Even compared to other leagues, it is very difficult to make an NBA roster. NFL teams and MLB teams both field rosters of over 40 players, but NBA squads are only allowed 15 roster spots. Many franchises send young players with upside on assignment to minor league teams in the G-League. Not many G-League players make a name for themselves in the big time, but we occasionally see a success story.
Here are six of the best G-League alumni.
6. Kendrick Nunn, Guard, Miami Heat
Nunn, a 25 year old rookie from Oakland University, is one of this season’s biggest surprises. In 67 games on 29 minutes per night, Nunn averaged 15.3ppg/2.7rpg/3.3apg. His stellar play on a playoff squad earned him a nomination for Rookie of the Year. While Ja Morant will most likely take the award home, one can assume Nunn has secured All-Rookie First Team honors.
While many casual basketball fans recognize his name now, Nunn was not even on the radar of many diehards just last season. Nunn played with Golden State’s G-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, last year. In 49 appearances, he provided a spark off the Santa Cruz bench with 19.3ppg/3.8rpg/2.8apg.
Nunn played college ball at UIUC and Oakland University before signing his G-League Contract.
5. Robert Covington, Forward, Houston Rockets.
Covington, a Bellwood, Illinois native, started all four years at Tennessee State University. Despite earning all-conference honors for three straight seasons, he went un-drafted in 2013. After signing with the Rockets, “RoCo” spent a majority of the year as a member of the then D-League’s Rio Grande Vipers. He was a prominent two-way player in the D-League, and he even won the Rookie of the Year Award, while also taking home All-Star Game MVP honors.
Covington was waived by Houston later that year, but he quickly signed for fours years with Philadelphia. He became a fan favorite and one of the league’s premier three-and-d wings. He was named First Team All-Defense in 2019. Since then, he was traded to Minnesota, and later dealt back to Houston.
4. Devonte’ Graham, Guard, Charlotte Hornets.
The 25 year old Graham is another huge surprise in this year’s season. A former point guard for the Greensboro Storm, the Kansas alum leads Charlotte in both scoring and assists. Despite being a standout player for the Jayhawks, Graham bounced up and down from the G-League last season. He was a high volume scorer in Greensboro, and his game seems to have translated nicely to the next level.
Perhaps Graham may continue to elevate his play, should the Hornets get their act together and build a formidable squad.
3. Danny Green, Guard, Lakers.
Danny Green stayed at UNC for all four years, earning ACC All-Defense honors his senior year. After being selected 46th by the Cavaliers, he was later waived and picked up by San Antonio. The Spurs waived him just six days later, and then the Reno Bighorns of the D-League picked him up. After his time in the D-League, Green established himself as a reliable NBA guard.
He has won All-Defensive second team honors, held the record for most three pointers in an NBA Finals, and has won two championships. I would not be surprised if he won a third with the Lakers in the coming months!
2. Pascal Siakam, Forward, Raptors.
A native of Cameroon, the Raptors selected Siakam with the 27th pick in the 2016 draft after he spent two years at NMSU. Despite being an opening day starter, the Raptors sent him down to the D-League for the final three months of the regular season (and the playoffs). He won the D-League Finals MVP award with Raptors 905. He spent the entirety of the next year in the big time, improving in nearly every category. After a very successful 2018-19 campaign, Siakam won the most improved player award!
Continuing his steady trajectory, Pascal Siakam was an all-star starter this year, and led the Raptors to second place in the East.
1. Khris Middleton, Guard/Forward, Bucks
Middleton is the model D-League/G-League alumnus. He was a second round pick, and he bounced up and down between the Pistons and Fort Wayne Mad Ants his rookie year. In 2013, the Pistons traded him to Milwaukee in a package for Brandon Jennings, and he quickly became an effective 3-and-D player. He played in every game the following year while starting 64. Four years later, Middleton earned his first all star selection, which made him the first D-League alumnus to do so.
He is now a two time all-star, and he signed a max contract this past offseason for over $30 million a season. The Bucks are contenders this year, and Middleton surely plays a big part in their success.
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