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Prospects Take Unique Paths To 2019 NBA G League Draft

By Keith Schlosser | October 25, 2019

On the heels of the 2019 NBA G League Draft, a combination of faces new and old will hope to be selected during the annual event taking place Saturday, October 26 at 1 PM ET. For the ripe rookies or potential NBA Draft prospects, this could be their first exposure at professional experience. There will be NBA veterans hungry for a chance at redemption, and even players already familiar with NBA G League play, but still just as anxious to display some evident growth.

Here’s a look at the different types of players entering this year’s draft, and the successful and/or notable footsteps they hope to follow.

New to the NBA G League:

Whether you’re an undrafted rookie fresh out of college or a seasoned international pro ready to return stateside, chances are that you are new to the NBA G League. Such players make up the majority of players in the draft pool.

Success stories are easy to spot from year to year, but there have been some especially big highlights the past three seasons. Jemerrio Jones parlayed a 2018 NBA G League Draft selection (18th overall) into an eventual gig with the Lakers toward the end of the campaign. Jaylen Morris was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft and played in six games for the Atlanta Hawks that same season. He even started off last season as a Two-Way Player with the Bucks. Similarly, though Jordan Loyd was a Two-Way Player for the Toronto Raptors last season, the eventual NBA champion was first discovered by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who scooped him up in the third round of the 2016 draft.

With yet another annual event on the horizon, Trey Mourning (Georgetown), Anthony Lawrence (Miami), Kerwin Roach II (Texas) and Jalen Hudson (Florida) are among those hoping to find a pot of gold at the end of this tunnel.

NBA Draft Prospects:

Should a player chose to forgo their collegiate eligibility, the NBA G League could become a landing spot for those who crave that first taste of professional competition. Just last season, Alen Smailagic embarked on a quick turnaround journey that saw him become the latest poster child for utilizing this avenue in successful fashion.

Selected No. 4 overall in last year’s draft, Smailagic averaged 9.1 points in just 17.4 minutes per game for the Santa Cruz Warriors. Despite modest playing time, the young gun strutted his stuff enough to impress the big league front office brass in Golden State. Smailagic was selected 39th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft and the Warriors traded for his draft rights, keeping him in a very familiar fold. Now, he’s part of a growing list of prospects who choose to go the NBA G League route very early on.

Before joining the Bucks, Thanasis Antetokounmpo also went this route. Antetokounmpo was selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 NBA G League Draft by the Delaware 87ers (now Blue Coats). He earned NBA G League All-Defensive Third Team honors in 2013-14, leading New York Knicks to draft him 51st overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.

This year’s potential soon-to-be NBA Draft prospects include Wyatt Walker (North Carolina State), Shawn Occeus (Northeastern), and Mike Lewis II (Duquense).

NBA Veterans:

While NBA Draft prospects may see the NBA G League as a way of first scratching the surface, veterans looking to prove they still have gas left in the tank often opt to use it as the first step on a comeback trail of sorts. Last season’sNo. 1 overall pick, Willie Reed, is a three-year NBA veteran. At 36 years old, Hakim Warrick was also a top 10 selection. Having averaged 9.4 points in eight NBA seasons, the minor league’s new elder statesman looked to show off some still evident skill. At the same time, his invaluable experience was an added benefit for the Iowa Wolves as the youngsters around Warrick soaked in his unique wisdom.

This season, the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, Sheldon Mac, and Maalik Wayns are fellow vets looking to carve out their own path back via the draft.

Familiar NBA G League Faces:

Some paths to the NBA take longer than others. No two journeys are the same. The NBA G League is a good initial stomping ground, but sometimes there are multiple stops before an athlete reaches The Association. Some use their early time in the NBA G League as a chance to become accustomed to professional competition. It’s their first exposure, and thus, the player they are walking in isn’t necessarily the player they’re set to become. As they continue to grow, a chance at the NBA could become more likely.

A return to the NBA G League via the draft is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that aforementioned progress.

With career averages of 14.6 points and 5 assists through 134 NBA G League games, Tre Kelley is an eligible draftee hoping for another chance. Joining him this year are the likes of Jordan Adams (15.5 points through 13 games) and Durrell Summers (13.1 points in 104 games).

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