Andre Ingram’s 19-point NBA debut last season following a decade in the NBA G League didn’t only skyrocket him to national fame. Perhaps making even more of an impact, it showed minor league prospects everywhere that the goal of playing in The Association is truly attainable and in turn, lifelong dreams can be realized. Ingram’s own hard work and perseverance was once again realized this past week. Deja Vu, it’s call up number two.
His journey sets the example for those who hope to follow in his footsteps. With the NBA season winding down and many big league teams earning the flexible to roll the dice on intriguing players who deserve a look, here are five NBA G League players who may have waited for the perfect time to undoubtedly play their best basketball of the season.
Jameel Warney, Westchester Knicks
In the wake of Cal-Up of sharpshooter John Jenkins to the New York Knicks, Warney has risen up as the man with a plan for Westchester. Commonly known as a bruising big man over the course of his NBA G League career, Warney has been able to catch defenders off guard with a budding perimeter game that allows him to spread the floor. Over his last five games, the big man has set new career highs in points on two separate occasions, averaging 25.2 points and 10.6 rebounds in that span.
Warney enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Mavericks last season and was honored as the 2017 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, so it should come as no surprise that he’s primed and ready to compete on a grander stage if he receives the call.
Norvel Pelle, Delaware Blue Coats
Pelle’s simply taken his physicality to an entirely different level in recent games. An intimidating force for opposing players hoping to cash in on an easy layup or two, the Blue Coats big man’s 4.6-block average in his last five games has made it nearly impossible to take any scoring opportunities for granted. He continues to demonstrate that his work isn’t quite done upon swatting away blocked shots, staying after it and scooping up rebounds whenever he sends the ball flying.
Interestingly enough, as Pelle proves his value by doing the dirty work, his offensive efficiency can go overlooked. He doesn’t need the ball to be effective, but when there’s a mismatch in his favor inside the paint, Pelle takes advantage. Currently the league-leader in field goal percentage at 70%, Pelle has averaged 19 points and 19 rebounds in his last five appearances.
JaKarr Sampson, Windy City Bulls
Sampson’s brand of basketball is entertaining. He’s a physical specimen who can put the ball on the floor and create opportunities for himself by exploding at the rim with authority. The young gun has impressive length and can score over those who challenge him inside, and on the flip side, he’s able to pester his opponents with long arms and good reach on defense.
The Bulls have won four of five with Sampson lighting the spark and leading the charge, boasting 22-point, 11.2-rebound, and 1.8-block averages. He’s a veteran of multiple NBA seasons, and his experience matching up against such athletes is paying dividends as he locks in and attempts to prove his superiority.
Scott Machado, South Bay Lakers
Whereas the likes of Warney, Pelle, and Sampson have made waves by asserting their physicality in recent weeks, Machado has turned up the heat by showing an extra layer of refinement in his game. He’s been quite the maestro, leading his band of teammates, finding them in transition, and attacking the basket whenever he himself sees even the slightest bit of an opening. Machado’s craftiness around the rim is proof that he can read the defense and find ways to evade intensifying pressure.
Setting career-highs in points on multiple occasions (such efforts punctuated by a 40-point outing on March 11) and consistently flirting with a double-double, Machado’s last eight games have resulted in 24.9-point and 9.8-assist averages.
Xavier Munford, Wisconsin Herd
After starting this season overseas, Munford’s recent stint with USA Basketball proved to be the kind of primer he needed to elevate his efforts upon returning to the NBA G League hardwood. In his last six games, the 26-year-old has averaged 21.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.8 steals. He’s the kind of fiery spark plug that can score in bunches, providing his team a boost or simply taking over a game. Players who catch hot in a hurry are valuable commodities, because they can burst off the bench and ensure a team doesn’t miss a beat while their starters take a much needed breather. As evidenced over this latest stretch, Munford has seemingly reached the peak of potential contributions and is arguably ready for responsibility with higher stakes.