Note: This piece is the 2nd part of an ongoing series breaking down players from different backgrounds that could receive two-way deals this off-season. Click this link if you want to read the first part.
Christ Koumadje - Delaware Blue Coats: 11.3 points, 11 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks on 63% from the field in 24 minutes per game
Heading into the 2019-20 G League season, there was a lot of attention on one particular giant that was ready to make his pro career: Tacko Fall. After a solid four-year career with UCF, the 7’6 big was signed to a two-way deal by the Boston Celtics where he immediately became the center of attention in Vegas Summer League and on various social media networks.
However when the G League started, there was another very tall rookie that was able to shine in G League play. That player was Florida State alum Christ Koumadje, who was able to immediately stand as one of the league’s best young bigs through his ability to shine on both ends of the court. On defense, he effectively used a long 7’4 frame along with quick feet to average a league-best 4 blocks per game. Another way to show his impact as a defender is seen with how opponents are a little more than seven points per 100 possessions worse against the Blue Coats when he’s on the court (101.8 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the sidelines (109 points per 100).
Moving to the other end of the court, the big was able to make an impact through being a solid roll man that can also snag offensive rebounds. In regards to the first skill, he was an amazing target for Xavier Munford or Justin Robinson through being a 7’4 big with quick feet and soft hands. Meanwhile, Koumadje snagged 5.2 offensive boards per game which placed him 10th in the G League.
While the way that basketball is currently played makes giants like Koumadje into less valuable assets, his ability to effectively protect the rim, roll to the rim, and snag offensive boards allows the 23-year-old to be an intriguing prospect and someone that has a chance to sign a two-way deal during the off-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
As the lone finalist for our Rookie of the Year award that doesn’t have a two-way deal, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Lamar Peters as one of the featured players in this series. Because after a forgettable rookie year with Mississippi State, the 6-foot guard progressed to the point where he stood out as one of the more entertaining players in the G League through being a fearless guard that could fly to the point or square up from well beyond the G League three-point line.
That willingness to do anything he desires on the court didn’t have a negative effect on his efficiency as the rookie maintained a 57% True Shooting Percentage and 2.1 Ast/TO ratio. His mix of volume and efficiency allowed him to be a positive part of Westchester’s offense. That’s shown by how the team was eight points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court (110.4 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the bench (102.2 points per 100).
Although the Knicks recently decided to pick up two-way player Jared Harper over Peters, I’m still confident that a team recognizes the level of production that he put up during his rookie year and sign him to a two-way deal.
Shaq Buchanan - Memphis Hustle: 11.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1 steal on 47% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 3.1 attempts per game
Before a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic put a premature end to the 2019-20 G League season, Memphis Hustle guard Shaq Buchanan stood out as one of the hottest players in the league. In his last 10 games with the Hustle, the Murray State alum averaged 20.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals on 49% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 6.3 attempts per game. Those type of numbers become more impressive when you recognize that the guard maintained a 59% True Shooting Percentage during that stretch.
Buchanan’s fantastic end to the season is remarkable when you look at how he started it. During the first two months, he was able to create a crease in the chair that he was sitting in as he only played 11 minutes per game during the first two months of the G League season. However, that would change during the remainder of the year through the Cavs signing Matt Mooney to a two-way and Josh Jackson getting promoted to the Grizzlies rotation.
While his strong play late in the season may be overlooked through small sample size, the the versatile skillset that he exhibited during that stretch should be enough for a team to look to sign him to a two-way deal to see if Buchanan is the real deal.
Armoni Brooks - College Park Skyhawks: 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists on 45% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc on 5.6 attempts per game
Sticking with guards that impressed during their rookie years, the former University of Houston standout was one of the surprise prospects during the 2019-20 G League season. That statement was how he was able to immediately become comfortable with the pace and high level of competition of the new league. Although he wasn’t able to overcome the veteran duo of Cat Barber and Jordan Sibert to become a starter, that shouldn’t be looked at as a negative mark on Armoni’s rookie year.
In fact, the young guard was able to quickly establish himself as a premier 2nd unit weapon that you can rely upon to hit three-pointers when he’s working off-the dribble and catch-and shoot. That knack as a shooter combined with his solid work as a defender allowed him to stand as a well-rounded prospect for a mediocre Skyhawks team.
Following the end of the G League season, Brooks found the next step in his professional career by signing with the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL). Although he’s currently signed with that squad, the guard will be able to get signed to an NBA deal as the CEBL’s season will end well before the estimated starting point of the 2020-21 NBA season.
Marques Bolden - Canton Charge: 9.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game on 60% from the field
After looking at three straight rookie guards, let’s return to the front-court by examining Charge rookie big Marques Bolden. Because of the presence of Cavaliers two-way rookie Dean Wade, the Duke alum’s playing time was limited during his rookie year as he only played 19 minutes per game. Despite not being on the court as much as he probably wanted to, the rookie was able to show promise as a big that can impress on both ends of the court.
On the offensive end, the 6’11 center did a great job in his role as a retro big that did most of his work inside the paint. Whether it was posting up on the left block, snagging 4.8 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes, or rolling to the basket, the rookie was able to effectively show the skills that allowed him to be a five-star prospect in the high school class of 2016.
Moving onto the other end of the court, the rookie did a great job in his role as a rim protector on a team that finished out the year with one of the best defenses in the G League. Part of his success on this end is shown by how he blocked 2.9 shots per 36 minutes during his rookie year.
Although Bolden still needs to evolve his offense so that he can work outside of the paint, his performance for Canton was definitely a good bench mark that the 22-year-old center can use to continue progressing as a player. Given the fact that he was signed to a 10-day deal in January. it would make sense to see him as a prospect on the edge of the NBA that still needs more reps to grow as a player. That development could possibly come as a two-way prospect.