The NBA G League, previously known as the NBA D League, is a proven platform that allows players a chance to prove that they’re worthy of an NBA contract.
Furthermore, aside from the NBA Draft, the G League serves as a back door for players who want to chase their NBA dream.
Although the players in the G League aren’t the most decorated, the competition is no joke. In fact, throughout the years, we’ve seen various G League Alumnus who made great impact in the NBA.
Furthermore with the intense competition in the G League, the NBA even started the Ignite program that allows young prospects to showcase their wares in the developmental league for a season instead of playing for a college basketball team or playing professionally overseas.
The G League is often overlooked. However, in the recent years, we’ve seen diamonds in the rough rise up to the ranks after getting called up to the NBA. And despite the odds, these players managed to achieve success in the greatest basketball league in the world.
For this piece, let’s take a look at the five most successful NBA players who played in the G League.
G League greats: Khris Middleton
Career stats: 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 2x All-Star
Regarded as one of the league’s most deadly 3-and-D players, Khris Middleton has come a long way. The Bucks star started his NBA journey by getting drafted to the Detroit Pistons. And in his rookie season, he was assigned to play for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the developmental league. Middleton averaged 11.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in three games and would eventually return to play for the Pistons to finish his rookie year.
Despite the underwhelming rookie season, Middleton vastly improved his game after moving to Milwaukee. He started averaging in double figures and formed a solid one-two punch with Bucks prospect at that time, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Because of his fine play, Middleton would become the first G-League alumnus to be named an All-Star.
Fast forward to today, Middleton proved he can standout in the NBA. Serving as a reliable second option next to Giannis, Middleton helped the Bucks win its first NBA championship since 1971. The G League alumnus was instrumental in their championship run. He dropped a playoff career-high 40 points in Game Four of the NBA Finals. Middleton also averaged 24.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game in the Finals series.
And just recently, Middleton also won an Olympic gold medal, while representing Team USA, to cap off his season. He became one of the few players to win a championship and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
Career stats: 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks
Awards: 1x NBA Champion, 1x All-Star, 1x All-Second Team, 1x Most Improved Player
Pascal Siakam is one of the greatest breakout players in recent memory. But before that, Siakam was a raw underrated prospect. And to further hone his skills, he was assigned to the franchise’s G League affiliate, Raptors 905. The Cameroon prospect didn’t hesitate to showcase his wares. Siakam logged in 18.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. But more importantly, he was the focal point of the squad that went on to capture the G League Championship. Siakam was declared the Finals MVP.
The Raptors forward would be recalled to the NBA once again and become one of the core players of the team. In fact, he would get his first NBA award during the 2018-2019 season after being crowned as the Most Improved Player.
And two seasons after his G League stint, Siakam would eventually win his first NBA championship with the Raptors, after they stopped the Warriors from achieving a three-peat. Furthermore, he would also become an All-Star the following season. Siakam would become the first G League alumnus to participate in the All-Star Game as a starter.
Career stats: 9.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks
Awards: 3x NBA Champion, 1x All-Defensive Second Team
One of the premiere 3-and-D players, Danny Green has certainly made a name for himself in the league. Unlike most of the players in this list, Green isn’t an All-Star. However, he is certainly one of the most sought-after role players given how effective he is alongside superstars like Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James.
But before his breakout in the NBA as an elite role player, Green honed his skills in the G-League. He played for two seasons in the developmental league, while plying his time with the Cavs and the Spurs. In two seasons, Green suited up for the Erie Bayhawks, Reno Bighorns, and the Austin Toros. And in his G League career, he averaged 20.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting a lethal 44.9% from beyond the arc.
Green's shooting and defense in the G League carried over in the NBA. Since his stint in the development league, Green has played a key role in powering three different franchises to a championship. Only a few players have achieved this feat.
Career stats: 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.2 blocks
Awards: 3x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x All-Star, 1x All-Second TEam, 3x All-Third Team, 5x All-Defensive First Team, 1x League Leader in Blocks
Rudy Gobert has been ruling the NBA defensively. Despite being one of the traditional centers who’s limited offensively, Gobert’s rim-protection and athleticism have been a vital part of the Jazz’s success in the recent years. Furthermore, he just won Defensive Player of the Year, which is already the third in his career, the second most in league history.
It took some time before Gobert dominated the league. He first played professionally in France before declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft. And after getting drafted by the Nuggets, he was traded away to the Jazz for role player Erick Green. In his mediocre rookie season, Gobert was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam in order to fast track his development. The French center made the most out of the opportunity by posting 13.9 points, 11.4 boards, and 3.0 rejections in eight games.
Gobert’s rise to stardom started in two seasons after his stint in the G-League. He made a mark defensively by leading the league in blocks during the 2016-2017 season. Because of this, it was also the beginning of Gobert’s defensive dominance by becoming a consistent fixture in the All-NBA Defensive teams since then. Highlighted by three Defensive Player of the Year Awards, Gobert would also make two All-Star Game appearances. He is only the third former G League player alongside Khris Middleton and Pascal Siakam to make the All-Star team. And earlier this month, Gobert also won an Olympic silver medal with the French National Team.
Career stats: 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
Awards: 1x Sixth Man of the Year, 1x All-Rookie First Team
Like Gobert, another Jazz player that played in the G League as part of his development was Jordan Clarkson. As part of the Lakers’ rebuilding project, Clarkson was one of the young guns that they hoped would become a critical piece of their future.
And while showing some promise in the NBA during his rookie year, Clarkson also made an appearance in the G League. Suiting up for the Lakers’ affiliate team, the D-Fenders, Clarkson impressed. He tallied 22.6 points, 7.8 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game in five outings.
Although Clarkson’s stint with the Lakers didn’t pan out, he would eventually become the league’s best bench player. As the spark plug off the bench for the Jazz, Clarkson would win the Sixth Man of the Year last season after putting up career-high averages of 18.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.