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Five Things That Have Caught My Eye During The First Few Days Of The G League Season

G League writer Dakota Schmidt gives his take on the five things that have caught his ye during the first few days of the G League season.

G League Ignite v Oklahoma City Blue Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Why Doesn’t Alize Johnson Have A Job With An NBA Team?

During his first two years as a pro when he was a member of the Indiana Pacers organization, Johnson both entertained and confused me during his frequent appearances with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The entertainment came from simply watching him play through being a dynamic 6’7 forward that moved his feet well on defense, pushed it up the court in transition, snag offensive rebounds, facilitate, and even hit the occasional perimeter jumper. Those factors were most evident during the 2019-20 campaign where he was only one of three starters, Jemerrio Jones and Isaiah Hartenstein were the other ones, to have maintained a REB% and AST% better than 16%.

That unique nature combined with him shooting 36% on more than 150 attempts during his G League career would make you think that he would’ve been signed to at least a two-way deal from the Pacers waiving him in November until the start of the G League bubble. However, that hasn’t been the case as he’s currently playing with the Raptors 905 as a member of the Raptors 905.

Despite only recently beginning the 2011 season with a brand new team and in unique circumstances, Johnson has been able to pick up right where he left off when COVID-19 put an end to the 2019-20 G League season. After three games with the team, he’s averaging 15points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2 assists on 63% from the field, and 63% from beyond the arc. Obviously, it shouldn’t have to be mentioned that his efficiency is an example of small sample size. Even if you look away from those numbers, the Missouri State alum has looked like he’s been on a level above the competition.

For example, look at how he drives from the top of the key of the key towards the paint before dishing it all the way out to Jalen Harris despite having a few Vipers in his vicinity.

Those clips exhibit Johnson’s ability to help a team in a variety of ways, which has allowed him to be an asset for the Mad Ants and now the Raptors 905. Although most NBA teams have full rosters with guys on guaranteed and twow-ay contracts, Johnson has shown that he has the tools to help an NBA team.

The Awesome Austin Spurs

While the aforementioned Alize Johnson excelled in a matchup against Erie where he put up 23 points and 10 rebounds, his 905 were unable to pull out a victory. Despite the lads from Mississaugua remaining competitive for 3/4ths of the game, the BayHawks’ offensive attack took over in the 4th quarter and was able to pull out a 138-126 victory. Heading into Saturday, they stood at the top of the G League in offense through averaging 130.8 points per 100 possessions, which were four points better than the Raptors 905, who took the 2nd seed.

However, that dominating offense that was prepared to rampage through the G League ran into the brick wall known as the Austin Spurs. In the Saturday matinee, Erie’s offense struggled with how Austin did a great job of controlling the perimeter with switches and having players maneuver around screens. That work pushed Erie’s three-point percentage down to only 31%, a significant decrease from the 41% that they made from beyond the arc in the first two games. Austin’s ability to hassle the Bayhawks on the perimeter to prevent open 3’s and force turnovers, which Erie committed 22 of on Saturday, severely hurt a team that only had one front-court threat that you can rely on to score inside the paint.

The team’s ability to work as a cohesive defensive unit is impressed when you recognize that G League teams only got an opportunity to train together less than a month ago. While fortunate teams rely on experience or comfort with a returning coach, Austin didn’t have that as Matt Nielsen was only promoted to the role last November.

While the Spurs still have twelve games between them and the G League playoffs, performances like what we saw on Saturday makes you confident that they’re a squad that can make a legitimate run towards winning their 3rd title in franchise history.

The Great Play of Myles “Boom Boom” Powell

For diehard hoop fans living in the New York/New Jersey area, Myles Powell to watch develop since he was a young kid growing up in Trenton, New Jersey playing for local high school and AAU teams. Following a solid high school, where he elevated himself towards being 82nd on ESPN’s top 100 for the class of 2016, the young guard decided to stay in the area to sign with Seton Hall. With a college that was only an hour long drive from where he grew up, Powell developed into one of the brightest stars in the country. That status was solidified during his senior year where he played excellently to be named as a consensus All-American first team and as the Big East’ Player of the Year.

Despite his success at the college level, he neither ended up getting drafted or even getting snagged on a two-way deal. After the post-draft dust started to settle, the rookie guard signed an exhibit 10 deal with the Knicks, which allowed him to spend training camp with the squad and then move over to Westchester. While the start of a G League season was in question in November when that deal was finalized, Powell’s dynamic knack as a scorer instantly vaulted him towards being one of the most intriguing rookies to watch.

