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The Evolution of the NBA G-League

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype takes a long look into the trials and successes of the NBA’s developmental league.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A thousand dreams flourish in the G-League, the developmental system in which players on the cusp of making the NBA compete for the coveted call-up to huge contracts and the national spotlight. Today Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype took a deep dive into the G-League, with all its practices and personalities. Whether they’re on their way up or clinging to a last shot, the battle for respectability among players and coaches never ends.

Kennedy begins by detailing salaries—$35,000 for a five-month season plus housing—crediting the league for paying players better than it used to in the days of multi-tiered contracts. According to participants, the issue isn’t settled completely, however:

As HoopsHype recently reported, eSports competitors in the new NBA 2K League signed essentially the exact same deal that G League players will ink next season (a $35,000 base salary with housing and health insurance). When some G League players first learned of this, they were upset. Texas Legends forward Jameel Warney, who also played three games for the Dallas Mavericks this season and made the All-NBA G League First Team, sarcastically responded to the salary news by tweeting: “Obviously I should have played more NBA 2K than go to a Texas Legends’ practice. My priorities aren’t in order.”

The general consensus among G League players – past and present – is that the 2018-19 salary increase is a step in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before the issue is resolved. Until then, the G League will continue to lose out on some very talented players who choose to play overseas since the payday is better.

As far as talent, a participant in both G-League the NBA claims the difference isn’t as big as one would think.

“In terms of the talent, if you take away the top [stars] in the NBA, you really can’t tell the difference between the two leagues,” New Orleans Pelicans guard and former G Leaguer Jordan Crawford said. “If you remove the top players from the NBA, you can’t tell me there’s a big difference between the two leagues. Go watch the G League games every day and you’ll see that five or six players are dropping 20-plus points, every team will be hitting a lot of threes, the players are driving really hard to the basket, the game is fast – it’s up and down – and everybody is a threat to score. It’s fun, just like the NBA.

That same style of play, and the priorities that go into it, may actually hamper players from receiving the phone call they’re dreaming about. Kennedy quotes league veteran Xavier Silas explaining:

Nobody in the G League is a Top 30 NBA player. If an NBA team is looking in the G League to call someone up, they aren’t looking at you to replace a Top 30 player by yourself. They’re looking at you to replace one of their role players. That’s just the truth.”

Kennedy’s long-read article expands on these and other subjects. It’s a great read for anyone who wants to know more about the “minor league” experience, or anyone who’s ever thought, “If I had gotten a break or two I could have been in the NBA.”