As the Western Conference Semifinals get underway, competition is sprinkled with a number of NBA G League alumni boasting varying minor league roots. From past NBA assignees, to converted Two-Way Players and even those who first made their marks via open tryouts, there are plenty of skilled athletes with humble beginnings who continue to make important contributions for teams with their sights set on potentially raising a championship banner in the near future.
Here’s a look at a trio of minor league alumni who are set to continue pacing their team’s efforts toward that aforementioned goal.
Monte Morris, Nuggets (RGV Vipers alum) Blazers vs. Nuggets
Last year, Monte Morris made good use of his time waiting in the wings as an assignment player for the RGV Vipers. It was there that he honed his skills as a combo-guard, averaging a stat-line of 17.8 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 steals through 37 games. Just one season later, the Nuggets decided his prep time was sufficient enough to play a big role in what became a second-seeded finish out West. Averaging 10.4 points during the regular season, Morris tallied double-figures four times in round one and is primed to continue pacing Denver’s second unit against the Trail Blazers.
Danuel House, Rockets (RGV Vipers and Northern Arizona Suns alum) Rockets vs. Warriors
As a Two-Way Player with Houston this season (averaging 20.7 points), House was thrust into a crucial role during his allocated days in the NBA, and his strong play — spearheaded by hard-nosed defense and a budding three-point shot — made him simply too valuable to spend much time away from the Rockets thereafter. He saw his contract converted into a standard NBA pact and never looked back. He averaged 9.4 points and started 13 games for Houston. In a season filled with bumps and bruises for his squad, House filled in quite nicely. With the Rockets now at full strength, the sharpshooter is still finding ways to contribute, averaging 6.2 points and shooting 37% from deep through 22.8 minutes per game in the first round. His continued success is proof of the value (and apparent staying power) Two-Way Players can provide even for the most formidable of playoff contenders.
Alfonzo McKinnie, Warriors (Windy City Bulls and Raptors 905 alum) Rockets vs. Warriors
McKinnie is the perfect role model for aspiring basketball up and comers, having carved out a steady professional career after first hitting the hardwood via an NBA G League open tryout. The swingman spent time with the Windy City Bulls and Raptors 905 before Golden State rewarded him for his continued perseverance toward the promise land that is The Association. McKinnie received sporadic playing time in round one, but still hit 44% from the field. Part of being a minor league alum is always staying ready for one’s moment (whenever it may arrive) and he’s certainly earned the trust of Warriors’ brass by proving time and time again that he can come up in the clutch, having appeared in 72 regular season games. It’ll be interesting to see if they call his number often in the second round.