Much anticipation surrounded the South Bay Lakers going into the 2019-20 NBA G-League season. In previous years, the Los Angeles Lakers themselves have been able to take on-board young talent to develop, in the tanking years, but not this season.
This season was set up was different, obviously, with the pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, alongside a stellar supporting cast. Therefore, the young talent has been trickled down to the G-League, to represent South Bay, to further their development.
The Lakers’ G-League affiliate team looked stacked going into the season, with the likes of Talen Horton-Tucker, Zach Norvell Jr, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Devontae Cacok, Gary Payton II, David Stockton, Travis Wear, and Andre Ingram, among those on the books.
All eyes have been locked on recent draft pick Horton-Tucker, two-way players, Antetokounmpo and Cacok. Eyes have also been set upon former two-way player, Norvell Jr, who recently lost his place to Cacok. But another name has stolen the show so far this season for South Bay. Gary Payton II, son of “The Glove” himself.
Production is sometimes hard to come by in the G-League, with numerous players looking for touches to impress the onlooking NBA outfits. Although, production has not been an issue for Payton II. His numbers are looking ever-so impressive.
Through 12 games, as South Bay sit 7-5, he is stuffing the stats sheet. Averaging; 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 3.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks. All of this has been on an incredibly efficient 57% shooting from the field. Payton II has broken the 20 point barrier on 5 occasions, and has recorded 9 double-doubles already this season.
On December 10, Payton II recorded a season-high 30 points, against the Santa Cruz Warriors. Alongside the flurry of points, he added 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block, on 14-20 shooting.
What’s been even more impressive, is that pretty much all of his offensive damage, in terms of points, has been done from within the arc. Payton II’s 3-point game is virtually non-existent (15%), but that doesn’t appear to effect him, instead finishing at the rim at will, with the occasional ferocious slam. Whilst in-between, exercising his vision, and dishing out sweet assists to teammates.
Additionally, being just 6-foot-3 makes his rebounding numbers even more impressive. He can really do damage in that facet of his game, both defensively and offensively, where he is averaging 6.6 and 2.5 rebounds, respectively.
Defensively he is building a reputation as well. Again, his short height really doesn’t effect his game in this aspect. He is leading South Bay’s roster in steals with 42, the second is Cacok with 13. In blocks, surprisingly, Payton II is top too, with 13, trailing him is Antetokounmpo with 12. Very impressive for a 6-foot-3 guard.
A triple-double hasn’t been recorded yet for Payton II, but it will surely only be a matter of time. Multiple triple-double performances will be waiting in the wings, for sure.
At 27-years-old, these statistics aren’t a complete surprise, but the fashion in which he’s dominating games and leading a South Bay Lakers roster, packed with talent, is. Another NBA opportunity could come knocking very soon.
Payton II last gave the NBA a crack in the 2018-19 season, with the Washington Wizards. Where he averaged 3.7 points, 1.3 assists, 1 steals, through 3 games (5.3 minutes per game), in the capital. He did represent the Lakers in the second-half of the 2017-18 campaign too.
With the Lakers, Payton II featured in 11 games, averaging 3.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists, in 10.5 minutes per game. In the final contest of that season, against the Los Angeles Clippers, he scored a career-high 25 points, and also posted a career-high 12 rebounds.
The talent is certainly there, but time may be running out for Gary Payton II. However, he is doing everything right at present time, and multiple NBA teams must be casting an eye over the South Bay Lakers star. He may not find the NBA opportunity with the Lakers themselves, but he might find it elsewhere.
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On July 21, Shams Charania of The Athletic dropped the huge news that the Los Angeles Lakers are set to sign Antetokounmpo. Kostas Antetokounmpo that is. Brother of current MVP, Giannis. The Lakers confirmed the acquisition on July 22.
The 21-year-old forward was claimed off waivers, following his release from the Dallas Mavericks. Antetokounmpo will sign a two-way deal with the purple and gold, splitting his time between the NBA and the G-League, with the South Bay Lakers.
He will be the Lakers’ second player signed to a two-way contract, along with Zach Norvell Jr. Players on such contracts can be called up to the NBA for up to 45 days during the season.
