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Ridiculous Upside’s 2021 NBA G League MVP Finalists

Ridiculous Upside reveals their finalists for NBA G League MVP

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Lakeland Magic v Raptors 905 Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Alize Johnson - Raptors 905

16.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.3 steals on 57% from the field and 33% from 3 on 1.6 attempts per game. 65% TS%, 59% eFG%

During the 2018-19 and 2019-20 G League seasons, Alize Johnson stood as the recurring character that made a tremendous impact whenever he stepped in front of the camera. Although he was part of the Indiana Pacers during that time, the Missouri State alum spent a lot of that time in the G League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants due to not getting much of a chance to really prove himself at the NBA level.

While some would be disappointed in that, he used the fact of being overlooked to fuel his dominance of the G League as his 6’9 self stood as one of the finest forwards in the G League. In those two seasons, he stood out as a consistent threat to put up 20 points and 10 rebounds per night while also showing chops as a facilitator. Those skills combined with him maintaining a 58% True Shooting Percentage during those two seasons made it easy to wonder why he wasn’t getting more of an opportunity with Indiana.

That lack of an opportunity consisted into the 2020 off-season as the Pacers waived him just before the beginning of training camp. However, the Raptors were swift to pick up the 3rd year forward as they signed him to a training camp deal. Although they ended up waiving him before the start of the season, the team had plans for him as Johnson was added as one of their affiliate players.

Yet again, the forward excelled against G League competition by standing as the leading man of a Raptors 905 team that finished the regular season at 12-3. As we’ve noted in several pieces, that success was definitely a team effort. However, Johnson was a vital cog in their history-making offensive attack as his ability to both collect rebounds at a tremendous clip, be able to push it up the floor, and have the vision to move the ball around helped the team catch fire from deep on a consistent basis.

Johnson’s status as arguably the most important part of the Raptors 905’s historic offensive run is why he’s one of our finalists for G League MVP.

Paul Reed - Delaware Blue Coats

22.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.8 blocks on 59% from the field and 44% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game. 66% TS%, 64% eFG%.

For the third time in our unveiling of award finalists, we circle back to current 76ers rookie forward Paul Reed. As I’ve explained in both the Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year pieces, the former DePaul forward excelled on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he stood out as one of the lone players in the league that was able to make an impact on both the perimeter and the restricted area. That allowed him to join G League veteran Sir’Dominic Pointer as the only two players in the league to average more than 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.

On the offensive end of the floor, Reed was a dynamic player that can show off an ability to roll to the rim, push it down the floor in transition, hit catch-and-shoot 3’s, and also snag an absurd amount of offensive rebounds whenever he steps on the floor. That tremendous versatility on both ends mixed with him being one of the leaders for a Delaware team that finished the regular season at 10-5 is why the rookie is one of our MVP finalists.

Jordan Poole - Santa Cruz Warriors

22.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists on 45% from the field and 33% from 3 on 7.3 attempts per game. 64% TS%, 53% eFG%

After struggling for playing time during the first two months of the NBA season, where he played a total of 143.4 minutes in 15 games, Golden State sent 2nd year guard Jordan Poole on January 31st to the G League bubble to get reps with the Santa Cruz Warriors. To say that mission was accomplished would be correct as he maintained the 3rd highest Usage Percentage (USG%) among prospects that played at least five games in the G League.

Within that role as a heavily used part of the Warriors offense, Poole shined as a scoring threat that excelled at driving to the rim and being able to finish. During his eleven games this season with Santa Cruz, the guard shot 61% from the restricted area on a total of 62 total attempts, according to the G League’s stats page. That volume and efficiency from within the restricted area countered his struggles from beyond the arc as the three-point percentage is the 2nd lowest percentage of his young career.

Poole’s ability to get to the rim and score at a high rate combined with his knack as a great team defender that played a significant role behind Santa Cruz’s top-five defense, he definitely did enough during the regular season to warrant being one of the four finalists for G League MVP.

Kevin Porter Jr - RGV Vipers

24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.5 steals on 45% from the field and 32% from 3 on 8.1 attempts per game. 58% TS%, 52% eFG%

After an awful off-season, with incidents that honestly had folks worried about both his mental and physical well-being, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Kevin Porter Jr to the Houston Rockets on January 21st, 2021. That move came after the 2nd year player, who didn’t play a second during the first few weeks of the season, had an outburst in the Cavaliers locker room.

Shortly after the trade, the Rockets decided to assign Porter Jr to the RGV Vipers, in an attempt to take a patient approach with a 20-year-old player that dealt with a lot during the prior few months. This move was reminiscent of when the Memphis Grizzlies assigned Josh Jackson to the Hustle to help get his career back on track prior to the start of the 2019-20 NBA/G League season.

From an on-court perspective, Porter Jr looked like the player that Cavaliers acquired in a deal from the Detroit Pistons shortly after the end of the 2019 NBA Draft. With the Vipers, he carried the offensive load as he led the G League with a 29.3% USG%. Despite that heavy load, the 2nd year guard was outstanding through being excellent at taking his man off the dribble and being able to create his own shot to score points in bunches.

Alongside that, he used his time in the G League to really establish himself as a solid distributor through having the patience to work with his man in pick-and-rolls while having the height and athleticism to drive into the teeth of the defense and working the ball out to perimeter shooters or cutters. Those traits were a factor behind the Vipers being seven points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court (109.9 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the bench or away from the team (102.8 points per 100).

The skills that he showed in the G League bubble and impact that he had for a Vipers team that finished the year at 9-6 are the keys behind Porter Jr being one of our finalists for G League MVP.