2021 NBA Draft Watch: the G League Ignite prospects Jonathan Kuminga and Jalen Green

Detroit Bad Boys

Good evening everybody, and welcome to another exciting season of G League basketball. I’m George Blaha… well, I’m not. But the new G League season is finally for real again and what a thrill it is for hopeful Detroit Pistons fans. The Orland bubble, which set off recently as a site of the season, may not host any (current) Detroit Pistons (at least not yet), but it just might be allowing us to peep future ones, as this season marks a debut of a team consisting of possible draftees that could be selected by Detroit. The G League Ignite team has joined the competition as an unaffiliated club featuring 2020 recruits, who instead playing at collegiate level or abroad decided to prepare for NBA careers in more NBA-like-but-not-NBA-itself game of the minor league.

The team has already played a few games which provide a basis for some observations for our Draft Watch. So without further ado, let’s discuss two most prominent of them. First, some details of today’s game.

Game Vitals

When: 3 p.m. EST
Where: AdventHealth Arena, Orlando, Florida
Watch: ESPN2

Player Analysis

Jonathan Kuminga

The 6-foot-6 (according to G League site) with 6-foot-11 wingspan, 210 pounds, the 18-year-old Kuminga started the season looking like the next Kawhi Leonard. He showed some decent handle with ability to run P&Rs and nice footwork.

However, then he started to remind me more of R.J. Barrett. Since he seems to be prone to play a lot with the ball, it’ll be crucial for him to have reliable long gun at his disposal. So far it doesn’t look good – he has 23.1 3P%. (though with last performance he upped his FG% to above average 41.8 figure)

Part of it might be him being tired. On the other hand, Sekou Doumbouya in his first seven G-League games was banging treys at 39.4 clip while being only half a year older and playing those games in 12 days to Kuminga’s 11 (Sekou played around 10 minutes less on average, but as an assigned player he probably still practiced with the Pistons as well while being with the Grand Rapids Drive).

Also hitting free throws at 63% might be seen as adding to Kuminga’s shooting woes. But in this case, we need to remember that in the G League, you shoot only one free-throw that counts for one, two or three points, and the numbers suggest that players shoot the first free throw (from traditional two or three series) worse. By the way, we need to notify that in these circumstances his FTr of 24.5% is elite (first quarter of the entire G League).

Although, apparently finding the longer line disturbing, the young wing looks to be able to take advantage of more spread game inside.

He has an above average FG% at the rim (67.5%). However, his prowess to drive inside is fading as the games mount not only because people play off him more as he continues to struggle shooting, but also because he has more and more problems shedding defenders with his dribble or footwork (that don’t look so convincing anymore).

The native of Congo also leaves a lot to be desired as facilitator. It’s not that he can’t made a good pass.

It’s that he makes so many bad passes.

His 1.11 AST/TO ratio shows that he has a lot to learn as a playmaker.

On defense, Kuminga, as well as Green, make the same mental mistake defending ball handlers. When expecting the screen, they all jump to the side of the screener leaving an open driving lane for ball-handler.

But this is a question of learning how to apply schemes to concrete situations and as such it should be fixed with more experience. On the other hand, they both show some good signs as help side defenders.

As regards individual defensive traits, the young Congolese shows some potential to defend on ball.

He’s in the first half of the G League in defensive rebounds (15.3 DREB%) and averages 1.1 SPG and 1 BPG. Other than this, he displays a lot of mental mistakes: late reaction, bad navigation through screens, lack of awareness, trying to reach instead of using or moving his body.

They’re all repairable but he needs to work on them.

So to summarize Kuminga, he entered the big boards on very high note, but now there are big question marks attached to his status as a future star. The potential is there, but there are plenty of things he needs to fix and, therefore, the risk that he might not reach his ceiling. It’d be reassuring to see him at least show some encouraging signs as a shooter.

Jalen Green

The 6-foot-6, 6-7.5 wingspan, 178-pound, 19-year-old Green seems to be moving in opposite direction to Kuminga. He started the season poorly but now plays very well. He has a good FG% for a guard of 48.3% and his increasing his 3P% (now it stands at 29.4%). Although he has worse mechanics than Kuminga, he’s better FT shooter (73.9%) and has a better free-throw rate (26.4%). It all contributes to his very good 61.8 TS% (first third of the G League) compared to Kuminga’s 50.5. As regards his game inside the arc, he’s great at making shots at the rim (86.7 FG% there) and decent from midrange (35.7 FG%). As you can see on the film, he has the ease to take the first defender and his athleticism and skills allow him to deal with everything else thrown at him after that.

Unlike Kuminga, Green doesn’t stop the flow of the offense so much by involving defenders in iso-plays. He’s much more eager to play off the ball, too (59.5% of assisted FGM to Kuminga’s 47.4%).

Similarly to his Congolese teammate, Green can create for others but often makes mistakes (1.13 AST/TO ratio).

Green’s facilitating

Green’s turning the ball over

Defensively, the young guard shows some encouraging signs in transition D, and his STL% of 2.3 put him in first quarter of the G League.

But as Kuminga, he has some issues, he needs to work on, like for instance these lapses in on-ball defense.

Overall, Jalen Green looks a little better so far in games, but his ceiling might be a little lower than Kuminga’s due to him being simply smaller and thus less potent on the defensive end. On the other hand, he seems to be better suited to form a core of 2/3 players sharing the ball instead of one dominating it. However, it feels like he also needs to show some more encouraging signs to be considered in the same tier as Cade Cunningham or Evan Mobley.

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