Paul Reed - Delaware Blue Coats
22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2 steals, and 1.8 blocks on 59% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. 66% True Shooting Percentage (TS%) and 64% effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)
As someone that was only a little familiar with the on-court stylings of Paul Reed before the start of the 2021 NBA G League season, I was intrigued to watch him play from the moment that the Philadelphia 76ers sent the then-two-way prospect down to the G League bubble in early February. From the jump, the DePaul alum just always seemed to be a step above the competition on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he’s someone that was able to use his quick feet, tremendous body control, and length as a 6’9, 220 pound forward to be able to go on the perimeter and switch onto guards while also working inside to stop bigs from getting easy buckets around the rim Examples of both of those are seen in the mini compilation that you see below.
Speaking of versatility, the rookie forward was a dynamic scorer that stood as someone that can pile on the points through rolling to the paint, pushing the ball up the floor in transition, hitting catch-and-shoot 3’s, and using his quick feet and his 6’9, 220 pound frame to grab a jaw-dropping 4.6 offensive rebounds per game. Those numbers ultimately pushed him to be a significant part of a Delaware Blue Coats team that stood just one win away from winning their first G League title in franchise history. After the close of the season, the G League itself awarded him handsomely for that great play by naming him as both their Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
Although I’m not quite ready to let you know whether I agree with the G League’s decision-making, it’s crystal clear that his play during the short 2021 season allows Reed to be an undeniable finalist for Rookie of the Year.
Brodric Thomas - RGV Vipers/Canton Charge
18.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.1 blocks on 45% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 7.4 attempts per game. 57% TS%, 55% eFG%
Heading into the G League season, Brodric Thomas stood as a name that probably wasn’t familiar to a lot of fans. Him being a fresh face made sense as the 6’5 wing spent his time as an amateur with Truman State, a small Division II school located in Missouri. His versatility as a player was seen when he averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals on 50% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc on 6.4 attempts per game. Those numbers pushed him to be named the Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year, All-First Team, and All-Defensive Team.
Surprisingly, Thomas was able to essentially transfer that tremendous play to the G League level. Whether it was with the Charge or Vipers, Thomas exhibited himself as one of the premier wings in the G League. From an offensive perspective, he shined through being one of the premier off-the-dribble threats in the league through the use of a great stepback where he’s able to get a lot of separation from his man. That singular skill plus his ability to be able to use screens to lock his men in screens were the keys that allowed him to be in the 79th percentile in off-the-dribble looks with the Vipers and 97th percentile with the Canton Charge, according to Synergy Sports.
His great work as an off-the-dribble shooting threat combined with great defense to allow him to be a true two-way threat. From a defensive perspective, he was able to use the small bubble season to prove himself as someone that can defend inside the rim and also go out and stick with a dynamic guard like Myles Powell from perimeter to paint.
Those tools allowed him to end the G League season as a two-way prospect for the Cleveland Cavaliers and be one of our six finalists for G League Rookie of the Year.
Reggie Perry - Long Island Nets
18.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists on 52% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc on 2.5 attempts per game. 64% TS%, 55% eFG%
Despite a fantastic sophomore season with Mississippi State that allowed him to join Mason Jones and Immanuel Quickley as SEC Player of the Year, the 6’8 forward had to wait until the 57th pick to get selected in the 2020 NBA Draft. That late selection coincided with a trade that had him go from the Clippers, the team that originally selected him, to the Brooklyn Nets. Around a month-and-a-half after that draft, Perry had a chance to head to the G League bubble to prove that he deserved to get selected earlier in that year’s draft.
As those numbers can tell you, the rookie forward definitely proved himself in the G League bubble as a member of the Long Island Nets. On the offensive end, he used the short season to display his arsenal of skills. With the ball in his hands, he was a real face-up threat through being able to find cutters while standing above the break, taking the ball to the rim or hitting the mid-range or even the occasional perimeter jumper. Those skills combined with the soft hands and quick feet that allow him to be a great roll threat pushed Perry to be one of the best offensive forwards in the G League.
