G League Utilization

With the rise of two-way deals in the NBA, G League utilization has seen a spike in the last 10 picks of the second round and undrafted rookies. However increased G League utilization for rookie playing time has actually been a rising trend across all draft picks over the last decade for two reason.

First, the G League itself has grown and improved. Statistically it is one of the five best leagues in the world rivaling the talent seen in the best European super leagues. Since 2008 the league has expanded from 14 teams loosely affiliated with the NBA to 28 teams in 2019-20 all of which have a direct NBA affiliate that they are run by. Additionally the league has 3 new teams planned to be added over the next 3 years after which every single NBA team will have a direct affiliate.

Second, the relationship between NBA and G League teams has become much stronger within affiliates. The NBA front office works directly next to the G League front office and the same can be said for coaching staffs. Most G League teams now run the exact same offensive and defensive schemes as the NBA team to truly be a cohesive overall organization that top to bottom is on the same page.

This growth in relationship and G League overall talent is in large part due to the success that teams have had developing players when they are stretched for minutes on the NBA roster. The first team to expressly draft a first round pick with the plan being to have them spend most of their rookie season in the G League was the San Antonio Spurs with Cory Joseph in 2011. His first two years consisted of 650 NBA minutes and 1500 G League minutes.

The Spurs, and all 29 other teams, saw that this was an effective strategy to develop players who are key to the future of the organization when there are only so many NBA minutes to go around.

Since that time, G League utilization has only gone up for drafted rookies.

As teams have identified the value in the G League for development it has been used consistently more every single season to maximize playing time and development time for rookies no matter where they were drafted. In recent years, rookies overall have played between 30 and 40 percent of their total minutes in the G League.

Since the two-way contract was introduced prior to the 2017-18 season, virtually everyone picked outside of the top ten picks saw at least 10 percent of their rookie minutes coming in the G League. Excluding players who signed two-way deals, second round picks played on average 42 percent of their minutes in the G League and first round picks outside of the top ten played on average 21 percent of their minutes in the G League.

No player wants to get stuck in the G League for their career, but in terms of developing players and making sure they are able to get consistent game repetitions to improve the G League has become a widely utilized strategy by all 30 teams in the league for making sure rookies get as much playing time as possible.

No matter what a team tells Aaron, we should fully expect him to spend a decent chunk of his rookie season working the G League affiliate of whoever drafts him. A rookie in the range expected for him is likely playing 20-40 percent of their total rookie minutes in the G League. It is not a punishment or a bad thing. Allowing a player to develop in the G League by getting additional playing time is simply the established best practice for maximizing their career.