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NBA G League: Biggest takeaways from Winter Showcase

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The NBA G League’s Winter Showcase wrapped up Thursday, bringing together a big swath of team executives and front office personnel for a four-day summit. The event annually serves just a few purposes: it’s a proving ground for G League prospects, it’s a testing ground for brand spanking new rules (this yr, the league experimented with a fourth-quarter, target-score rule), and it’s a chance for teams to satisfy and discuss trades and other business.

Within the context of the 2023 draft, the major draw on the Showcase was G League Ignite, who were without Scoot Henderson once I watched on Tuesday (he’s nearing a return after a late-November concussion and nose injury). The opposite draft-eligible player of note was NBA Academy Africa guard Thierry Serge Darlan, who had an enormous platform to showcase himself to groups this week between a pair of Academy scrimmages and games against prep school teams on the nearby Tarkanian Classic.

Henderson’s absence Tuesday was a bummer, however the game did offer a useful evaluation checkpoint for Ignite’s prospects, a few of whom I used to be in a position to catch for the primary time. Listed below are my major scouting takeaways from the past few days here in Vegas.

G League Ignite guard London Johnson impressed scouts on the Winter Showcase.

London Johnson, G

I used to be pretty impressed on my first live take a look at the 18-year-old Johnson, who will spend the following two seasons with Ignite before becoming eligible for the 2024 draft. One silver lining to Henderson’s absence was getting to observe Johnson play starter’s minutes for Ignite, wherein the purpose guard left a positive first impression together with his poise and his play on the defensive end. For a player who was in highschool lower than a yr ago, he looked quite comfortable on the G League level, and that unto itself is a robust indicator of his NBA future.

Johnson is already Ignite’s best perimeter defender, with outstanding lateral agility coupled with a desire to play each ends. While not exceptionally disruptive yet, he projects as a transparent positive down the road considering where he’s at such an early stage. The larger determinant in his ultimate ceiling is tied to his offensive game, where he played with poise and has terrific change-of-pace, but may not have the chops yet to essentially take over games. Johnson is a great jump shooter and showed the power to make shots off the bounce, an area that ought to keep improving. I’m still curious as to what level of playmaker he’ll ultimately reach, as he flashed passing ability but hasn’t been a prolific creator yet. As he continues adding physical strength and growing into his role as a floor leader, it’s reasonable to expect really good things in the long run. He has 18 months to prepare for the draft and appears to be ahead of schedule in his comfort level with Ignite, so there’s loads of reason for optimism.

Leonard Miller, F

Based on what I’ve seen thus far this season, Miller seems like the very best bet to be the following Ignite prospect drafted after Henderson is off the board. The query is what range that ultimately winds up being, as the range of outcomes for him stays quite wide. He’s been quite productive while playing lots of minutes early within the season with some splashy box rating lines. And it’s a positive sign that he’s in a position to produce at this level despite all of the things he doesn’t know yet. Miller didn’t play particularly well on the Showcase on Tuesday night, shooting just 3-of-13, but he did grab 14 rebounds. He’s still a ways away from getting up to the mark as a decision-maker and reliable shooter, two crucial elements in his long-term projection.

It’s easy to nitpick the things Miller doesn’t do well yet—he’s still pretty raw—but ultimately, his mixture of traits and skills at 6′ 10″ goes to be attractive to franchises who will be patient together with his development. He has legit size, he’s grow to be a productive rebounder, he can defend multiple positions, and he’s a great enough passer and ball handler that he should eventually find a way to operate out of a spread of various spots and roles inside an offense. He’s not an elite level reader of the sport, but he’s demonstrating an improved understanding of his own role. Having just turned 19, Miller offers so many tools to work with at a base level or higher, which provides him just a few different pathways to viability, and that ought to ultimately help him on draft night. There’s still a risk factor here, but in the meanwhile I’m a bit more confident in his legitimacy as a first-round candidate.

