In the latest edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' Pro Insight's Drake U’u provides a synopsis of the recent G-League Bubble, including analysis on Bubble standouts, top NBA assignments, top two-way players, and his top-20 available call-up candidates:
As the 2021 NBA G-League Bubble concludes in Orlando, the NBA’s attention now shifts towards the second half of the regular season. With numerous teams still in the playoff race — a race that now includes 10 of the top teams from each conference qualifying for the postseason — front offices around the league will begin looking for creative ways to improve their rosters. While some will be aggressive in acquiring talent at the trade deadline, others may be looking for unique role players to fill out the end of their rosters — which brings us to the G-League Bubble.
Over the last three weeks, 18 teams entered the Orlando Bubble and successfully completed an abbreviated season. Several NBA players were sent to the Bubble on assignment to continue their development and get meaningful minutes, while the remaining majority used the opportunity to showcase their talent with hopes of earning an NBA call-up.
In this article, I’ll break down some of the top performers from the G-League Bubble, highlighting standout players on NBA assignment, two-way players, and free agents.* While various elements factor in, these players were selected based on their respective abilities to fill realistic roles on an NBA roster.
*Free Agents have been broken down into two tiers, depending on a team’s needs: rookies and veterans. When it comes to call-up candidates, I personally prefer to give rookies an opportunity. Not only is it a chance to get the first up-close look at a prospect, but it’s also extremely team-favorable from an asset standpoint — having a chance to acquire a rookie with promise early allows you to get an extended evaluation period leading into the summer.
Pro Insight’s G-League Bubble Standouts
Kevin Porter, Jr., 6’5 SG, Houston Rockets (Assignment)
24.1 PTS, 6.5 REB, 7.2 AST, .448 FG, .320 3P
After a somewhat unceremonious exit in Cleveland, it was great to see the Houston Rockets assignee back on the court and excelling. Porter was without question the best prospect to enter the Bubble. Picking up where he left off a season ago, Porter showed flashes of brilliance throughout the tournament. Perhaps his most lethal weapon is his ability to score at every level. He’s got a sick handle and wiggle to go with it, which allows him to get to his spots and into his shot whenever he wants. His unique combination of size and skill is truly special and fun to watch. Porter spent ample time on the ball as a primary ballhandler for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, showcasing his underrated playmaking ability and vision, finishing with a 7.2:4.7 AST:TO ratio. While his three-point shooting leaves room for improvement (.320 3P% on 8.1 attempts per game), he has an innate feel for scoring the basketball and the ability to take a game over.
I’m eager to monitor his development during the second half of the season with the Rockets. Despite some early-career hurdles for Porter, I really love this pickup by Houston. Acquiring high-level talent in this league isn’t easy. While he may need some direction and maturing — as most 21-year-olds do — “KPJ’s” talent level supersedes the risk. If he can maximize his opportunity in Houston, he has a chance to be an exciting star in this league for years to come.
Malachi Flynn, 6’1 PG, Toronto Raptors (Assignment)
20.8 PTS, 4.5 REB, 5.5 AST, .442 FG, .409 3P
Flynn was another dominant performer in his six-game stint in Orlando. Playing on assignment from the Toronto Raptors, Flynn continued to showcase his ability to score, make plays for his teammates, and defend at an NBA level. There’s a lot to love about his maturity level and poise as a point guard. Despite having some early struggles shooting the ball, he did an excellent job initiating offense and impacting the game on the defensive end. As the tournament progressed and shots started falling, he became a real threat on both ends.
Flynn showed promise early on during the preseason with the Raptors, and made the most of his assignment time in Orlando with the Raptors 905. As he continues to improve consistency as a shooter and mature defensively — and not to mention learning from quality veterans like Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet on a daily basis — I see him becoming a legitimate rotation piece.
Mamadi Diakite, 6’9 PF, Milwaukee Bucks (Two-Way)
18.5 PTS, 10.3 REB, 2.1 AST, .583 FG, .500 3P, 2.1 BLK
Diakite showcased his unique skill set throughout his assignment with the Lakeland Magic. What stood out most was his effort-level on both ends of the floor. He played with an incredible motor, running the floor hard in transition and attacking the glass. I love his ability to move at his size, with his length. He has great defensive potential at the next level to guard a variety of positions. Diakite’s ability to slide on the perimeter and utilize his length allows for him to become a switchable and versatile defender. He has instinctive timing as a shot blocker, and did a great job making himself available in the dunker area capitalizing on dump-down passes and lobs.