So far, he’s been proving that thought to be absolutely correct. In his first two games, the young Knicks guard is averaging 20.7 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 on 45% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc on 7.3 attempts per game. Those buckets have been coming off the catch-and-shoot, pulling up from deep, forcing turnovers and pushing it up the floor in transition, and cutting into the teeth of the defense. That work to drive to the paint is also paying dividends for his teammates as the young guard has shown a knack of probing into the paint before kicking the ball out to one of teammates standing in the dunker spot or out on the perimeter.

While Knicks two-way prospect Jared Harper is currently out with a left ankle sprain, Powell is going to get more of an opportunity to help guide Westchester to more victories. A possible cause of that event will deal with him showing the world that he’s a prospect that belongs with an NBA organization on at least the two-way contract with what he can bring on the offensive end of the ball.

Jarrett Jack’s Tank Isn’t On Empty Yet

In the build-up to the G League bubble season, I honestly saw Jarrett Jack’s role with the G League Ignite team as being more of a mentor than someone that can take over a game and push his team to victories. Now that we’re three games into the season, I can tell you that I was definitely wrong. As the title of this segment states , the 37-year-old’s gas tank as a player is not on empty yet as he’s used the first few games of the season to prove himself capable of still being able to take over and help guide his team to victories.

Jack showed that during his debut game against the Santa Cruz Warriors where his seven points in the 4th quarter was enough to help guide the Ignite to a closely contested 110-104 win. That type of offensive production has been there for the veteran guard as he’s currently averaging 14.7 points, 6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals on 47% from the field and 67% from beyond the arc on 3 attempts per game.

That per game number and shooting efficiency lowered significantly in a Saturday night game against the Raptors 905 where he scored only five points on 1-8 from the field, 1-4 from 3, and 1-2 from the free throw line. Despite his struggles as a scorer, Jack still was able to make a positive impact through his ability as a passer with moving the ball around and finding his teammates when they’re in a good position to score. That allowed him to have a season-high nine assists, as he did a great job of probing to the paint to get shooters open and also find cutters.

While this G League bubble is largely centered around being a showcase event for the Professional Pathway prospects and other young players looking to make the transition to the next level, Jack is showing that he still has what it takes to help a team in a bench role. Here’s to hoping that he can make another cameo in the NBA before he hangs up his sneakers for one last time.

Shout Out To The Voices Of The Bubble

Did you really think I was only going to talk about the on-court action of the G League bubble? Well, you had another thing coming as we’re going to dedicate a section to the broadcasters that have been calling the games on the ESPN Family of Networks. While play-by-play and color analysts are vital during a standard season, the importance has risen during this unique season as more fans looking to check out what all the hubbub is about when it comes to the Ignite prospects or some of the other intriguing players that are positioned throughout the G League.

Luckily for those fans, ESPN has done a great job of pairing the fun on-court action with talented broadcasters that are incredibly informed about the game of basketball while also doing their work to study up on the prospects. When it comes to the play-by-play voices, the likes of John Fanta, Kevin Danna, David Resnick, and Sean Salisbury have all done a great job of using their booming voices to call games. Their great work isn’t that surprising though.

Kevin Danna has positioned himself as the Bob Uecker of the G League as he’s been one of the premier voices of the league since he started to call Santa Cruz Warriors games in 2012. The same can be said about Resnick, who has been a great play-by-play man for the Westchester Knicks. While both Fanta and Salisbury, they’re both talented young broadcasters whose work calling college action have prepared them for their current role calling games.

Working alongside those broadcasters have been a slew of analysts that have done great work at informing the viewers about the players that are probably unfamiliar to a lot of folks watching the games. Veteran basketball analyst LaChina Robinson has done a great job in her role as her professionalism and experience as an analyst for women’s college hoops and the WNBA has allowed her to make the smooth transition into calling G League action.

Kim Adams, another experienced broadcaster that is working the G League for the first time in her career, has also done a great job of informing the viewers about the on-court participants. This isn’t surprising as she has experience working with major entities like the Connecticut Sun, Fox Sports, Westwood One, and ESPN.

Recently retired WNBA player and burgeoning media superstar Renee Montgomery has returned to the G League booth and has done an excellent job. It shouldn’t be surprising though as he’s familiar with the league due to holding the same role last season with the College Park Skyhawks.

Sticking with folks that have experience in the G League, both Andre Ingram and Ryan Hollins have done a great job in their role. Ingram in particular has gone from an analyst that seemed scared to chime in to his current role as a confident color commentator that’s able to utilize his years of experience at the G League level to give insight on the experience of a player and some of the veterans that are on the court. That’s definitely a huge improvement for a person that just started his broadcasting career at the start of the G League bubble.

On the other hand, Ryan Hollins has stood out as an affable broadcaster that is able to use his deep ties to the league, due to his work with the Fort Wayne Flyers way back in 2006, and decade of experience in the NBA to influence his analysis.