Since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to the 2019-20 G League season on March 11th, the biggest news surrounding the league has to deal with the retooling of the professional path program. That restructuring, which has centered around improved salaries for players and a central hub in Walnut Creek, California, was enough to bring in potential 2021 NBA Draft lottery picks Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. If you want to learn more about the structure and possibilities of that team combined with more information on the prospects themselves, just scroll through the archives as there have been plenty of pieces that have been posted since Green made his announcement in April.
While it will be a few months until we can possibly see that team play its first game, the successful implementation of this idea and the addition of likely lottery picks represents a huge step in the G League’s path towards being a tremendous minor league hub for the NBA. Despite all of that positivity, the league shouldn’t just limit the Select Team concept to just elite high school talent. In fact, I believe that the G League should expand on this concept in the future with emphasis on young international talent.
“Now Dakota, the G League Select Team already has international players in Kai Sotto and Princepal Singh. Why should they make another team solely consisting of overseas talent?” Well that’s a great question imaginary person that might actually be out there reading this piece. The answer to that partly deals with the amount of intriguing young talent that surrounds the globe. I mean, that fact should evident to the average NBA fan when they see the likes of Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo shine as some of the brightest stars in the NBA bubble.
Obviously, those players were working on proving themselves on the overseas circuit before the NBA as Luka shined as a prodigy within Real Madrid’s system while Giannis was able to be discovered despite playing for Greece’s third division team. Although they’ve all reached their destination of the NBA and have been fantastic, that quartet took different paths where their crafts grew in vastly different situations.
For example, Doncic’s tutelage while with a Euroleague powerhouse allowed him to be more prepared for the NBA than Giannis. The variety of ways that overseas prospects develop is expanded when you add the differing NBA Academies or Basketball Without Borders camps and clinics to the table.
However, what if the uncertainty that comes with the differing infrastructures that the players are currently developed in was replaced by a set up that we’ll be seeing with the high school kids. With the prospects being based in one central location having a diverse coaching staff consisting of individuals that have international and/or NBA experience.
Honestly, a great example for the ideal head coach would be someone like current Zalgiris head coach Martin Schiller, who has more than a decade of experience working with European teams before spending three years in the United States with the SLC Stars. Having a coach that knows how European prospects develop would be good to ease that transition game while also giving them insight on the pace and rules of American hoops.
In addition to that, they could possibly prevent the need from hiring a interpreter if they’re capable of speaking multiple languages that include the native tongue of a certain prospect. Even if that’s the case, it would always be ideal to still have interpreters within the system as necessary to help the young men with getting acclimated to a climate where everyone around you speaks a different language.
A similar mindset would come with the addition of veterans that would work alongside the young international prospects. Along with adding veteran European players that might have coaching aspirations in the future, you could also bring in American-born players like Shane Larkin, Derrick Williams, or Alan Williams that have experience in both the NBA and top international leagues like Euroleague or Eurocup. In that scenario, those veterans will have some familiarity with European hoops while having insight into life as an NBA player.
With those mentors in place and being located in an area within the United States with a good infrastructure in place, they can be able focus on their games while also being able to become familiar with life in a new continent while not also having the pressures that comes with being an NBA rookie. Those combined tools would put each player in the best situation to grow their games and be prepared if/when they get selected in the NBA Draft.
If all of those tools work together and the prospects are able to make a smooth transition to the NBA from both an on and off court perspective, it would boost the G League when it comes to its status compared to other major basketball leagues outside of the NBA. Also, it might be beneficial for the European teams as developing prospects for other leagues isn’t their top priority due to the importance of every game they play in due the threat of relegation. Having one less young prospect also gives them room to add an experienced player to their rotation.
While this piece was of a brainstorming session more than anything else, and likely won’t happen for another few years due to logistics and the current threat of COVID-19, it’s definitely something that the league should give more thought to.