Dusty Hannahs - Memphis Hustle: 21.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on 47% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc
After a strong two-year run with the Arkansas Razorbacks, where he was able to place 10th on the school’s All-Time made 3-point leaders list, Hannahs started his pro career as a tryout player for the Memphis Hustle. Despite initially being an overlook part of the team’s roster, the guard’s perimeter prowess allowed him to be an integral member of the expansion squad. During his rookie year, he put up 9.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists on 42% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc on 44% from beyond the arc on 3.8 attempts in 21 minutes per game.
That solid rookie campaign served as a solid base for the 6’3 sharpshooter as his role with the team and statistics grew over the course of the next few years. His progression culminated during the 2019-19 season where he stood as the offensive leader of a Hustle team that finished the pandemic-shortened season with a franchise-best 26-15 record that allowed them to finish 2nd in the Western Conference.
Along with tremendous efficiency that allowed him to maintain a 63% True Shooting Percentage, the guard’s production ended up being a tremendous benefit for the team’s offense. Per 100 possessions, the Hustle’s offense was 10 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court (116.3 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines or with the Grizzlies (106 points per 100).
Jaylen Adams - Wisconsin Herd: 21.5 points, 5.4 assists, 5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals on 49% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 6.6 attempts per game
As Adams was featured as a finalist for both Most Improved and Defensive Player of the Year, there isn’t much left to be said about how great he was during the 2019-20 season. However, one quantifier that wasn’t mentioned in those prior two pieces deals with how the Herd were almost four points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court (111.4 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines (107.7 points per 100). That impact combined with his great work on the defensive end allows Adams to be a undeniable option for Most Valuable Player due to his work as the leader of the tremendous Wisconsin Herd.
Levi Randolph - Canton Charge: 16.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals on 49% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc on 5.1 attempts per game
Compared to most of the other players on this list, Randolph’s statistics don’t necessarily jump off the page. However, Randolph played such an important role for the Charge’s run towards finishing the year with a 29-14 record that the team would be different and worse if he was with one of the other 27 G League teams.
An example of that is seen from how much better the Charge’s offense is when he’s in the game as they scored almost nine points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court (112.3 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the sidelines (103.6 points per 100). To put that in perspective, those 8.7 points per 100 would mark the difference between the team having the 3rd best offense in the league and the 2nd worst. While on the topic of on/off numbers, opposing teams are more than four points per 100 worse when our subject is on the court (105.9 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the bench (110.2 points per 100).
If you’re interested in learning about Randolph’s great on-court versatility, make sure to read this piece on the veteran wing from last December.
B.J. Johnson - Lakeland Magic: 22.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 2 steals on 46% from the field and 41% from 3 on 5.4 attempts per game
Before a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic marked an end to the season, BJ Johnson was in the midst of the best year of his young career with the Lakeland Magic. After a solid rookie year, the 2nd year player improved to the point where he stood as the premier 3-and-D wing in the entire G League. Along with solid percentages that allowed him to maintain a 60% True Shooting Percentage, Johnson also made a tremendous impact for Lakeland on the defensive end
One metric to show that is through on/off numbers as opposing teams were almost eight points per 100 possessions worse when he was on the court (103.9 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the sidelines (111.9 points per 100).
Johnson was able to make that type of impact through being a smart defender that shows great awareness and is able to guard multiple positions. An example of that is seen in the clip below as he goes from playing zone, to defending Vitto Brown in the paint, and then finishes with effectively preventing Josh Gray from being able to get to the rim.
Jarrell Brantley - Sal 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
No matter the sport or league, it would seem crazy to name a rookie as a favorite for Most Valuable Player of the Year. That’s mostly due to how those players are still not close to reaching their potential and aren’t familiar with the level of competition that they’re matching up against on a game-by-game basis. However, Utah Jazz two-way forward Jarrell Brantley stands out as a player that breaks away from that tradition.
The rookie’s status as a finalist largely comes from him being the premier scoring threat on a SLC Stars team that finished the year with a 30-12 record, which placed them 2nd in the entire G League. While the Stars stood as one of the best defenses, they definitely weren’t slouches on that other end of the court as they finished 10th in the league by averaging 109.9 points per 100 possessions. Along with great points per game numbers, Brantley’s impact is seen from how the team was almost three points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court (110.1 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines or with the Jazz (107.6 points per 100).
With those factors, it’s hard to argue against Jarrell Brantley being named as a finalist for MVP