NBA G League Players Who Stood Out in 2019–2020
When play resumes, these players may find themselves with NBA opportunities
Young NBA players who are selected near the top of the first round of the draft by virtue of their talent have a decidedly easier path to their professional careers than most. Other players are hanging on to their hopes and dreams by their fingertips, as they pursue any opportunity to get them developed and noticed; hopefully leading to another rung on their ladder. The NBA G League is the minor-league option where mostly younger players toil to keep their basketball aspirations alive and occasionally see graduates go on to meaningful careers in the NBA. Here are some of the most intriguing prospects this season.
Johnathan Motley, Forward- Los Angeles Clippers: The 6’8” power forward gambled and left Baylor University in 2017 after his junior season to declare for the draft. After averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds, which resulted in being named to the college All-American second team, he tried to strike while the iron was hot. Unfortunately, he went undrafted, as his limited offensive game, particularly from deep, dampened the interest of teams.
In the past three seasons, Motley has consistently been on the fine line of being an NBA player. He has suited up a total of 46 games for the Dallas Mavericks and Clippers (who he has been affiliated with the past two years), averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game.
Motley balled out in the G League this season, sandwiched around the 13 games he was with the Clippers. In 26 games with the Agua Caliente Clippers, the 24-year-old averaged 24 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists. More importantly, he showed growth in his offensive game, to the point where he knocked down a respectable 34.4% of his 2.3 three-point shots per contest. He has earned a more permanent place in the NBA in the near future and it will be interesting to see when he gets his shot.
Josh Gray, Guard- New Orleans Pelicans: One of the more interesting cases in the G League, Gray seems to have a slower evolving game than most. During three seasons in college (one with Texas Tech and then two with LSU), he was a regular member of the rotation, but never averaged more than 9.3 points in any one season and was woeful as a shooter (combined 39.2% from the field and 21.6% from deep). Adding that he is listed at just 6’0” tall, the fact that he went undrafted is understandable.
To his credit, Grady has kept working and grinding and has seen that pay off. He has had a couple of cups of coffee at the NBA level (five games in 2017–18 with the Phoenix Suns and two with the Pelicans this year) and is threatening to become a more regular fixture in the near future.
The bulk of Gray’s 2019–2020 season was spent with the Erie Bayhawks. In 37 games, he averaged 22.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists. Most importantly, he showed that shooting is no longer a major weakness. He is connected on 44.7% of his field goal attempts, and while his 33.2% success rate from three is nothing special, it’s no longer a black mark on his record (He also hit 40.7% of his G League threes last season). The amount of obvious work he has put in along with the corresponding results is the earmark of the type of player teams covet, even if it is for the end of their bench. Certainly, any opportunity would be greatly appreciated by the 26-year-old.
Christ Koumadje, Center- Philadelphia 76ers: At 7’4”, the 24-year-old in his first season out of Florida State is the definition of a project. Collegiately, he only averaged 12.1 minutes, 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 122 games as a Seminole. He was the classic case of the tallest guy in the room being given a chance to see what he could do. As it turns out, he can actually do some things and he is no joke as a candidate for a possible NBA roster spot down the road.
The native of Chad played high school ball with Ben Simmons, giving Philadelphia someone who has an informed view of what the young big man is capable of. Despite some limitations, he has responded to his shot in the G League by playing the best ball of his career. In 33 games with the Delaware Blue Coats, he averaged 11.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and a league-leading four blocks. He also hitting 63.5 of his field goals and 67.9% of his free throws, showing he is capable of being more than just tall. By virtue of his improving game, particularly on defense and rebounding, he has real value as a roster asset and could find himself moving up to the next level sooner rather than later.