The NBA Finals begin July 6 at 9pm/et on ABC, and the NBA G League is well represented. Between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, 19 players have at least one game of G League experience.
Khris Middleton – If you’re looking for someone with a knack for historic moments, look no further. Middleton, a former second-round pick by the Detroit Pistons in 2012, became the first NBA G League alumni to be named an NBA All-Star in 2018. He played in three games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the then-NBA D League his first year, scoring 11.0 PTS and notching 7.7 REB per-game.
Middleton was traded after his rookie season to the Bucks, and has gone on to average 17.3 PTS, 4.9 REB, 3.7 AST, and 1.2 STL in his eight seasons with the team. He’s come up clutch time and time again for Milwaukee this postseason, including hitting a game-winning jumper against the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round and scoring 30+ PTS in four games thus far.
Mamadi Diakite – Diakite almost immediately made his presence known this past season, as the rookie forward scored 20 points and had 10+ REB in three of his first five games and blocked 10 shots in the span. In his 12 games played, Diakite had eight games of 20 or more PTS. He was named to the 2020-21 NBA G League All-Defensive Team, All-Rookie Team, and All-NBA G League First Team.
In 12 games with the @LakelandMagic Mamadi averaged:
18.5 PTS | 10.3 REB | 2.1 BLK | 2.1 AST https://t.co/o8yRaEDUn0
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 3, 2021
Bryn Forbes – Forbes played in 19 games with the Austin Spurs in 2016-17, shooting an efficient 45.9% from 3PT on 6.4 attempts per-game. He finished sixth in the league in scoring, putting up 23.4 PTS per-game. Forbes, in his first season with the Bucks, shot a career-best 45.2 from 3PT and 47.3% (fourth-best in the NBA this season) from the field in 70 regular season games.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo – Thanasis played 141 games in the G League from 2013-2016, spending time with the Westchester Knicks and Delaware 87ers (now the Blue Coats). He also played two games with the Wisconsin Herd in 2019-20. The older brother of two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis made himself known as one of the best shot blockers in the G league, rejecting 1.4 shots per-game while averaging 12.4 PTS and 5.1 REB.
Justin Jackson – Jackson made the most of his six games played with the Reno Bighorns (now Stockton Kings) in his rookie 2017-18 season. He scored 17.8 PTS, grabbed 6.2 REB, and had 1.5 AST in his time with Reno, including a 26-point performance in his debut against the Erie BayHawks.
Sam Merrill – After playing five games with the Memphis Hustle this past season, Merrill was recalled by the Bucks on Feb. 19. The 60th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft averaged 11.2 PTS, 4.4 REB, and 3.4 AST with the Hustle.
Jordan Nwora – Sure, Nwora played in one game this past season in the G, but he sure made the most of it. He scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed four rebounds for the Salt Lake City Stars in a loss to the Erie BayHawks on Feb. 10. He was recalled two days later. On March 27, Nwora started in his first NBA game where he tallied a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double. He’s appeared in four games this playoffs.
Bobby Portis – Like Nwora, Portis appeared in one game with the Windy City Bulls back in the 2016-17 season, scoring 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting, snagging nine rebounds, and blocking three shots. Portis has become a solid part of Milwaukee’s rotation, as he’s shot a career-best 52.3% from the field and 47.1% from 3PT (third-best in the NBA this season).
Axel Toupane – Toupane has played in 77 games in the D/G League, most recently with the Santa Cruz Warriors this past season, where he played nine games. He was 20th in the league in scoring (17.9 PTS), averaged 8.1 REB, and finished 12th in the league in steals (1.7). Toupane was named the 2015-16 Most Improved Player, as well as All-NBA D League Third-Team in 2016-17. He played overseas from July 2017-October 2020.
P.J. Tucker – Tucker spent time with the Colorado 14ers (now Texas Legends) of the D-League back in his rookie season of 2006-07. He started in 12 of his 19 games, averaging 10.7 PTS and 3.4 REB.
Cameron Payne – Perhaps one of the biggest stories of the NBA Playoffs has been Payne. After being released by the Toronto Raptors in October of 2019, Payne went to play in China for the Shanxi Loongs. Two months later, he joined the Texas Legends of the G League, where he went on to average 23.3 PTS, 7.8 AST, 4.9 REB, and 2.3 STL in 15 games. From 2015-2018, Payne had spent time with the Oklahoma City Blue and Windy City Bulls. In June of last year, as the NBA was gearing up to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando, FL, Payne signed a multi-year deal with the Suns. In his two starts filling in for Chris Paul during the Western Conference Finals, Payne scored 11 and 29 points (a career-high), while handing out nine assists in both games.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) June 23, 2021
Jevon Carter – Carter was a Swiss Army Knife for the Memphis Hustle in the 2018-19 season. Not only did score 18.4 PTS per-game, but he averaged 5.9 AST, 4.6 REB, and 2.7 STL in his 22 games played. He appeared in 60 regular season games for the Suns this season including getting a start, and has played in seven games this postseason.
Ty-Shon Alexander – After going undrafted in the 2020 Draft, Alexander signed a two-way contract with the Suns. He played in all 15 games for the Canton Charge this past season, scoring 9.3 PTS per-game and grabbing 2.9 REB.
Torrey Craig – Craig spent time with the Sioux Falls Skyforce during his rookie season in 2017-18, leading the team in PTS (22.9), REB (8.1), and BLK (2.0) per-game. Ironically, he began this season with the Bucks before being traded to the Suns on March 18. He averaged 7.2 PTS and 4.8 REB in 32 games with the Suns during the regular season.
Jae Crowder – Crowder averaged a triple-double in his two games played with the Texas Legends back in 2013-14. In his first game (Feb. 27. 2014), Crowder scored 23 points, had 18 rebounds, 10 assists, and two steals. In game two (March 1, 2014), he went for 22 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, and three blocks. Crowder was recalled by the Dallas Mavericks on March 2, 2014.
Langston Galloway – Galloway played (and started) in all 19 games he spent with the Westchester Knicks during his rookie season in 2014-15. Though he scored 16.1 PTS and grabbed 5.8 REB per-game, what was more impressive was his league-leading 2.7 STL per-game.
Abdel Nader – The 2017 G League Rookie of the Year was also named to the 2016-17 All-Rookie First Team and All-D League Second Team with the Maine Red Claws (now Maine Celtics). Averaged 21.3 PTS, 6.2 REB, and 3.9 AST in 40 games (started in all). Last played for the Oklahoma City Blue in the 2018-19 season (four games), where he averaged 24.3 PTS and 6.7 REB.
— Maine Celtics (@MaineCeltics) July 6, 2021
Jalen Smith – Smith was selected No. 10 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, and played in six games for the Agua Caliente Clippers this past G League season, where he averaged 8.3 PTS and 4.7 REB per-game.