Though the Portland Trail Blazers don’t have their own G-League affiliate, they are still able to send players to the NBA’s official developmental league through the flexible assignment rule, whereby NBA players play temporarily for another team’s affiliate. The introduction of two-way contracts this season has increased the significance of the G-League for all NBA franchises. The Blazers currently have three players assigned: rookie Caleb Swanigan, and both of their two-way contract players, Wade Baldwin IV and CJ Wilcox. Swanigan plays with the Canton Charge, Baldwin is playing for the Texas Legends, and Wilcox is assigned to the Santa Cruz Warriors, but has yet to suit up for the team as he continues to recover from off-season knee surgery.
Even though Swanigan and Baldwin have played just a combined 13 games in the league, they have each already put up impressive numbers. Here’s a closer look at how each player is doing, complete with video highlights:
Caleb Swanigan—Canton Charge
Swanigan, the 26th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Purdue, was assigned to the Charge on Christmas Eve. He has played in five games so far, all starts. To date, Biggie has averaged 16.8 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists during his time in Canton, while logging an average of just under 33 minutes per contest. He has recorded double-doubles in three out of the five games, while recording at least 10 points and eight rebounds each game.
Caleb had a phenomenal game against the Wisconsin Herd on January 3rd, in which he scored 28 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out five assists in 36 minutes of action.
He followed that performance with a 16 point, 19 rebound game against the Westchester Knicks on January 5th, in 37 minutes.
While the stats are eye-catching, the minutes could very well be the most important aspect for Swanigan’s development. Stuck in a positional logjam, he recorded just five total minutes for the Blazers in the month of December. He’s shaken off the rust and earned quality time with the Charge now. He is expected to rejoin the Blazers sometime following the team’s current four-game road trip.
The Charge play next January 10th against the Iowa Wolves at 5:30 pm PT. The game will be streamed on Twitch.
Wade Baldwin IV—Texas Legends
Baldwin was assigned to the Legends on December 6th, and made his debut for the team on December 17th. The 17th overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Grizzlies had a delayed start to his season due to a thumb injury. He has made up for lost time with solid play over the last few weeks. Through eight games (seven starts), the former Vanderbilt standout has averaged 17.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 33.4 minutes a night. Like Swanigan, he has put in a few monster performances.
On December 21st against the Rio Grande Valley Rapids, Baldwin registered 32 points, five assists, and six steals.
He continued the balanced attack with a 26 point, seven rebound and seven assist night against the Agua Caliente Clippers on New Year’s Eve.
Baldwin appeared in 33 games for the Grizzlies last season as a rookie, averaging 3.2 points in 12.3 minutes per game. He was released by the team in October and signed a two-way contract with Portland three days later.
The Legends play the Wisconsin Herd on January 10th at 3 pm PT, and will also be streamed on texlegends.com.
It’s important to take G-League stats with a grain of salt. Jake Layman averaged 18 points and six rebounds in eight games for the Windy City Bulls last season, but has been unable to translate that success to the NBA level. The G-League’s leading scorer, Antonio Blakeney, is averaging a gaudy 35.4 points per game for Windy City, but has averaged just seven points in 11 games with the big league Bulls this year.
Nonetheless, Swanigan and Baldwin performing well is a welcome sight. Caleb will be back in Rip City soon enough, and should bring with him a renewed sense of confidence. Baldwin will likely suit up for the Blazers at some point over the next couple of months. If the nagging hamstring injury to Damian Lillard remains a factor (ed. and/or trade deadline moves leaving the team a player short of 15) his time could come sooner than later.
While Swanigan, under full contract with Portland, can return to the Blazers at any time, Baldwin and Wilcox can only spend a maximum of 45 days with the big league club, as part of the two-way contract. It is worth noting that neither player has spent any time with the Blazers to this point of the season.