January 30, 2020, 10:10 pm
Hey Hoop Ballers! Welcome to a special super-duper-not-even-in-the-NBA-deep edition of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners.
Now that we are in January, it is officially G-League call-up season with teams now able to provide 10-day contracts to unsigned NBA prospects. If we look back over the past few years, these call-ups have provided some memorable stories, from the storybook performance of 32-year-old Andre Ingram to more notable fantasy stalwarts Seth Curry and Danuel House emerging from the depths of the G-League to become consistent year-in-year-out fantasy options.
Of course, the Seth Currys, Danuel Houses and Hassan Whitesides are few and far between. Most players called up from the G-League go on to roll out a few stinkers then make their way back to the minors. With that said, for deep league managers, it is worth staying vigilant and knowing who is performing well in the G-League to potentially cash in a lottery ticket waiver wire add on a player that comes up big down the stretch in the right situation.
So, with no further ado, let’s see who is rising to the top in the less than glamorous grind that is the G-League season.
Jemerrio Jones, F, Wisconsin Herd – Jones is a name to keep an eye on if only for the fact that he already has seen NBA action, and proved to be a reliable contributor at that level. Let’s start with the good part for Jones — his tenacity and hard-nosed style of play clearly translated to the NBA as he averaged 8.2 rebounds per game with 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks in 23.9 minutes per game over six contests with the Lakers last season. The bad news… sometimes it looks like he can’t throw a rock in the ocean, averaging just 4.5 points with 0.3 triples on 36.4 percent shooting over those same six games. I’m optimistic on Jones though, as similar “do the dirty work” high-motor guys with serious offensive deficiencies like Torrey Craig have found a consistent NBA role coming from the G-League.
There is a place in the league for guys like Jones, but for him to find that place he does need to progress from being a total liability on offense. So, how is he faring this year on the Wisconsin Herd from that perspective? He is currently shooting 53.8 percent from the field in the G-League, which is nearly identical to his performance last season with the South Bay Lakers. Unfortunately, his 3-point shooting has regressed significantly as he is now shooting a paltry 21.6 percent from deep compared to 33.3 percent last season. Regardless of his struggles from the deep, he is on a short list of guys I think are most likely to at least see a 10-day contract down the stretch, and we know that if given a chance, he can produce for deep league fantasy managers that need boards, steals and blocks.
Jaylen Adams, G, Wisconsin Herd – Moving on to another player with NBA experience, let’s take a look at how former Hawks’ two-way player Jaylen Adams is faring in the minors. Adams saw plenty of time with the Hawks last season down the stretch but unfortunately was not able to do much with it, averaging 3.2 points on 34.5 percent shooting with 0.7 threes, 1.9 assists and 0.4 steals in 12.6 minutes per game over 34 games of NBA action. This season with the Herd, Adams has shown improvement in some areas of his game, most importantly upping his assist rate from 5.8 per game last season to 6.4 this year while managing to reduce his turnover rate from 3.9 per game to 2.7. That is great news for his NBA prospects as teams looking for talent in the G-League guards want proven game managers who can limit costly mistakes.
However, the downside of his performance this year has to be the serious regression in shooting efficiency. Adams was a 50.6 percent shooter from the floor last year, making 40 percent of his triples, but now this season has dropped to 39.2 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from deep. Given his efficiency struggles last season with the Hawks that does not necessarily portend well for his NBA prospects. Still, Adams remains one of the better guard prospects around in the G-League with an existing NBA resume, making him a name to keep an eye on as we approach call-up season.
Dusty Hannahs, G, Memphis Hustle – Dusty Hannahs is enjoying a breakout season in his third year playing with the Memphis Hustle, averaging 22.1 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting (going 47.5 percent from deep) with 3.4 triples, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.7 steals in roughly 31 minutes per game. As you may have gathered from his box score stats, if there is one NBA-ready skill that Hannahs possesses, it is elite shooting from deep. In an era where just about everyone is taking threes, the value of pure deep shooters is somewhat diminished. However, somewhat paradoxically given what I just said, the value of guys that are truly elite shooters is increased.
The fact that Hannahs is pretty much automatic from deep and has progressed so much as a shooter (he shot 41.3 percent from deep last season) makes him someone to consider as a possible 10-day contract candidate down the stretch. From a fantasy perspective, he offers pretty much nothing outside of threes, but given the chance, he could prove to be a great 3-point streamer in 16-team leagues and someone worth speculatively adding in deeper formats depending on where he lands.
Jalen Jones, F, Capital City Go-Go – If Derrick Jones Jr. is nicknamed airplane mode; Jalen Jones is at least worthy of something similar (the hang-glider maybe? Meh, I’ll work on it). The sixth year G-League player does a lot on the court, averaging 19.5 points on 46.9 percent shooting with 1.5 triples, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals, but his most notable attribute is some highlight-reel bounce that would make even Vince Carter jealous. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but he is seriously explosive and noticeably impacts the game beyond just throwing down some vicious dunks.