Kostas Antetokounmpo was born on November 20, 1997, in Athens, Greece. He is the younger brother of Giannis and Thanasis, who both play in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. Growing up, Antetokounmpo was developed by the youth teams of the Greek professional basketball club, EFAO Zografou, formally known as Filathlitikos.
Upon his older brother, Giannis, getting drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, Antetokounmpo moved to Milwaukee with his parents and younger brother, Alexis. He played high school basketball during his junior and senior years at Dominican High School in Wisconsin. As a senior, he won a state championship.
From here, he committed to play college basketball at the University of Dayton. In his first season (2016/17), he was red-shirted due to being ruled a “partial qualifier”. This was because he spent his first two years of high school in Greece.
Eventually making his debut in the 2017/18 season, the 6-foot-10 forward averaged 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 21 minutes for the Dayton Flyers.
On March 22, 2018, Antetokounmpo declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, where he was selected with the final pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks instantly. He later signed a two-way contract with the Mavericks, however he only went onto feature in two NBA games in the 2018/19 season.
Instead, he spent the majority of his time in the NBA G-League for the Texas Legends. Antetokounmpo played in 40 games throughout the 2018/19 campaign, averaging 10.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1.3 blocks, on .522% shooting. He did feature for the Mavericks’ 2019 Summer League team, posting averages of 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds, in 13 minutes. Following Summer League, he was waived by the team. Which led to the Lakers claiming him off waivers.
Standing at 6-foot-10, Kostas Antetokounmpo is a long, athletic forward who’s main strength is getting to and finishing at the rim. With an incredible 7-foot-2 wingspan, his length makes it difficult for his opponents to contest in the paint. Even more so if he can add muscle to his 195-pound frame.
He is a solid rebounder that can cause havoc when crashing the offensive glass. Additionally, he can operate effectively off-the-ball cutting to the rim. Antetokounmpo does possess the ability to be a versatile threat, as he can operate as a ball handler on the perimeter also.
Much like his brother Giannis, Kostas does not provide much of a threat from an outside shooting standpoint. In college, he shot at a dismal .133% from beyond the arc. This improved in the G-League last season, but he still converted at a considerably poor .244% rate.
He does impact the defensive end positively, where he is considered a prolific shot blocker. When he is quick off his feet, not much gets past him in the around the rim. His impressive footwork makes him a competent defender on the perimeter too. However, with his slim frame, Antetokounmpo does struggle on the receiving end of a post up.
Overall, Kostas Antetokounmpo is a raw talent, and whilst he is far from the finished product, his potential is intriguing. If he can grow into and control his frame, his height and length will make him difficult to deal with on both ends of the ball. There is certainly long-term potential to be had.
From the Lakers’ perspective, what’s the harm in giving a 21-year-old with high-upside a chance on a two-way deal? There’s no harm at all. Plus, it starts to create a relationship with the Antetokounmpo family ahead of 2021, when Giannis hits free agency.
Following Alex Caruso’s career-night at the Staples Center against cross-city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers, fans are praying that the Lakers front office choose to retain his talents. Caruso poured in a career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, on 52.6% shooting, including 5 from deep.
Through 23 games this season, Caruso is converting in lights out fashion from three-point land (53.3%). In addition, he has shown an ability to get to the free-throw line, on average 2.5 times a game, converting 81% of the time. Shooting was a clear weakness of Caruso’s last season, however this season he has stepped up in an emphatic manner, in search of a permanent NBA contract.
The 25-year-old sophomore dominated down the stretch against the Clippers, showing exactly what he is capable of when confidence is running through his veins. Such performance, paired with the numerous others since being called up from the G-League, has had many fans pleading with the Lakers’ front office to sign Caruso as a back-up option for the point guard position next season.
Alex Caruso has certainly taken a long path to reach his NBA opportunity. Born in College Station, Texas, Caruso attended his local high school, A&M Consolidated. In his senior year, he averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds, being named to the TABC All-Regional and All-State teams, as well as picking up TABC All-Star and district MVP honours.
Opting to stay in Texas, he then took his talents to the collegiate level, committing to the Texas A&M Aggies. Over his four-year career, the 6-foot-4 point guard averaged 8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2 steals, over 137 games.
