during the 2019-20 season, Cheatham was able to stand out as one of the lead princes that was closely behind that crown. Similar to the aforementioned South Bay man, the Pelicans two-way forward was able to stand out in the G League through being a dynamic rebounder that can also take action in his hands as an on-ball driving threat. Those skills were explained more in-depth in a glowing piece from February where despite his tremendous statistical output, the best is still yet to come for the 24-year-old forward.
Along with being an exciting player, Cheatham stood as one of the lone bright spots on a fledgling BayHawks team that finished the year with a 13-30 record. That fact is seen from Erie being eight points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court (108.5 points per 100) compared to when he’s either sitting on the sidelines or with the Peicans (99.7 points per 100).
Tremont Waters - Maine Red Claws: 18 points, 7.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2 steals on 43% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc on 7.1 attempts per game.
As is the case with Cheatham and Cacok, I wrote an extensive piece on Tremont Waters when the G League season was actually going on if you want to learn more about how he was as an all-around player for Maine. To keep it brief, the LSU alum was as a no doubt finalist due to being an extremely well-rounded point guard for a Maine Red Claws team that finished the year with a 28-14 record. The 5’11 guard’s impact is shown through the team being seven points better per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (112 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the bench (104.7 points per 100).
Jarrell Brantley - Salt Lake City Stars: 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals on 52% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts per game.
Similar to the mid 2000’s Detroit Pistons, the Salt Lake City Stars were able to stand as one of the best G League teams in the league through defense rather relying on a standout scoring threat. Rather than Jazz assignee Rayjon Tucker, who only played three games with the team, the Stars didn’t have a player that averaged 20 or more points per game. Their work as a collective unit allowed the team to finish the pandemic-shortened season with a 30-12 record, which placed them second in the G League behind the Wisconsin Herd.
Although every player on the roster was a factor behind their success, 6’7 rookie forward Jarrell Brantley was probably the closest thing to a lead plaer that a team like the Stars could have. Along with his solid base numbers, the College of Charleston alum’s impact is seen from how the team was almost six points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court (106.9 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines or with the Utah Jazz (101 points per 100).