Now that the inaugural season for the G League Ignite is complete, we can finally evaluate the overall performances of the top prospects from the team.
The first run of this version of a high school-to-pros model was undoubtedly successful, earning a spot in the playoffs behind a winning record (8-7) in the bubble before getting eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Considering the competitiveness they showed under coach Brian Shaw, as well as the roughly $500,000 select contracts, it is easy to imagine that this will be a viable route for more prospects moving forward.
While many of the headlines went to Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, deservedly so, we also learned a lot about Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix as well.
Here is what we saw from these players during their time playing in the G League’s bubble location in Florida.
17.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 46.1 FG%, 36.5 3P%
There was never much doubt that Jalen Green, a celebrated athlete who won MVP for Team USA during the U17 World Cup in 2018, could score the ball. If he was able to use his time with Ignite to show that his jumper had become more accurate, however, the sky was the limit.
Green, who recorded 30 points with 5 rebounds and 7 assists in their sole playoff game, exceed expectations and got better as the season progressed.
His free-throw percentage during the bubble (82.9 percent) suggests an improved touch and there were plenty of other reasons to believe in his release, too.
Even though he struggled to connect on contested attempts, which is to be expected, it was encouraging to see how often he swished his open looks when in rhythm. Green was an excellent 10-for-20 (50.0 percent) on his unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers, per Synergy.
Perhaps the best element of his game was his ability to create his own offense when he was on the floor.
Missed the shot but Jalen Green, yeesh, sent his man to the floor backwards with this stepback. His shot creation has gotten quite sharp. pic.twitter.com/o4UUE5C3Wa
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) March 8, 2021
He averaged 2.7 points per game on isolation possessions, according to Synergy, which ranked as the third-best in the bubble. In fact, only 2019 first-round pick Kevin Porter Jr. and 2018 G League Rookie of the Year Antonio Blakeney outscored him on one-on-one possessions.
Green was a prolific creator off the bounce and his ability to shoot dazzling pull-ups and beat his man off the dribble for stepbacks will separate him from other elite prospects. He was one of the overall leaders in scoring during clutch minutes and only one player in the G League bubble was able to record more high-leverage three-pointers.
Jalen Green has absolutely dumb burst pic.twitter.com/vPkmYFaB1d
— Corey Tulaba 🤙 (@hardwoodherald) March 2, 2021
Before the season, coach Shaw told HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto that Green has “effortless athleticism” and is a “great slasher who can get to the rim and finish with contact” on the floor.
That unmistakable athleticism allowed him to cook his opponents as the ballhandler in transition and shoot a remarkable 73.7 percent at the rim, and it’s easy to see why scouts will clamor for his potential as a scoring guard at the next level.
There are still questions as to whether his handle will be consistent enough to operate as a primary guard in the NBA. He was not particularly efficient running ball-screen actions and he was more turnover-prone than he had been during AAU and FIBA competitions. If that comes around, however, he has the potential to be an All-Star in the NBA.
15.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.0 spg, 38.7 FG%, 24.6 3P%
During the first few games for the Ignite, Jonathan Kuminga looked poised to be the prospect with the most potential on this squad. He came out hot, firing off at least 19 points in three of his first four appearances on the floor.
It was hard to believe that an 18-year-old prospect was having the kind of success that he was while facing longtime professionals. After winning all four of those games, however, it became a bit more clear that his talent was still raw and developing rather than that of an NBA-ready wunderkind.
While he was the highest-usage player on the team, to put it mildly, Kuminga was an inefficient player on offense during his time with the Ignite before he was sidelined with an injury.
One of the first things people may have noticed is that at 6-foot-8, he was a fearless and confident shooter, attempting at least four three-pointers in ten of his thirteen appearances.
Quick clip on Jonathan Kuminga. Jumper remains a work in progress as he’s 3-12 from 3 through two games. Encouraged he can miss the first one here as badly as he does, then recovers with no hesitation and knocks down the next one. pic.twitter.com/QlkAWjDLbx
— Matt Pennie (@matt_pennie) February 13, 2021
But he was never able to connect on more than two shots from beyond the arc in a single game, going 0-for-5 on Feb. 15 against the Iowa Wolves and 1-for-8 on Feb. 17 during a loss vs. the Erie BayHawks. Only two of his deep shots were unassisted and he made just one corner three on the entire season.
But it wasn’t particularly pretty from other areas of the floor, either, as he was 7-for-36 (19.4 percent) on short midrange shots from between four and fourteen feet of the basket. He can read as too ambitious without fantastic improvisational skills.
