As NBA Summer League competition gets set to tip off in Las Vegas, there are plenty of story lines with NBA G League breadcrumbs to follow. From seeing how last season’s standouts fare, to seeing how far those from the inaugural NBA G League Elite Camp will go, here’s a look at five narratives featuring intriguing players and even more enticing paths.
Boucher Leads Trio of NBA Champions Gunning For More Playing Time
Chris Boucher has already had quite the NBA journey, and he only just put the finishing touches on year two. The big man now calls himself an NBA champion after catching on full-time with a standard NBA pact in Toronto. It was thanks to his historic NBA G League campaign (Boucher became the first player in league history to win M.V.P. and D.P.O.Y. in the same season) that Toronto took notice and converted his Two-Way Contract. After averaging 27.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals for the Raptors 905, there’s no doubt that Boucher is a versatile talent who can more than hold his own on both ends of the floor. But can he begin to assert some of that same minor league dominance up at the NBA level? That’s what taking that next step will depend on, but the chance to do so will start at NBA Summer League.
He’ll once again pair up with two other fellow champions, Jordan Loyd and Malcolm Miller. A Two-Way Player last season, Loyd also earned All-NBA G League First Team honors, and Miller was a frequent assignee for the Raptors 905. Much like how Boucher exploded onto the scene last season, Loyd came alive offensively when Boucher spent more time in Toronto and he had to take on more of the scoring burden. Still, he’s always been known as a selfless floor general who can push the pace, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this trio complement each other nicely once again.
NBA Draftee Smailagić Looks To Make Transition From Surf City To Golden State
Serbian Stallion Alen Smailagić might be an international man of mystery to casual NBA fans, but anyone who caught a glimpse of him in the NBA G League knows full well the kind of eruption he can create upon rattling the rim. Smailagić played for the Santa Cruz Warriors this past season before earning NBA Draft eligibility. With Golden State acquiring his draft rights, they now have a young, rising talent who is already familiar with their system. The forward is athletic, strong, lengthy, and can finish with aggressiveness around the basket. He’s not afraid to cut through the lane and absorb contact. The 18 year old averaged 9.1 points on 50% shooting in just 17.4 minutes per game last season. Alas, the numbers aren’t as important. The time he spent in Santa Cruz readied him to be a formidable professional, so he’ll have leg up heading into NBA Summer League and his rookie season.
Already competing at the California Classic, Smailagić threw down a crowd-pleasing slam for his first two points.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) July 2, 2019
Martin Among Those Hoping To Carve Out NBA Role After NBA G League Elite Camp Success
Players who work their way up through the NBA G League come to understand that reaching the next level requires patience and perseverance. Though, now well over 50% of NBA players boast minor league experience, it wasn’t always that way. It was, at one point, the road far less traveled and success stories like Khris Middleton, Danny Green, and Jeremy Lin had to be among the “first” to do it. Of course, such pursuit paid off as they beat the odds.
Perhaps forthcoming prospects will keep that in mind when following the path of Cody Martin. The 3 and D product out of Nevada participated in the inaugural NBA G League Elite Camp, and subsequently became one of 11 players out of the camp to receive an invite to the NBA Draft Combine. He then joined even more elite company, being drafted 36th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft and four other youngsters followed with selections of their own. As he and many others from the Elite Camp receive their first exposure of professional life at NBA Summer League, it’ll be interesting to see how they perform.
📺 his best moments leading up to the selection. pic.twitter.com/EBMSxQIi4T
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) June 23, 2019
Two-Way Contracts Up For Grabs
The stage in Las Vegas provides a platform of opportunity for young guns to cement their futures. There are a plethora of Two-Way spots to fill for guys that show out. As mentioned above, the rapid rise of Boucher is perfect evidence of how a player can continue to flourish after signing such a pact. NBA Summer League is a proving ground and it remains to be seen, not only who is up for the challenge, but who is rewarded for their efforts thereafter.
That said, the next two weeks will also prove to be the first chance fans have to see some of their teams’ newest acquisitions, who have already signed Two-Way Contracts. After finishing third in both Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player voting this past season, Blue Coats big man Norvel Pelle has joined the 76ers. After averaging 13.1 points for Wake Forest last season, Jaylen Hoard will split time between the Trail Blazers and an NBA G League team next season. Brian Bowen II will have a change of scenery between the Pacers and Mad Ants, after averaging 6.3 points professionally in Australia last season. This trio will be worth keeping an eye on, and there are sure to be others as teams announce new additions along the way.
Will Wood’s NBA G League Dominance Help Him Break Out In NBA?
Much like Boucher, Wood was another player who took the league by storm last season as an NBA assignee, playing for the Wisconsin Herd. As the Bucks pursued the first seed in the East, playing time was hard to come by for Wood. With Wisconsin, he boasted strong numbers averaging 29.3 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 1.1 steals. His lengthy, physical frame helped him pester opponents on the defensive end, but he was still agile and quick enough to beat them off the dribble on offense. His success for the Herd helped him prove he was ready to contribute in the NBA. Upon getting waived by the Bucks later in the season, the Pelicans snatched him up and he didn’t disappoint. After averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds through eight regular season contests, NBA Summer League will be Wood’s next chance to dominate and develop the kind of rhythm that could spearhead him towards a steady role next season.