Jones is enjoying a career year in many regards down in the minors, so I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him get at least a 10-day NBA contract given his performance this year and existing NBA resume (he played 16 games with the Cavaliers last season and 16 the previous year with the Mavericks). At the NBA level, Jones hasn’t proven that he can do much more than score, but if he is called up this season, consider him a boom or bust streamer in all deep leagues as he has demonstrated the ability to put up solid numbers, albeit inconsistently, on the big stage.
Vic Law, F, Lakeland Magic – I know I said that we are staying away from two-way guys as I’m more trying to find 10-day contract Andre Ingram type guys who come out of nowhere, but Law is at least worth discussing quickly. The Magic recently inked Law to two-way deal, and so far he has only appeared in two games for a total of 3.7 minutes in garbage time. However, his production in the G-League stands out as he averaged 19.5 points on 49 percent shooting with 2.2 threes, 8.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks in 35.4 minutes per game.
The presence of B.J. Johnson and the recent signing of Gary Clark do complicate things for Law, but injuries to Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu does at least open up the possibility of Law seeing rotation minutes. Right now he is more of a watch list guy in pretty much all leagues, but he is a versatile player that I believe has legit NBA talent moving forward. Keep an eye on him down the stretch and consider a speculative stash in deep dynasty formats.
Isaiah Canaan, G, Stockton Kings – Canaan already has an extensive NBA resume, and was enjoying a career year with the Suns in the 2017-2018 season before suffering a gruesome ankle injury of the same caliber as Gordon Hayward. In 20 games with the Suns that season, Canaan averaged 8.6 points on 38 percent shooting with 1.1 triples, 3.8 assists and 0.8 steals in 21.1 minutes per game. Not exactly league-winning stuff, but certainly serviceable enough as an assist streamer in 16-team leagues and must-roster in deeper formats.
Canaan appears to have recovered well from the injury, as he currently averages 22.2 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting with 3.7 triples, 4.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.2 steals with the Stockton Kings. Given his NBA experience as a capable lead guard off the bench and production this year, it feels like it is only a matter of time until Canaan is called up to a team in need of a steady ball-handler off the bench.
Dakota Mathias, G, Texas Legends – Similar to Dusty Hannahs mentioned above, Mathias has legit NBA-level shooting ability, averaging 18.7 points per game on 43.9 percent shooting (shooting 39.8 percent from deep) with 3.6 triples, 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals in 36.8 minutes per game. He has shown the ability to drain tough contested step-back threes, create his own shot off the dribble, and moves pretty well off the ball to find himself open shots from deep.
He is in the discussion with Hannahs as one of the G-League’s best long-range sharpshooters. That alone makes him a name to watch as 10-day call-up season heats up. From a fantasy perspective, he is probably best considered a 3-point streamer in most 16-team formats, but he does a good enough job collecting assists and steals to possibly warrant a roster spot in deeper leagues depending on where he lands.
Jarrod Uthoff, F, Memphis Hustle – Uthoff is another player with NBA experience currently tearing up the G-League. In 28 games with the Memphis Hustle, Uthoff is averaging 19.1 points on 48.8 percent shooting with 2.1 threes, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks in 34.7 minutes per game. Uthoff hasn’t just shined in the G-League though. In Summer League this season he impressed by averaging 11.6 points on 52.4 percent shooting with 1.8 triples, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks in 21 minutes per game.
His game is very fantasy friendly, and he has consistently been one of the best players on arguably the best team in the G-League, upping his chances of seeing at least a 10-day NBA deal with a team that needs frontcourt help. He doesn’t have the most highlight friendly game, but he does a lot of the little things right and plays his role well, something that I would argue makes him one of the more appealing candidates to see some action in the NBA down the stretch.
Lamar Peters, G, Westchester Knicks – Peters was likely overlooked around draft time due to his relatively small stature and inconsistent play in college, but so far this season he is looking like he may have what it takes to make it at the next level averaging 17.9 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting with 3.8 triples, 2.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 31.1 minutes per game with the Westchester Knicks.
He didn’t get much of a chance to show off what he could do in Summer League, but Peters continues to gain momentum as the G-League season progresses and could likely see a shot down the stretch in the NBA. Efficiency and turnovers are likely to be an issue with Peters at the next level, but his game is pretty fantasy friendly with nice mix of threes, assists and steals. Keep an eye on him given his status as an undrafted rookie, and continued rapid improvement down in the G-League.
Christ Koumadje, C, Delaware Blue Coats – One question to ask when trying to peg G-League players that may make it to the next level is – do they have an elite skill that is transferable to the next level. With Koumadje, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, Koumadje has two skills that would likely shine at the next level – one being his size, and the other being his shot blocking ability.
Standing 7’3” with a massive wingspan, Koumadje is currently the second best shot blocker in the G-League, averaging 3.5 blocks per game to go along with 11.1 points and 10.2 rebounds 25.7 minutes per night. Despite his massive size, Koumadje is still mobile and athletic enough to keep up with the pace an NBA game. Given how he has played so far this season with the Blue Coats, he is probably one of the more likely call-up candidates on this list. Even in limited minutes, he could be an interested streaming option in 16-team leagues should he see NBA action solely due to his per minute block rate – anything else he provides would just be gravy at that point.