Meanwhile, scouts that I have spoken with have also expressed grave concern about his defensive productivity. He was constantly getting exposed by his man, both on the perimeter and especially near the rim. Before the season, there was some school of thought that he could play a small ball-five in the NBA. Now, it seems incredibly unrealistic for him to match up against even the most mildly competent big.
For him to be fully realized as a foundational piece, he needs to be able to at least hold his own on rotations when switching onto fives. Until then, it is unlikely that he would be able to get real minutes for any team besides an organization fully focused on rebuilding.
Kuminga having outlier functional strength in the GL bubble at age 18 is certainly noteworthy pic.twitter.com/CVRmG4vrCX
— Jake Rosen (@JakeInThePaint) February 13, 2021
On the bright side, Kuminga showed undeniable flashes of explosiveness and was admittedly more impressive on-ball than most had anticipated. He drew a ton of contact from defenders, ranking as one of the league leaders in both 2-point shooting fouls drawn and non-shooting fouls drawn.
There were some moments that showed he could thread the needle as a playmaker and create for others, too. He does not lack confidence and there is a strong canvas to build around from a developmental standpoint.
12.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.7 bpg, 43.7 FG%, 36.2 3P%
Green and Kuminga were both widely considered lottery talent before the season began but no one on the Ignite helped their draft stock more than Isaiah Todd. The emerging draftee looked particularly good in the regular season finalé with Kuminga on the sidelines.
One scout that I spoke with said that pre-season, Todd was not on his radar as a draftable prospect. Now, however, the same scout told me that it would not surprise him if Todd was selected in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft.
The 6-foot-10 prospect showed legitimate versatility in the frontcourt as a potential floor-spacing big man in the NBA.
Isaiah Todd has definitely helped himself with Ignite. Scouts’ expectations sounded relatively low coming in. He has their attention now with idea he can be a shotmaking, switchable big.
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 19, 2021
He connected on his no-dribble jumpers on spot-up possessions, knocking down catch-and-shoot opportunities at a respectable clip. He gained a lot of momentum when he hit a turnaround game-winner on Feb. 27 against the Canton Charge.
Todd shot 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, which is a good number for someone his size, although it is worth acknowledging that none of his three-pointers were unassisted. Even if he isn’t someone who will be immediately able to create for himself at the next level, however, he is an easy sell to an executive as a pick-and-pop option if you’re buying stock in his shooting.
Meanwhile, he could benefit from some improved defensive awareness as he was one of the league’s leaders in shooting fouls committed.
Isaiah Todd’s defensive mobility is really solid
— Stone Hansen (@report_court) February 14, 2021
But overall, he fared much better than Kuminga did when he was guarding opponents near the basket. Even though he mostly played in the second unit, the Ignite actually had a better defensive rating in minutes he was on the floor compared to when he was off.
Todd will earn some respect for serving as the secretary/treasurer of the G League Players’ Union, too, showcasing leadership traits and a willingness to take initiative.
8.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 38.4 FG%, 17.6 3P%
The calling card for Daishen Nix is his court vision, which is ultimately what will draw the most interest from teams around the league. He has long been lauded as one of the most impressive passing prospects in his class.
Nix recorded the best assist percentage (27.5 percent) on his squad, besting NBA veteran playmakers playing alongside him including Jarrett Jack and Bobby Brown. He was comfortable running the offense in the open court, too. He had 19 assists in transition, per Synergy, which ranked No. 12 overall among players in the bubble.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) March 7, 2021
But he also developed a nice pick-and-roll chemistry with fellow NBA prospect Isaiah Todd. He converted 21 assists to teammate Todd, which was the third-most prolific assist combo among all two-man duos in the bubble.
One particularly strong metric for Nix was his assist-to-usage rate, which essentially calculates how often a player got an assist given how often they had the ball. His (1.41) ranked ninth-best among everyone who recorded at least 250 minutes in the bubble, based on data scraped from RealGM.
Unfortunately, he was also one of the league’s leaders in bad passes, defined as when an offensive team loses possession of the ball without attempting a field goal or a free throw. The guard recorded 3.0 bad passes per 100 possessions, the most of anyone who played at least 10 minutes in the bubble.
While he put up 25 points on Feb. 13 against Raptors 905, he was not much of a factor as a scorer during the other games that he played for the Ignite. He was a non-threat from beyond the arc, connecting on just 0.4 three-pointers per game while shooting 17.6 percent on those attempts.
Coupled with concerns circling about his conditioning and a lack of burst, it is currently hard to project Nix as a future starter. But with a 6-foot-5 frame and a great feel for the game, there will certainly be several teams interested in selecting Nix.