Sidy Cissoko, G

The 18-year-old French wing Cissoko offers a reasonably interesting development prototype, with enough size, handling, passing and defensive acumen so as to add versatility to lineups at 6′ 7″. He’s not quite there yet, at the very least not on a consistent basis, as he has a bent to drift on offense and doesn’t at all times impact the sport in his minutes. But he does appear to have made progress on his shot since I last frolicked with Ignite in October, which is essential: if Cissoko can grow to be a viable catch-and-shoot player, it raises his floor significantly, as he doesn’t have one offensive skill that necessarily separates him from his peer group otherwise.

Defensively, Cissoko appears to be in a reasonably good place, as he’s tall, broad and agile enough to change onto guards. He’s big and robust but not truly monstrous physically by NBA standards, and without delay he projects more as a team defender who works well inside a scheme than as a disruptive, wrecking-ball kind of guy. There’s definitely some stuff to love here, and he projects somewhere within the late-first round/early second-round mix for now.

Mojave King, G

The 20-year-old King has began to return into his own a little bit bit, playing starter’s minutes so far within the season and turning in a handful of strong performances in addition to some inconsistent ones. He has a physical profile that ought to fit the bill as a 3-and-D type wing, if not the creative skills or assertiveness which may make him greater than that. Like most Australian prospects appear to do, King competes and does the small things well. He has a shot at being a reasonably nice role player. But he’ll have to be lots more efficient to get there and, so far, that component remains to be a matter mark. He should figure into the second round/two-way mix within the spring.

Babacar Sané, F

A native of Senegal, the 19-year-old Sane is a product of NBA Academy Africa who joined Ignite in late October, and this was my first time seeing him play. His physical profile at his listed 6′ 6″, 194, is immense, with broad shoulders and great proportions for a wing that make him hard to miss as a prospect. Sané remains to be very much getting up to the mark at this level, because the game moves a bit fast for him lots of the time, but he played hard on Tuesday and has the kind of tools which might be going to earn him an extended look from NBA teams. He’s nowhere near ready for the NBA and hasn’t made much of an impact regularly, however it’ll be fascinating to see where he’s developmentally by season’s end.

Efe Abogidi, F

Abogidi joined Ignite after a pair of decent seasons at Washington State and was previously a part of the NBA’s Global Academy program and NBA Academy Africa. Now back within the NBA’s fold with Ignite, he figures to be in the combo for a two-way contract and potentially a second-round selection. While not a physically overwhelming player for somebody his size, he’s been efficient and productive in his minutes, rebounding with a motor, protecting the basket effectively and flashing the power to knock down the occasional shot. He didn’t do a complete lot on Tuesday and may sometimes wander away within the flow of a game. But there are tools here to work with as a useful energy big in the long term, if not a ton more upside than that on the surface.

Thierry Serge Darlan, G

Lastly, just a few thoughts on Darlan, who’s regarded by some across the league as arguably the very best African guard prospect ever (though for context, the historical bar there is just not particularly high). He’s weighing what to do next season, with Ignite and the school route each options, but he’s draft-eligible as well. Darlan remains to be learning the ins and outs of guard play and was mistake-prone within the two games I saw, but ultimately there are lots of intriguing elements to his game: he’s a great athlete, flashes talent as a playmaker, defends his position well, and plays with an endearing passion in any respect times. If placed in a robust developmental context, his game could take off, and it’s evident that there’s some kind of NBA future lying in wait for him.

The large developmental query here is whether or not Darlan can actually play point guard long-term, or if he’ll must move off the ball, which then shifts the standards for the way good a defender and shooter he’ll must grow to be. This hinges each on skill development and the way quickly he adjusts to whatever level he plays at next season, and it’s going to take time. It’s hard to pass judgment off one of these environment—Darlan’s NBA Academy Africa team played a ton of games this week and there have been times where he was pressing a bit—but he can be on the radar for the draft this yr, it seems, if he chooses. I believe taking an extended route and dealing up a level where Darlan can play starter minutes and be allowed to play through his mistakes could also be a great developmental decision. Regardless, this can be a player to maintain tabs on, particularly if he chooses to check the draft this yr. 

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