NBA Draft

G-League Ignite Prospects Offer Plenty in 2021 Draft


This is the first of a series of conversations between The Lead’s draft experts, covering all aspects of the draft. This article will cover the players expected to enter the draft from the G-League, and we’ll explore where they fall on our expert draft boards, how their game looks, and where their development is headed.

Jalen Green

Charlie Cummings: All right, should we do Jalen Green or Jonathan Kuminga first?

Adrian Walker: Let’s talk about Jalen, cause I think he’s got the higher ceiling of the two.

CC: I want to say I watched 3-5 games at the beginning of the season and he just looked weird. The whole team did, it was just hard to watch. But as we discussed before, it took me a while to come around on what they were doing as a team.

AW: With Jalen, he’s got a lot of potential, but he also has a lot to learn. You can tell a player is going to be really good, but you know they’re going to have to work their way through some difficulties early on. I think he’s especially going to have a lot of turnovers early on, especially his rookie year.

Ryan Meadows: Yeah, I really like Jalen Green as well. I think what’s going to be interesting about this draft is are we going to see a difference between guys we’re seeing right now in primetime March Madness vs. a guy you may have seen at 1 o’clock on ESPN2 a month ago? I think we can all agree Jalen is a top five prospect. But will teams have different evaluations based on March? I think Evan Mobley moved up as USC kept advancing, and he’ll be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But the player himself, Jalen Green, is obviously super athletic and raw. The jumper is exciting but it’s not there, I think we can all agree: he’s very promising coming out of his G League experiment, which I think was great for him.

CC: You touched on having an actual NBA coach too, it just became so obvious as the film piled up that Brian Shaw was forcing the prospects to do things that they weren’t comfortable with. I don’t go in as deep as some of the crazies who are scouting guys when they are freshmen in high school, but from the video and stats you can see that coming in Green did whatever he wanted around the rim. Get to the rim, get to the line, throw it down. But the entire G-League bubble he was playing on the perimeter, hunting for shots that he didn’t look comfortable taking. I think what separates Green from the rest of the Ignite prospects is he developed a comfort on the perimeter and learned things quickly. Like you said Adrian, he has so much left to work on, but showing rapid development is such a big deal.

AW: I’m curious what the NBA is going to do this year regarding a combine, and it touches on Ryan’s point. A lot of times you see prospects rise and fall after the combine, and I’m not sure if they’re going to do it this year due to COVID reasons. (Note: the combine is officially on the schedule as of 3/29). I think Jalen Green is a guy who stands to benefit from having a combine. He’s kind of similar to Anthony Edwards, he’s got that blow-your-mind sort of athleticism to combine with a nice skillset.

RM: Let me ask you Adrian, I assume you have Green top-five, would a draft combine really help his stock? Do you think a combine could push him into the top two or three?

AW: Yeah, I think it solidifies it.

CC: I think people would freak out a little too much over a Cade combine. It’s just gonna look unfair trying to compare him athletically to Green. Like both of you said, recency bias is a real thing, and people look to March and the combine with an extra level of importance. Extra weight is put on them and I think it gets a little crazy at times. If you want to look at certain games down the stretch that move a guy up on the back end of the board, I get it. But looking at these top guys, I don’t see a reason to move them significantly up or down based on how they performed in three games versus how they performed in 30.

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Jonathan Kuminga

AW: With the recency bias, I think it’s part of the reason Jonathan Kuminga might fall a bit. Right now we’re seeing Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes. All of those dudes are playing right now. And with Kuminga we’re not going to see much of him until the combine, or anything at all before the draft. I’m curious what you all think about him, and if he did enough with the Ignite so solidify his top-five spot.

CC: We’ve talked about all these guys with the Ignite being forced to do uncomfortable things for the sake of development. What Kuminga does have right now is an NBA body, the guy is incredibly strong. He’s 6’8″, 220 or 230, an NBA-sized forward already at his age. He could maybe play some center right now in a punch, which is pretty crazy. Sometimes I marvel at the stuff he can do athletically with his balance and strength, but ultimately a lot depends on how his jumper and perimeter game fall. He just looks so slow for a wing. As a Warriors fan, I’ve watched a lot of Eric Paschall the last two years. If you’re built as hell but the shot and ballhandling don’t come around, it’s hard to find a niche offensively. Unless you’re built like Zion or Giannis, which Kuminga isn’t. That’s the thing that scares me off him a bit, I don’t trust his perimeter development.

RM: Do you think his skills are more geared towards being a big man? I had thought he was seen as a perimeter player.

CC: I think he’s better used as a big, just with his build and balance and athletic limitations. He couldn’t really win with dribble moves in the G League, and when he did he didn’t win cleanly. So yes, I’m not sold on him being a true wing at the NBA level, I think his skills are better used as four that can create against slower players. If he had more quickness in him, or teams asked him to lose some weight, I could see him being more of a perimeter player. But that’s just my read. Position-wise it seemed like an ill fit to have him on the perimeter, and the lack of shot development was concerning.

