As we approach the NBA All-Star break, everyone now has time to reflect on the wonderment that has been the 2017-18 season. Over 50 games into the regular season, there have been more accomplishments from former Kentucky players than one would have imagined 10 years ago. With multiple All-Stars and even more future ones, the Big Blue Nation runs deep in the best professional basketball league in the world.
But what hasn’t been covered as much is the non-NBAers. The guys who have worked just as hard to compete in the business of pro hoops. The NBA’s G League is loaded with hidden talent that can find its way to the top and there are several Kentucky players trying to fulfill their dreams. The G League may be a stage below the NBA, but the development of the players within it should not go unnoticed. James Young played incredibly well in the G League earlier this season, good enough for the Philadelphia 76ers to call him up to run with the big boys where he currently plays. There are six active former Kentucky players in the G League, here’s how they’ve been performing going into their own All-Star weekend.
Aaron Harrison (Reno Bighorns – Sacramento Kings affiliate)
2017-18 averages: 17.3 points/4.4 rebounds/1.7 assists in 32 games played.
Shooting splits (FG%/3PT%/FT%): 41.7/38.9/83.9
Harrison has been selected to participate in the G League International Challenge, an All-Star type event for the G League where their best players will take on the Mexico National Team on Sunday before the actual NBA All-Star game. He’s not the only former Wildcat to make the team, either, as you will learn shortly.
Harrison is among the best shooters in the G League this season. His 38.9 three-point percentage ranks 12th among players who attempt at least six threes per game. He’s recorded multiple 30-point games and is well-deserving of being selected for the International Challenge.
Terrence Jones (Santa Cruz Warriors – Golden State Warriors affiliate)
2017-18 averages: 19.9 points/7.1 rebounds/4.5 assists in 13 games played.
Shooting splits: 55.3/35.1/48.5
Terrence Jones is the other Wildcat who will join Harrison in the G League International Challenge. Jones has been on a tear since he joined the Santa Cruz Warriors in the middle of December following his release from the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles in China. He’s quickly become a force to be reckoned with. His 28.0 usage rate ranks 11th in the league and is high for someone of his position and play style. He’s a workhorse down low and is deceptively quick off the dribble. He was nearly signed to a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans earlier in 2018, however, it quickly fell apart. Jones still has plenty to look forward to and at 26 years old, there’s time for him to make a return to the NBA.
Mychal Mulder (Windy City Bulls – Chicago Bulls affiliate)
2017-18 averages: 8.8 points/4.6 rebounds/1.6 assists in 36 games played.
Shooting splits: 39.6/31.0/78.0
Mulder hasn’t been spectacular in the G League, but he has been solid. His stats aren’t great, however, he averages 31.6 minutes per game (39th overall), which means he’s helping his team in a way they deem fit. He’s an above-average rebounder for a guard but he definitely needs to improve on his jump shot, which was his calling card at Kentucky. He’s the least impressive of these six and still trying to find his way, but he is being given the opportunity to improve.
Derek Willis (Grand Rapids Drive – Detroit Pistons affiliate)
2017-18 averages: 11.9 points/6.6 rebounds/0.8 assists in 33 games played.
Shooting splits: 45.8/34.8/81.6
Perhaps the most surprising Kentucky prospect to sign with an NBA team under Coach Calipari is Derek Willis. Willis was never a star at Kentucky – he was hardly a starter – but he has one thing going for him that can get anyone a job in the NBA. He can shoot the hell out of the ball. After being signed by the Detroit Pistons and assigned to their G League team, Willis was given the chance to showcase his sharpshooting skills. He’s definitely a “tweener”, as in he’s too small to play the five or even the four in some cases and too big to guard opposing threes. Luckily, when he can shoot nearly 35 percent from three on 4.8 attempts per game, he’ll always have a home playing basketball somewhere.
Marquis Teague (Memphis Hustle – Memphis Grizzlies affiliate)
2017-18 averages:16.3 points/3.4 rebounds/5.7 assists in 38 games played.
Shooting splits: 44.4/43.6/77.5
Teague could be considered a G League “All-Star snub” with the year he’s having in Memphis. Only five times has he scored under 10 points and 12 times has he scored over 20 as the Hustle’s most consistent player. Teague ranks 18th in the league in assists per game and has become a much more reliable outside threat than he was at Kentucky. An interesting note, 78.6 percent of Teague’s field goal makes come unassisted, meaning he’s creating the majority of his own offense and has been surprisingly efficient in doing so.
Archie Goodwin (Northern Arizona Suns – Phoenix Suns affiliate)
2017-18 averages: 18.8 points/5.8 rebounds/2.6 assists in 20 games played.
Shooting splits: 50.6/34.3/69.6
Archie Goodwin is still the rim-attacking bulldog he was at Kentucky. Goodwin was at his best when driving towards the bucket and not much has changed since he left Kentucky. He’s attempted the second most free throws in the G League, although converting on less than 70 percent of those opportunities. 29.3 percent of Goodwin’s points come from free throws – 11th highest in the league – and it could be much higher if he converted at a more consistent level. Even still, Goodwin has shown promise and it wouldn’t surprise me if he made another run in the NBA. He averages the 22nd most points per game and 23rd most steals per game among the league leaders.
Kentucky may be taking over the NBA, but its basketball influence is beginning to make its mark in every league possible.