In the world of the G League, everyone is aiming to prove themselves on a day-by-day basis. Emphasis on everyone as assignees and two-ways use the platform of the G League to try to get more playing time at the NBA level, top unsigned players look to prove themselves so they can get 10 days or two-ways, and reserves utilize every single moment they’re on the court to show their coaches why they should be a starter. This thought just can’t be centered around players as coaches utilize the platform of the G League to show NBA orgzations that they should get bigger roles with the hopes of following in the footsteps of Nick Nurse, Nate Bjorkgren, or Quin Snyder.
While everyone in the G League approaches every day with the idea of proving themselves, there’s one player that makes that more clear than most whenever he steps on the floor. That statement is evident when you watch him play through the way he approaches each possession, on both ends of the floor, with a tremendous amount of energy and spirit. Throughout his career, those tools have been the keys behind him being a fierce force on the defensive end since his days at Old Dominion.
Despite possessing a lackluster 46% effective Field Goal Percentage during his college career, that approach to defense mixed with great facilitating was great enough for him to have him be part of the Conference USA All-Conference First Team for both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Following an off-season where he didn’t get picked in the 2019 NBA Draft and only spent 24 hours with the Grizzlies in training camp before getting waived, Caver was added to the Hustle. Due to the presence of guards like Dusty Hannahs, Marquis Teague, Matt Mooney, and John Konchar, Caver was at best resigned to a role within the team’s 2nd unit and at worst didn’t get consistent playing time over the course of the season. That ultimately led to him averaging 10 points, 3.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on 43% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 3.1 attempts in only 24 minutes per game.
One year later, Caver’s role within the team’s 2nd unit persisted. However, rather than being another reserve,Jason March pushed the Old Dominion alum to essentially being the team’s 6th man for their run in the G League bubble. From the jump, his endless energy made him perfect for the role through being able to use his knack with getting into passing lanes and on-ball defense as a boost for the team’s defense.
That’s shown by how opposing teams were ten points per 100 possessions worse when Caver was on the court (98.6 points per 100) compared to when he was on the bench (108.9 points per 100). That factor mixed with him averaging 1.9 steals per game allowed him to be one of our finalists for Defensive Player of the Year.
However, Caver’s impact wasn’t just restricted to the defensive end as the 2nd year guard evolved into being a fantastic offensive threat. During his run in the G League bubble, he showcased a real knack as an on-ball driver, both using a first step to blow by some players while getting low to maneuver around others, utilizing screens to get open looks from mid-range or deep, or pulling up with a floater. All of those improved skills pushed him to average 16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 53% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. Those great efficiency numbers ultimately led him to maintaining a 63% True Shooting Percentage and 57% effective Field Goal Percentage. Compared to last year, TS% and eFG% improved by 7% and 8%, respectively.
As a player that struggled with consistency in college to the point where he maintained a 45% eFG% as a senior with Old Dominion, him shooting as well as he did in the G League bubble is phenomenal. The clear progressions that he’s made on the offensive end in such a short amount of time is absolutely spectacular and another sign of his work ethic and commitment to improvement. All of that is why Ridiculous Upside is proud to announce that Ahmad Caver is our pick for G League Most Improved Player of the Year for the 2021 season.