AW: Kuminga plays on the wing, just to balance off Charlie’s point. He’s got big man strength with small forward size. I think he can bounce between both forward spots, but it depends on who drafts him and how he’s utilized. I don’t think he has the guard skills to necessarily play between the 2 and the 3, but he also doesn’t have the height to play the four full time. If he’s used in small ball lineups he could be a four or five. There are some people that really believe in his development, but there are lots of questions and concerns.

RM: Gotcha, cause I watched about a half dozen Ignite games at least, and he was a mainstay on the perimeter. When he started the season too he stood out because he was scoring 20, 25 points a game. Then he hits the “rookie wall” and his scoring completely fell off. It seemed to affect the team in a big way too, not having his impact. I hate the whole current NBA comparisons thing, but it does help put in someone’s mind where a player is at physically. It gives a barometer for their body and raw physical ability. He reminds me a lot of Andrew Wiggins when he was coming into the league. A tweener body, with raw strength, athleticism but the offense is going to be there where we never really saw it with Wiggins. I think he’s more of a perimeter guy but offers that strength as well.

CC: The reason I cast him as more of a power forward in my mind is that having a perimeter game is complimentary to getting downhill for him. If he can attack and create from the triple threat it opens up looks downhill and at the line. Developing a competent perimeter game and being an average shooter would be huge. The thing with Wiggins that drives me crazy is he’s so good at getting downhill, and when he gets to the rim he’s never been big enough to power through contact. Kuminga can do that. I think Kuminga can throw his body around and get good contact with enough touch to convert tough looks.

AW: We can all agree Kuminga is a polarizing guy because he’s one of those prospects that’s tough to gauge what he’s going to be or what his potential holds. If I had to give a player comp, I think he’s similar to Harrison Barnes with a less developed jump shot. If the shot comes around he becomes a player that could really thrive on the wing with his driving ability. He doesn’t have the guard skills or ball handling, but he does have quickness and strength. Along with a good first step, that gives you the tools to get by most NBA wings. If the jump shot comes around he could be more of a wing defender, Stanley Johnson-type. But the shot could make him a Harrison Barnes type player.

RM: Do you both have Kuminga top five?

AW: He drops out of the top five for me; No. 6 pick on my board.

CC: I had to bump him below Jalen too and out of top five. I have him eight. I’m not that down on him because four or five years ago being a tweener was a big red flag. Nobody cares about that now if you have skills, quickness and can make good decisions.

RM: Would you say Kuminga is more about the fit of the team he’s with, or does he need a bad team that can give him max development time?

AW: I don’t know what’s best for him. Long-term the opportunity to get as many minutes as possible against NBA players will help his development. I also think he needs to spend as much time in the gym shooting as possible. You can’t come into the NBA shooting 39/23/63 and expect to be respected on the perimeter. I don’t think the team matters as much as how he’s deployed.

Daishen Nix

RM: I’m gonna throw out another player. Excuse the phrasing but he’s my favorite NBA body. He doesn’t blow anyone away but I really like him, and it’s Daishen Nix. He looks like he just rolled off the taco truck and isn’t all that athletic, but the guy can ball. He’s big for a feature guard but I think he can be a great bench guy. Maybe he can be a starter. I love the way he passes. He moved, he knew where to be on the court as a 19-year-old in the G League. He didn’t look out of place in a sense when other guys did. I don’t know how young you guys are but he reminded me of Andre Miller. I’m 30 so I got to see Andre at the end of his prime, and he was just so steady. Good for 10-12 assists a night and 10-12 points. Played for 17 years. You knew what you were getting every night, and Nix reminds me of that. He’s a doughboy right now so he’ll have to get in shape, but he’s sick.

AW: We have plenty of doughboys in the NBA right now that are dominating, so he wouldn’t be the first.

RM: I don’t think he’s got dominant potential, but I think he fits any situation and can play right away. So he’s my guy.

CC: Nix put on so much weight from high school to the G League that it had to be by design. I have this feeling that they told him to bulk up. Even if it wasn’t, I won’t judge. I packed on some quarantine weight this year. He seems to be a lock to fall into the second round which makes him a whole different category of sleeper. Instead of a guy being drafted at 10 who gets drafted at 20, he could be a lottery talent in the mid to late second round. Teams could be thinking “oh my God, we passed on this guy four times, what are we doing?”. Maybe he just can get an NBA-level body and his game opens up.

Isaiah Todd

RM: A guy I feel that was one of the players Brian Shaw spoke so highly of was Isaiah Todd. He’s considered a highly versatile player that Shaw thought added tons of value. He straight up said he was the best two-way player of the draft. I don’t know how much we can buy into what Shaw says about his own guys, but it’s high praise nonetheless. He’s an NBA veteran as a coach and player so he has good instinct. He says he shoots and practices as well as Green and Kuminga, though the playing opportunity wasn’t there. He may end up a bit deeper in the draft but has some serious value.

CC: I would buy up every G-League guy this draft. I’m a bit lower on Green than the two of you and we’re all lower on Kuminga than consensus, but I’d still snap up all four of these guys for the upside. They were at an unprecedented level of competition for prospects that you can’t compare to anyone else. It’s very hard to gauge where they are at in their development. Since they have all had their flashes and signs of positive skillsets, just buy them all up.

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About Charlie Cummings

Warriors writer born and raised in the Bay Area. University of Denver graduate currently living in Denver

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