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Four G League Alums That Are Shining In The NBA Bubble

Dakota Schmidt writes about the four G League alums that have been impressing in the NBA bubble

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Bryant - Washington Wizards

Due to the absence of All-Star guard Bradley Beal, the Wizards entered the Disney World bubble needing for another player or two to step up and do their best to fill the huge hole. While they haven’t yet been able to win a game in Orlando, that shouldn’t be blamed on former South Bay Lakers big Thomas Bryant. In five games, he’s averaged 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.2 blocks on 53% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. The peak of that came on August 2nd where he put up 30 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks on 12-20 from the field, 4-6 from 3, and 2-3 from the free throw line in a game against Brooklyn.

Those numbers just barely exceed his performance of his play in the G League during the 2017-18 season where he put up 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 blocks on 60% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc on 5 attempts per game in 37 games with South Bay. Those tremendous numbers allowed him to join current NBA players Quinn Cook and Georges Niang on the All-NBA G League 1st Team

Duncan Robinson - Miami Heat

After a solid three-year run with the University of Michigan, which included getting named to Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year in 2018, Robinson didn’t get selected in that year’s draft. However, the sharpshooter didn’t have to wait long to find out his NBA path as the Miami Heat signed him to a two-way deal on July 10th. Due to the restrictions of that contract, he spent most of his rookie season in the G League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Fortunately, he immediately stood out as one of the most impressive rookies in the G League through averaging 21.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3 assists on 51% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc on 9.8 attempts per game. At the end of that impressive G League season, the Heat awarded Robinson by transforming his two-way deal into a full 3 year/3.1 million dollar guaranteed contract.

One year after that signing, Robinson has been able to show the world that the Heat got him for an absolute bargain. That’s been most evident since he’s made his way towards Orlando as he’s averaging 15.5 points and 2 rebounds on 51% from the field and 45% from 3 on 7.8 attempts per game. Those numbers have allowed him to maintain a jaw-dropping 75% True Shooting Percentages during his four games in the bubble.

Cameron Payne - Phoenix Suns

At the start of the calendar year, Payne was in the midst of an uncertain period of his basketball career. After getting waived by the Toronto Raptors at the end of training camp, he made his way to China to play for the Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Unfortunately that run came to an end after just two games as he was replaced on January 2nd. A few weeks after his departure from Shanxi, the veteran guard made his way back to the United States to sign a contract with the G league, and then get picked off waivers by the Texas Legends.

As we’d quickly find out, that decision to give the G League a shot might’ve been a shot in the arm that his career needed. Because in fifteen games with the Legends, Payne played the best basketball since his time with Murray State as he averaged 23.2 points, 7.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals on 49% from the field and 37% from 3 on 7.6 attempts per game. That tremendous run with headlined by a phenomenal 43 point, 2 assist, and 3 steal on 7-24 from the field, 6-10 from 3 and 2-3 from the FT line performance in a February 8th game against the Iowa Wolves.

As we all know, COVID-19 put the G league season to a premature end on March 11th. Although that ended Payne’s run with the Texas Legends, his 2019-20 season would continue as the Phoenix Suns signed him to a contract before the NBA world made their trek to Orlando. Although that move was originally overlooked due to the Suns’ minuscule playoff chances, it’s paid off for both parties.

In four games, which have all been won by Phoenix, the Murray State alum has averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.2 steals on 55% from the field and 53% from 3 on 3.8 attempts per game. Payne’s play within the team’s 2nd unit has been a contributing factor behind the team currently sitting just one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the 9th seed in the Western Conference which would vault them into a play-in tournament.

Trey Burke - Dallas Mavericks

If there were a pair of footsteps for Mr. Payne to follow when it comes to using the G League to return to the NBA, it would definitely be Trey Burke. Selected with the 9th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Timberwolves before getting traded on that night to Utah, Burke struggled with inconsistent shooting during his three years with the team. Following a stint with the Washington Wizards, where he only played 12 minutes per game, the Wizards waived him when the 2017 NBA offseason began.

Although he was able to sign a training camp deal with the Knicks, the team quickly waived him so that he could be an affiliate player for Westchester. At that level, Burke looked like an absolute superstar as he averaged 26.6 points, 5.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 2 steals on 49% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc on 6.3 attempts per game. That run included him getting named as the league’s Player of the Month in December.

Shortly after receiving that award, the Knicks decided to offer Burke a guaranteed deal on January 14th. From that point until the end of the season, the young guard stood as a pretty solid role player for the rebuilding squad through averaging 12.8 points, and 4.7 assists on 50% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc.

While he hasn’t been able to recapture that efficiency, Burke has been able to remain in the NBA playing for the 76ers and Dallas after leaving the Knicks in the middle of the 2018-19 campaign. In his second stint with Dallas or vethe last two years, the veteran has been a fun but inconsistent guard. The entertaining part came on July 31st where he put up 31 points and 6 assists on 11-16 from the field, 8-10 from 3, and 1-2 from the FT line for Dallas in their loss to the Rockets.