The next stage of Caruso’s career was stepping up to the professional level, where he went undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft. During the off-season of that year, Caruso joined the Philadelphia 76ers for the NBA Summer League. In September 2016, he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder before being waived a short time later. In November 2016, he was acquired by the Oklahoma City Blue of the then NBA D-League.
During the 2016/17 D-League season, Caruso averaged 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.1 steals. This earned him a shot with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Summer League, where he impressed and signed for the team on their first two-way contract. He later became the first player to be called up from the D-League to the NBA via a two-way contract.
Caruso made his NBA debut on October 19, 2017 against the Los Angeles Clippers, recording 2 points, 1 rebound, and 2 assists, in 12 minutes. He went on to feature a further 36 times (15.2 mpg) for the purple and gold, averaging 3.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2 assists, on the season.
Even though he experienced a rocky start to his NBA career, Caruso flourished in the development league (now the G-League) for the South Bay Lakers during the 2017/18 season. Through 29 games, he averaged 19 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 2 steals, per game. The following season, he signed another two-way contract with the Lakers.
The Lakers, now with LeBron James, suffered numerous injuries in the middle of the 2018/19 season. Consequently Caruso was called up to the NBA yet again, although he found his opportunities limited under Luke Walton, until the Lakers found themselves out of the playoff race. With the team shutting down their star players for the remainder of the season, this was Alex Caruso’s chance to shine. Well, he has certainly made the most of his opportunity this time round.
Caruso possesses a team-high +4.8 plus/minus in his last 13 games. This statistic beats LeBron James in such category, and records Caruso as being only one of four players on the Lakers’ roster to hold a positive plus/minus. Additionally, he has broken the 15 point barrier on 6 occasions. With one of those being a 23 point outing in a win against the New Orleans Pelicans, and obviously the 32 point masterclass last time out against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Caruso has shown more than enough upside to be the Lakers’ back-up point guard option next season, behind Lonzo Ball. He would be a cheap, viable option for the team, providing them with the flexibility to strengthen in other positions.
Earlier today the Los Angeles Lakers announced the signing of 23-year-old Jemerrio Jones from their G-League affiliate team, the South Bay Lakers. The 6-foot-5 forward averaged 9.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1 block through 47 games in the G-League this season.
Whilst the Lakers have not disclosed the details of the deal, it is believed that Jones has signed a two-year deal with the purple and gold. With there being a team option for the 2019-20 season. For now, Jones will suit up for the remaining six games of this season to prove his worth.
Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Jones attended Melrose High School in Memphis. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in his junior year which limited his college options.
Consequently, Jones committed to Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas, where he averaged 11.7 points through two seasons. His reputation as a ferocious rebounder grew as he broke the NJCAA tournament rebounding record, with 72 in five games. From here, the forward took his talents to New Mexico State.
In his first season at New Mexico State, Jones came off the bench. However that did not stop him making the most of his opportunities, averaging 9.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.1 steals in 24 minutes. In his senior year, Jones solidified himself as a starter and excelled, further developing himself as an exciting prospect in the rebounding category. He became the first player since 1997 to record 20+ rebounds in three straight games.
In 34 games as a senior, he recorded an average of 11 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.1 steals, on .503% shooting. Jemerrio Jones’ performances saw him named the 2017-18 WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player and the 2017-18 WAC Player of the Year. He also set a WAC single-season record with 450 rebounds. In addition, he received further honours being named to the NABC All-District 6 first team and to the USBWA All-District VIII Team.
Following his college career, Jones went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft and was selected with the 18th pick in the 2018 NBA G-League Draft by the Santa Cruz Warriors. Shortly after, he was traded to the South Bay Lakers. Jones has been described as a highly energetic, efficient player who crashes the boards with intensity.
Taking a somewhat difficult route to the NBA, Jemerrio Jones will now get his shot in the big time. Moving forward, Jones’ tenure for the Lakers could work out and he stays, or the additional year on his contract could make him a piece in a potential summer trade.
Either way Jemerrio Jones looks an interesting prospect that could add something different to the Lakers’ roster.