The NBA’s G League has found its footing as a proving ground for young players on the rise and veterans making a comeback.
Year 20 of the NBA’s developmental league will look a bit different in an Orlando bubble, but the 18 teams are set to start playing on Feb. 10. Golden State will send three players to play with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the bubble: Nico Mannion, Jordan Poole and Alen Smailagic.
Kerr recently appeared on "The Damon Bruce Show with Ratto and Kolsky" to share the organization’s goals for the young players.
"We want them to take on the responsibilities we would ask of them here,” Kerr said. “Play the exact same way you would play here. That means a little something different for each guy.”
Since being picked No. 48 overall by the Warriors in November, Mannion has played sparingly for Kerr in mostly garbage time minutes. He’s been a big presence on the bench, though, and his comedic skills are so good he literally made Steph Curry spit up his water one time.
The Warriors are more concerned about Mannion’s shooting than his splashing. Mannion has made just 3-of-13 field goals in 36 total minutes played with Golden State, but has shown the quickness and playmaking ability that made him a tough guy to guard for the University of Arizona.
“Nico has shown me he belongs on an NBA court,” Kerr said. “That guy can pass and he can defend. Now we need him to shoot with volume in Orlando. I want him to shoot 12-15 shots a game. I want him to let it fly because that's going to be the next step for him at this level.”
Poole, the team’s 2019 first-round pick, put together his best game of the season in Saturday night’s rout of the Detroit Pistons. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard’s 16-point game was so good, his teammates joked that Kerr should cancel Poole’s flight to Florida.
“With Jordan Poole, he's gotta defend with some toughness, some strength and some energy and he's got to get his shot off quicker and he's got to play with a little more urgency and a little more pace,” Kerr said.
Smailagic has been recovering from surgery in his right knee after a meniscal tear but is expected to be ready for G League action. The intriguing 6-foot-10 power forward can stretch out defenses with his shot and has the ability to put the ball on the floor. The 2019 Warriors’ second-rounder also wants to prove he can stay healthy.
“We'll be watching all of this,” Kerr said. “One of our coaches will be down there with them. We'll be watching all the games on our computers. This is a really good step for all three of them."
The Sea Dubs will tip off the month-long bubble with a Feb. 10 matchup against the G League Ignite, a team with elite NBA Draft-eligible prospects like Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. Expect a high-energy, AAU Tournament style game when these two squads begin bubble play.