Gradey Dick, Toronto Raptors Christian Bonin/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Rookies Who Could Thrive After Time in the G League

Jonathan Wasserman

Certain situations should call for five specific NBA rookies to stick or go to the G League.

They weren't drafted to teams with opportunities that are conducive for instant consistency or development.

Rather than alternating DNPs with stints under 10 minutes—which crushes opportunities to build rhythm and creates pressure to make plays for prospects not knowing when the next chance will come— playing in the G League will provide more on-ball reps and a longer leash.

These five first-round picks have the potential to make impacts this season after the G League helps restore their feel and confidence.

Noah Clowney, Brooklyn Nets

Noah Clowney, Brooklyn Nets Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Regular NBA minutes aren't available yet to Noah Clowney, but they could be down the road when considering the potential trade interest in Dorian Finney-Smith and Ben Simmons' durability issues.

Three-point shooting was a key selling point to Clowney entering the draft, and cracking Brooklyn's rotation will presumably require the rookie to offer threatening shotmaking and spacing.

He's gone back and forth from Brooklyn to Long Island, and the occasional NBA appearances are beneficial for the 19-year-old to acclimation to the pro game. But he belongs in the G League with a raw offensive game and valued skill set (for a big) that just needs to get sharper.

The Nets should eventually be interested in adding a stretch big who finishes, rebounds and blocks shots. Cue Clowney, who possesses a coveted archetype and so much room/time to improve, given his age, tools and range. He should have a better chance at staying on an NBA floor once he's more comfortable from deep and stronger physically.

Gradey Dick, Toronto Raptors

Gradey Dick, Toronto Raptors Jordan Jones/NBAE via Getty Images

Drafted to a team featuring Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby on the wings, Gradey Dick has struggled to find a shooting rhythm in spot minutes off the bench. The right decision was recently made to send the No. 13 pick to the G League, where he should play until his signature jumper starts falling and his confidence climbs back.

Dick has missed 30 of his first 41 NBA three-point attempts, marking an uncharacteristic cold streak for one of the nation's top shooters in both high school and college.

At 20 years old, shotmaking will drive the majority of his value for the Raptors, and given the limited available minutes for a rookie in a rotation that plays Barnes and Anunobdy over 32 minutes per game each, Dick hasn't had a good opportunity to build rhythm with his shot.

Any pressure should instantly fade away for Dick in the G League. He'll have a bright green light to keep shooting through misses and experiment on the ball.

Jett Howard, Orlando Magic

Jett Howard, Orlando Magic Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

As exciting as it must have been for Jett Howard to hear his named called in the lottery, the Orlando Magic had just drafted guard/wing Anthony Black and don't have any room in the rotation.

Howard has only played three games in the G League and needs to stay there after starting his pro career 1-of-10 in the NBA with no real chance to shoot through misses.

And shooting is practically all Orlando will call on Howard for early, given his athletic limitations at both ends of the floor.

The Magic are currently winning games with an identity built around defense and versatility. And Howard isn't likely to offer either right now. His versatility to Orlando will eventually come in the form of shot-making, as he should earn his living off drilling spot-up, movement and pull-up jumpers.

In the meantime, he should stick with the Osceola Magic, continue firing away (28 3PTA in three games), work on some self-creation and familiarize himself with opposing ball-handlers and forward's quickness and strength.

Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets

Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are off to an encouraging start, and that's mostly without their No. 4 pick. There won't be a need to rush injured Amen Thompson back into the rotation with the team playing well and the rookie having logged just 67 minutes and none since November 1.

His eventual return should be to the G League. There would be less pressure to fit into a lineup that's already working well. He'll have more on-ball reps to restore his creation and playmaking feel. And it's an opportunity to gets his explosive legs back and work on building some confidence in his shot.

Shooting is Thompson's well-documented flaw, so it wouldn't hurt to fire up threes with the Rio Grande Rapids before rejoining the Rockets' rotation.

Unlike his brother Ausar, who's thriving by mostly leaning on his athleticism for finishing, rebounding and defense, Amen wasn't drafted to a team that has such an immediate need for wing production. The Rockets can afford to take it slow with him, and Thompson could benefit from full-time minutes and higher usage in the G League.

Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers

Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers Justin Casterline/Getty Images

With the NBA's best offense, the Indiana Pacers haven't found a need to change the rotation and throw in their rookie. And there isn't a point for Jarace Walker to continue racking up DNPs.

Playing with the Mad Ants is mostly about staying fresh and ready. He's already combined for 50 points through his first two G League games, having success with his unique mix of physicality, touch and comfort level attacking defenders in space.

While Jalen Smith, Obi Toppin, Aaron Nesmith and Isaiah Jackson have each been been pluses with signature specialities, Walker can offer the rotation a different element of versatility using his shoot-handle-pass skill set and tremendous defensive tools.

Coach Rick Carlisle figures to eventually call on his lottery pick, whether it's to give the frontcourt more creation/playmaking or a different look defensively.


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