Myles Powell - Westchester Knicks
17.8 points, 4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals on 45% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc on 6.4 attempts per game. 61% TS%, 55% eFG%
Besides Jalen Green, who stands as a prospect in the 2021 NBA Draft, Powell is the only player on this list to not be signed to some sort of NBA contract. And honestly, that seemed surprising during the season. No matter if he was working as the team’s 6th man or starting point guard when Jared Harper was rehabbing an injury, the Seton Hall alum was fantastic through combining great efficiency with volume. His efficiency as a shooter became even more impressive when you realize that difficult shots like pull-up 3’s and step-back jumpers were a significant part of his diet as a scorer.
Although the guard shined brighter than the lights in Time Square as a scoring threat, the Seton Hall alum was able to show more of his game than just his knack of using his smooth stroke to tickle the twine. One of those traits was his ability as a facilitator as the rookie was quickly able to develop chemistry with the screeners that he worked alongside in pick-and-rolls. The camaraderie is shown by the patience that he has with waiting for his partner to get open. Also, the young guard has shown a knack of getting into the teeth of the defense and then kicking it out to an open shooter.
While the skills that he showed during his time in the bubble showed him to be a phenomenal scoring threat, it wasn’t enough for him to receive a call-up as of the time of this piece. However, don’t be surprised if that changes between now and the start of the next season as Powell’s knack with working with both with and without the ball.
Mamadi Diakite - Lakeland Magic
18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.1 blocks on 58% from the field. 66% TS%, 61% eFG%
Despite being a two-way player with the Milwaukee Bucks, Mamadi Diakite entered the G League bubble as a member of the Lakeland Magic. That unique situation was due to him being a flex assignee to the team due to the Milwaukee Bucks not paying the fee to have the Wisconsin Herd head down to Disney World to be one of the teams competing in the G League bubble. While those predicaments stacked the odds against the Virginia alum, due to how tough it can be for players to fit in on a team where they’re not familiar with the system or haven’t been able to build chemistry with his teammates, Diakite didn’t have any problems with fitting right in.
That success was due to how head coach Stan Heath was able to easily integrate him into the offense. Doing a lot of his work on the elbow or in the dunker spot, he’s quick with deciding what to do once he receives the pass. For example, if he’s working on the elbow, the forward was capable of hitting the 18-foot jumper, slash to the basket, making right-handed drives to the rim. Around the rim, he could either snag offensive boards or hit smooth hook shots. Those offensive skills combined with his great work as a rim protector allowed the Bucks prospect to be one of the best prospects in the bubble.
Jalen Green - G League Ignite
17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals on 46% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 5.6 attempts per game. 61% TS%, 54% eFG%
When I was thinking about who to pick as finalists for Rookie of the Year, I struggled with whether I should’ve included Jalen Green. The reasons behind him not being included dealt with how the players on the Ignite have different contracts than the standard G Leaguers and had months to train and practice with their teammates compared to standard G League teams that only had 10 days between the start of training camp and the regular season. However, then the thought of it being unfair to include Ignite prospects when they were worthy came to mind.
Did these guys have more time to practice before the start of the season? Yes. However, the G League Ignite played the same amount of games as every other team, which probably won’t be the case in future years. With that mind, it would honestly be unfair to disqualify those Ignite players from qualifications as they went through the same regular season grind as everyone else in the Disney World bubble.
With all those prerequisites in mind, it’s clear that Jalen Green deserves to at least be a finalist for this award.Out of the prospects on the Pro Pathway deal, Green was the most consistent in terms of efficiency numbers and simply being productive on an almost game-by-game basis. Although he definitely had some down days, the prospect’s great point of attack game was being able to move past his man both off-the-dribble and through cuts or being a legitimate threat from deep.