As his game continues to evolve and he adds physical strength, I can see him becoming a dynamic and wiry rotational player. If he can prove to make shots and extend his range to the three-point line consistently, he has a chance to have a long career in the NBA. I like his skill set as a modern-day big.
Nate Renfro, 6’8 PF, Austin Spurs (Free Agent)
4.4 PTS, 5.3 REB, 3.8 AST, 1.9 BLK, .422 FG
My favorite undrafted prospect in the Bubble. Though optically his stat line may underwhelm, his impact on a game is felt in a variety of areas that won’t show up in a traditional box score.
What impresses me the most is Renfro’s feel for the game, his positional size, and how hard he plays on every possession. He’s a prototypical modern day, playmaking power forward. I love his ability to rebound the basketball and immediately push the ball up the floor and initiate offense. He has a great feel for when to swing the basketball, when to attack and draw a defender off the bounce, and a really impressive ability to locate open shooters as a roll man. Whether it is an assist or a hockey assist, he makes smart, high-level, disciplined reads. Winning plays. I really like his potential as a young, unfinished prospect. Hard-working, low maintenance, tough players are extremely hard to find and prove to be valuable on winning teams.
While he has his shortcomings offensively, he understands those limitations and keeps it simple. Renfro is a quick jumper and moves his feet well for his size. In the Bubble, he was particularly effective as an athletic rim-running roll man with unique passing ability. Defensively, he has great upside as someone who can guard 1-4 and challenge shots at the rim. His shooting must significantly improve for him to have a legitimate chance at sticking on an NBA roster. Adding strength is also key to his short-term development. The San Francisco alum sits at the top of Pro Insight’s call-up candidate list.
Tyler Cook, 6’9 PF, Brooklyn Nets (Two-Way)
20.8 PTS, 9.6 REB, 4.4 AST, .598 FG, 0.5 BLK
In just eight games with the Iowa Wolves, Tyler Cook made his presence felt in the Orlando Bubble. He came to the tournament in great shape and ready to perform. Cook played with his normal intensity, but what was most impressive was how much the game has slowed down for him in his sophomore season. Cook made decisive decisions with the ball in his hands, attacking under control and getting to the rim at will. I’ve always been a fan of his intangibles, his physicality, and how hard he plays on both ends of the floor. Cook received his NBA call-up from the Brooklyn Nets, where he joins a championship-level roster. He brings toughness and humility to their organization and will be ready for any opportunity that comes his way.
Aleksej Pokusevski, 7’0 PF, Oklahoma City Thunder (Assignment)
7.9 PTS, 7.3 REB, 4.0 AST, .312 FG, .270 3P, 1.1 BLK
While his initial numbers won’t jump out at you, Oklahoma City’s youngest prospect showed glimpses of promise throughout his assignment in Orlando. At 7’0, Pokusevski has one of the more unique skill sets in all of basketball. Despite having just turned 19 years of age in December and being generously listed at 200 pounds, Pokusevski plays fearlessly — which I absolutely love. While he is still in the very early stages of his development, there are certain skills and abilities that are simply God-given. His ability to start the break with his handle and size is remarkable. In the Bubble, he displayed great feel as a pick and roll passer, connecting on several plays with fellow 7-footer, Moses Brown (I mean, who doesn’t love big to big PNRs?). He also plays with some flair on the offensive end. His stroke looks solid mechanically, and he isn’t shy at the moment which I find promising (for now). Defensively he clearly has a way to go, but overall, his performance was encouraging.
As he continues to develop and mature, his game should really continue to shine as his ceiling is incredibly high. While his learning and developmental curve are steep, he shows significant promise as a long-term investment.
Top NBA Assignments
1. Kevin Porter Jr., 6’5 SG, Houston Rockets
2. Malachi Flynn, 6’1 PG, Toronto Raptors
3. Tyrell Terry, 6’2 PG, Dallas Mavericks
14.7 PTS, 5.1 REB, 3.2 AST, .424 FG, .339 3P
Terry demonstrated his ability to shoot at an elite level as well as make plays for others throughout his assignment. Although he needs to continue to add physical strength and improve defensively, his offensive skill set and high IQ were on full display. I love his confidence and poise as a lead-guard. So much of his game translates well at the next level. As he continues to mature and fill out, his game will only continue to improve over time. Nice to see him take advantage of the extra reps during his stint with the Memphis Hustle. This is a nice young prospect with starter potential for the Dallas Mavericks.
