On April 16, the NBA G League shocked the basketball world as they announced the coup of top high-school prospect, Jalen Green. The 18-year-old passed on college to join the NBA’s minor league in a “reshaped” professional pathway program. On the same day, shortly after, it was announced that fellow top prospect, Isaiah Todd, would follow suit.
It’s been a very complicated process for fans to understand the new professional pathway program. What it is, the money involved, what the new select team is, and so on. New details are emerging still, to this very day.
What is the professional pathway program?
The professional pathway program was actually initially created back in October 2018. In an attempt for the G League to capture elite prospects. However, it quickly emerged that the $125,000 contract wasn’t competitive enough. Even though it was much higher than the $35,000 that regular G League players recieve.
2020 NBA Draft prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton opting to go to Australia’s National Basketball League prompted a change. With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim restructuring the program. It has been reported that elite prospects will now be paid $500,000 plus. This was in an attempt to keep emerging talent in the United States, instead of going overseas.
Bonuses can be earned through appearances, development duties, and community initiatives. Endorsement deals can be collected on top of salaries, and players can receive full college scholarships too. So even though they are foregoing college to join the G League, they can still receive a full education.
What is the new select team?
The elite prospects that agree to join the professional pathway program enter a “select team”. The new select team that was announced following the signings Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd will be based in Southern California.
The team will receive professional coaching, training, and exhibition contests. Alongside professional veteran players. The select team will not be affiliated to an NBA team and will operate outside of the traditional G League structure.
The team will have a condensed schedule, and it is believed that their season will consist of approximately 10-12 games against G League competition. In which the results will not count in the official standings. Exhibition games are believed to be played against overseas national teams and NBA academies, on top of the initial 10-12 games.
In terms of location within Southern California, the team is believed to be located around the Los Angeles area. Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports has reported the Sports Academy (formerly the Mamba Sports Academy) in Thousand Oaks, California, as a potential base for the team.
Haynes did mention, however, that other venues are being considered and nothing has been finalised at present time.
Going back to the set-up of the team. The professional veteran players to be included in the team have not been announced. But the Head Coach has.
Who will be the Head Coach of the select team?
The 54-year-old won 3 NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers as a player (2000-02). He then won 2 more as an Assistant Coach of the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
Coaching-wise, Shaw was most recently an Associate Head Coach for the Lakers between 2016 and 2019, under Luke Walton. Prior to that he has been an Associate Head Coach of the Indiana Pacers (2011-13) and the Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets (2013-15).
Members of Shaw’s coaching staff for the select team have not been announced as of yet.
Which elite prospects have opted to join the select team?
As previously mentioned, Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd were the first players to be confirmed. Both spearheaded the highly publicized announcement of the new select team. As well as the restructure to the G League professional pathway program.
Shortly after, top prospect Daishen Nix announced that he would be foregoing college to join the G League too. Followed by Kai Sotto of the Phillipines, who was confirmed to be the fourth addition to the team.
At present time, no further names have been officially announced. However, 17-year-old Jonathan Kuminga has publicly stated that he is considering joining the G League. Who are on a decision list alongside college options Texas Tech, Duke, Kentucky, and Auburn.
All the names above are predicted to be selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. With Green and Kuminga believed to be potential top-5 picks.
Will the G League gain more exposure and popularity with the select team?
Absolutely, yes. The media will ascend on Los Angeles to get a glimpse, and to track the progress, of Jalen Green and Co. With that, the attention of basketball fans will most likely turn towards the G League.
A much larger spotlight will be on the league moving forward. Which could lead to more lucrative television and sponsorship opportunities on the horizon.
General G League players can take advantage of this new-found popularity, as some will get the chance to play against the select team. But in general, some fans may be prompted to see what the rest of the G League is all about and check out the traditional league set-up.
The G League’s exposure has been growing over previous years anyway. Especially with player wages going up, the introduction of two-way contracts, and the general talent across the league increasing. The new select team with elite prospects will propel that exposure even further, at a rapid rate.
Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the future vision of the NBA G League is to host an elite prospect division, featuring multiple select teams, within a league.
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