Countless players in the modern NBA have had spells in the NBA’s minor league, the G League, for developmental purposes. Some of those have earned their stripes the hard way to get to where they are.
Many bounced around the G League before receiving their big break, whilst some were assigned to affiliate teams for their debut seasons to work on their craft.
Here are 7 stars in today’s NBA that started out in the G League. Or the D League, if before 2017.
Danny Green spent time with the Erie Bayhawks in his debut season (2009/10), whilst signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Playing in 2 games and averaging 25.5 points, on 50% shooting from range.
The San Antonio Spurs signed Green in 2010. But he was waived just 6 days later. Green then went to the Reno Bighorns. Where he averaged 20.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1 block, in 17 games.
He was then resigned in March 11 by the Spurs, and spent 1 more game in the then D League, dropping 19 points for the Austin Toros.
Hassan Whiteside spent quite a lot of time in the minor league of the NBA early on in his professional career. In his first 2 seasons, whilst signed for the Sacramento Kings, he played in 25 games for the Reno Bighorns. Averaging just 6.1 points per game.
He split the 2012-13 season between the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Where he averaged 10.3 points/7.7 rebounds, and 5.7 points/4.7 rebounds, respectively. He won the 2013 D League championship with the Vipers.
After spending some time overseas, Whiteside featured in 4 more D League games in 2014 for the Iowa Energy (1 game) and Sioux Falls Skyforce (3 games). Averaging 21.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 5 blocks between the 2 teams.
In his rookie campaign (2013/14), Robert Covington spent the majority of his time on assignment with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. In 42 games he averaged 24.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks. On 44% shooting from the field, and 37% from 3-point land.
His dominant performances earned him D League All-Star honours, where he won the MVP Award in the All-Star game. Other accolades include the D League Rookie of the Year and a selection into the D League First Team.
Whilst with the Houston Rockets as a rookie in 2011/12, Marcus Morris received multiple assignments to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He featured in 11 contests across the season, averaging 20.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.3 steals. On 45.7% shooting.
Following his stint in the D League, Morris has become an established NBA player. Playing in 600 games for the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Before becoming a regular with the Brooklyn Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie had multiple spells in the D League. Firstly with the Grand Rapids Drive over the course of the 2014/15 (6 games) and 2015/16 seasons (12 games). Where he averaged 12.5 points/5.2 assists and 14.7 points/6 assists, respectively.
Upon his trade to the Chicago Bulls and being waived shortly after, Dinwiddie started the 2016/17 season with the Windy City Bulls. He played in 9 games, averaging 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8.1 assists, and 2.2 steals, on 41.4% shooting from 3. This earned him a move to Brooklyn.
Fred VanVleet was a pivotal bench piece in the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 NBA Championship season. But before such success, he featured for the Raptors’ D League affiliate, the Raptors 905, as a rookie.
He featured in 16 games and averaged 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.5 steals. He converted at a 40.7% rate from downtown, as he led the Raptors to the 2017 D League championship.
Devonte Graham is having a breakout year in the NBA this season for the Charlotte Hornets. As a rookie though, Graham was assigned to the Greensboro Swarm. He was experiencing a rough season in the NBA, but flourished in the G League.
In 13 contests, he posted averages of 23.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.6 steals. Whilst shooting 44.1% from the field, and 38.3% from beyond the arc. He’s not looked back since, as he’s averaging 18.2 points and 7.5 assists this season in the NBA.
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