In the opening sentences of the “Ridiculous Upside’s 2019-20 G League Rookie of the Year Finalists” piece, I explained how it was really difficult to trim the list of fantastic first-year G League talent to just six. At that time, I didn’t realize how the level of difficulty would increase when it came to the task of picking just one player from that list and naming them as the site’s pick for G League Rookie of the Year.
Since publishing the list of G League MVP finalists on Thursday evening, there have been two names rolling around in my head as the best players to win this award: Jarrell Brantley and Devontae Cacok. Choosing those two players from that bunch makes a lot of sense when you see what those players were able to do during their first years as pros.
For Brantley, the two-way forward signed by the Jazz after an excellent career with the College of Charleston was a fantastic G Leaguer from the moment he first stepped on the court. In every 33 games that he played, Brantley stood as the epitome of reliability through being a versatile defender and a point forward that can score in multiple ways while also being able to work as a facilitator.
Those factors allowed him to average 18.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals on 52% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc on 4.8 attempts per game. With those great statistics, he was able to lead the 30-12 Salt Lake City Stars in both points and rebounds. Brantley’s status as the offensive leader of a fantastic G League squad seems to be a pretty damn good reason for him to be a finalist for both MVP and Rookie of the Year.
Although those factors are why I was honestly leading towards picking Brantley, the other competitor in this battle that was occurring in my mind had too great of a season to overlook.
During his rookie year with the South Bay Lakers, Lakers two-way forward was spectacular as he averaged 19.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals on 66% from the field in only 24 minutes per game. Obviously, those statistics look good when you look at it from the perspective of per-36 minutes where he averaged 29.3 points and 18 rebounds. Cacok’s rookie year continues to look great when you look at advanced statistics as the 6’7 forward maintained a 70% True Shooting Percentage while maintaining a 21.8% True Rebounding Percentage, which stands second in G League history behind former AC Clippers big Angel Delgado.
Although Cacok receivers the silver medal as an all-time G League rebounder, he had the type of season that we’ve rarely seen in pro basketball. To put his brilliance in perspective, there’s only two players in NBA history that was able to average at least 25 points and 14 rebounds per 36 minutes while maintaining a 60% True Shooting Percentage: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970-71 and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2019-20. The fact that Cacok had a rookie year in a pro league that was only matched by two MVP’s is something that’s absolutely unbelievable.
So although he struggled with foul trouble that was bad enough to limit his minutes and was on a below-average South Bay team, Devontae Cacok’s historic 2019-20 campaign is enough to have him be Ridiculous Upside’s pick for G League Rookie of the Year.