We’re used to talking about the Anthony Davis’ and Devin Booker’s of the BBNBA world, but what we don’t talk about enough is the former Kentucky Wildcats grinding and working their way up and through the ranks.
There are two ex-Cats specifically who are dominating in the NBA’s developmental league – the G League – and proving that they might be worth a call up to the big times.
Alex Poythress and Terrence Jones, both teammates for the Atlanta Hawks G League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, have been dominating the G League landscape as a dynamic duo of power and brute strength.
Poythress is on a two-way contract with the Atlanta Hawks and has appeared in 18 games with them this season, but has been moving back-and-forth between G League to NBA throughout the season and has played in 12 games with the Bayhawks.
But before we get more into Poythress and his situation, let’s talk about Jones first.
Jones has been a dominant G Leaguer for what feels like half-a-decade now. He first got his taste of the developmental league when it was still known as the D-League back in the 2012-13 season, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per game in 24 appearances. After some injuries derailed his first attempt at the NBA, he spent some time overseas in China before making his way back to the New Orleans Pelicans (however he was waived when the team traded for DeMarcus Cousins). He eventually joined the Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State Warriors G League affiliate) in Dec. 2017 and spent 16 games with them, averaging 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per outing.
Fast forward to this season, and Jones has been straight-up destroying the competition. Through 21 games with the Bayhawks this season, Jones is averaging 22.7 points (8th most among qualified G Leaguers), 9.3 rebounds (12th), and 6.0 assists (23rd) per game while shooting over 53 percent from the field. Perhaps the most outstanding statistic of his is the 3.3 three-point attempts per game that he’s connecting on at a 41.4 percent clip. He’s doing all of this in roughly 30 minutes per game. The talent may be a tier below the NBA, but Jones is putting up career-high numbers in a multitude of categories.
Jones still hasn’t been gifted a two-way contract, or even a 10-day contract, and there’s no assurance that he will with fewer 30 games left in the regular season. But, there should still be some hope.
The Hawks are bad. We know this. Jones knows this. And the Hawks definitely know this. They’re currently 18-37 and vying for a top pick. Signing Jones to some sort of low-risk, low-dollar deal just to see what he’s capable of makes sense for Atlanta. Their entire season has been based around the idea of developing their young talent and seeing what they might potentially have. So might as well throw the 27-year old Jones in there, too.
On Monday, Jones was named the G League Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 28 – Feb. 3 after averaging a near triple-double of 24.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists in two games. He dropped 41 points in late January and poured in 28 points in only 26 minutes less than two weeks before that.
His passing has become a noticeable upgrade. His three-pointer is reliable. The turnovers are still an issue, especially since he acts as a point-forward. But there is definite value in what Jones could bring to an NBA team.
Alex Poythress is in a different boat than Jones in terms of their NBA availability, but he’s putting up impressive numbers all the same.
Poythress is no stranger to the G League, either. He spent the majority of his 2016-17 season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Indiana Pacers affiliate), playing in 46 games while averaging 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He signed a two-way contract with the Pacers last season and played a few games in the G League, but was ultimately waived before signing another two-way deal with the Hawks back in August.
The 25-year old Poythress is on a two-way contract, which means the Hawks can pick-and-choose when they would like to promote him or send him back down to the Bayhawks (although the team can only keep a player on a two-way deal for a total of 45 days throughout the season). He began the year spending most of his time with the Hawks, appearing in 13 of the team’s first 16 games, and performed moderately well. He averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 15 minutes per game in those 13 matchups but topped double-digits in scoring only once.
Since then, Poythress returned for only one short stint with the Hawks, playing five games in late December, but was once again sent back to the G League where he has played exceptionally well.
Most recently, Poythress torched the Lakeland Magic (Orlando Magic affiliate) for 40 points on 18-28 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. On the year, he’s averaging 24.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 53 percent from the field. He hasn’t played enough games to qualify for the G League leaderboards, but his scoring would rank sixth among all positions.
He’s already spent a good amount of his 45 available days with the Hawks so it’s unclear exactly how much of an opportunity he could potentially earn if they brought him back up. The organization has been shuffling him between the two teams for a solid part of the last four weeks, but he has yet to see any more NBA action.
The Hawks are still rebuilding, trying to learn which pieces fit best where and which players have the potential to make an impact in the future. With Poythress and Jones, Atlanta has two promising, hungry, and established G Leaguers who are chomping at the bit to make their mark. There’s still a chance that one of them can make the jump before the seasons end. Now if we can just start a petition to bring them both up at the same time…
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