Basketball may have paused earlier this month for NBA All-Star break, but in no way were NBA G League alums or the hard work they continue to put in far from the conversation. In fact, as Derrick Jones Jr. rose to new heights and won the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest on one of the most national and widely recognized stages, it was a reminder of how far alums can take their journeys after starting off with humble beginnings in the NBA G League.
With that in mind, let’s take time to highlight Jones Jr. and four other alums who look ready to carry steady momentum with them as the season continues to go on.
Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat (Northern Arizona Suns and Sioux Falls Skyforce alum)
February has been quite a month for Jones Jr. He ushered in his 23rd birthday with a win at the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest, and since returning from the NBA All-Star break, has seemingly carried some of that swagger back with him to South Beach. His points per game average continues to climb (now averaging 10 points for the month), but anyone who watches the high-flyer knows his game is all about energy, hustle, and doing what he can to change the momentum in his team’s favor. In the Heat’s February 22nd win over the Cavaliers, Jones Jr. tallied 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors alum)
Poole suited up for Santa Cruz for three games back in late December and early January, following an NBA December in which he only played 11.9 minutes for Golden State. It was in Surf City that Poole got his groove back (averaging 26 points in 35.1 minutes per contest) and now the Warriors are reaping the benefits with him up at the next level. Poole has emerged in the starting lineup, averaging 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in his last six games. It’s safe to say he’s felt comfortable and looked confident in this elevated role. He lets the offense comes to him and hustles playing off the ball.
Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee Bucks (Wisconsin Herd alum)
When DiVincenzo took the court during the Winter Showcase in December 2018, one could argue he was still a starry-eyed NBA rookie trying to figure it all out. Suiting up for the Herd gave him the opportunity to dance and prance his way into an increased comfort level, receiving increased important time with all eyes on him in Las Vegas. He performed well under pressure and has since evolved into a constant double-digit scoring threat in his second year for the first place Bucks. The two-time national champion with Villanova has seen improvements across the board this season, the biggest eye-openers being his 9.1 points per game (up from 4.9 last season), 35% shooting from deep (up from 24%), and 1.4 steals (up from .5). Whether it’s providing points in a hurry off the bench, or simply helping spread the floor due to his mere presence alone, DiVincenzo is filling a key need for Milwaukee and is fitting right in.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, Golden State Warriors (Santa Cruz Warriors alum)
A still somewhat recent NBA Call-Up, Bay Area native Toscano-Anderson has looked right at home in his initial NBA exposure with Golden State. In his first five games, he’s averaged 7.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 20 minutes per game, proving that Golden State isn’t afraid to thrust him into the fire and he hasn’t let them down yet. His most recent assignment saw him match up with Zion Williamson on February 23. In 28 minutes, he produced highs across the board — 16 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and added a steal as well while not shying away from the challenge. Through all of these new experiences, the forward hasn’t forgotten his roots — he’s already returned to Santa Cruz, this time as a spectator — to cheer on his former teammates.
Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers (South Bay Lakers alum)
Still just 22 years old, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Zubac is a veteran now in his fourth NBA season. But before he fully transformed into the player he is today, the big man appeared in 28 games on assignment with the South Bay Lakers from 2016-18, averaging 18.8 points and 9.4 rebounds. Fast-forward to 2020, and he hasn’t had to travel too far to become starting center for the third place Los Angeles Clippers. Zubac has filled his necessary complementary role to perfection, averaging eight points and 7.2 rebounds and serving as a strong physical presence inside. He’s coming off a season-best 15 rebound performance on February 22.