4. Aleksej Pokusevski, 7’0 C, Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Jordan Poole, 6’4 SG, Golden State Warriors
22.4 PTS, 5.3 REB, 3.6 AST, .451 FG, .325 3P
I was really impressed with the development of Poole following his upward trajectory in the Bubble. What stood out most was his level of confidence — he was playing under control, being decisive with his attacks, and you could really see the game beginning to slow down for him. He shot the ball well from distance, while also showing a keen ability to get downhill and finish at the rim. Poole still needs to improve as a decision maker off the bounce, but nonetheless, it will be exciting to monitor his progress in the next few years.
6. Paul Reed, 6’9 PF, Philadelphia 76ers
22.3 PTS, 11.8 REB, 2.3 AST, .588 FG, .444 3P, 1.8 BLK
Reed played exceptionally well during his time in the Bubble, ultimately leading the Blue Coats to the G-League Championship game. He really impressed with his effort-level and shot-selection throughout the tournament. Reed kept the game simple on the offensive end, taking what the defense gave him. One area in particular that stood out was his 3-point shooting: Reed finished his assignment shooting an impressive 44.4% from beyond the arc on nearly four attempts per game, which is something worth monitoring in the future. If he continues to shoot the ball consistently, while maintaining his level of production in the other areas of his game (defensive activity, rim protection, availability in the dunker), he will be in a great position to contribute at the NBA level in due time.
Top Two-Way Players
1. Rayjon Tucker, 6’4 SG, Delaware Blue Coats
19.4 PTS, 4.7 REB, 4.1 AST, .430 FG, .303 3P
Tucker continues to be one of my favorite young prospects in the G-League. He’s an explosive leaper, an aggressive straight-line driver, and he brings so much physicality and toughness on the offensive end. He’s a capable shooter from beyond the arc, but he still needs to improve his consistency. Defensively, he leaves room for improvement. He must stay engaged and aware off the ball, understanding help side rotations and the scouting report. Overall, I love what he brings to the table in a variety of areas. As he continues to refine certain elements of his game and remain disciplined, I see him having ample potential as a rotation piece on an NBA roster.
2. Brodric Thomas, 6’5 SG, Canton Charge
18.5 PTS, 7.3 REB, 3.5 AST, .447 FG, .413 3P, 1.9 STL
I came away really impressed with this Division-II product out of Truman State based on his performance in Orlando. Thomas showed a great ability to score at three levels, ultimately earning a well-deserved two-way call-up from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thomas has a great frame, a quick first step, and good size for a shooting guard. He plays with a great motor on both ends and showed an ability to create for himself and others. I’m looking forward to monitoring his progress in the second half of season with Cleveland — a nice pickup for the Cavs.
3.Jalen Harris, 6’5 SG, Raptors 905
17.6 PTS, 4.1 REB, 2.3 AST, .462 FG, .500 3P
Harris displayed his unique scoring ability throughout his time in the Bubble. He plays with a nice pace and has great shiftiness to his game, which enables him to score in a variety of ways. Harris also displayed an impressive level of athleticism, finishing well at and above the rim. If he can continue to shoot at a consistent level from distance (Harris finished the tournament shooting 50% from 3P on nearly six attempts per game), he will have a legitimate chance of becoming an NBA reserve/rotation piece.
4. Ty-Shon Alexander, 6’4 SG, Phoenix Suns
9.3 PTS, 2.9 REB, 1.9 AST, .404 FG, .388 3P
Alexander had several impressive stretches during his time with the Canton Charge. On assignment from the Phoenix Suns, Alexander is a guard who plays the right way on both ends, showing good basketball awareness and selflessness. He has the potential to be an effective role player at the next level, as he can defend both guard positions and make open shots. He moves well without the basketball, and is a player who doesn’t need the ball in his hands in order to positively impact the game. Alexander must continue to shoot with confidence and build consistency from long range in order to unlock his full potential.
5. Nico Mannion, 6’2 PG, Santa Cruz Warriors
19.3 PTS, 3.4 REB, 6.9 AST, .405 FG, .365 3P, 1.8 STL
Mannion made the most of his experience in Orlando. I thought he did a nice job alongside Jeremy Lin, picking and choosing his spots to be aggressive on the ball while being patient off it. His understanding of the game is apparent. He makes sound decisions when attacking the basket, and has a nice ability to make a variety of instinctive passes off the bounce. While he shot it well from range during his nine-game stint, this is an area Mannion will have to continue to refine in order to warrant consistent NBA minutes. I think he can still improve as a finisher around the rim and as an on-ball defender, despite lack of ideal length. All in all, this was a great period of development for the young GSW prospect.
6. Will Magnay, 6’10 C, Erie Bayhawks
9.1 PTS, 5.4 REB, 1.8 AST, .576 FG, .300 3P, 1.4 BLK
I was really impressed with Magnay’s showing in the Bubble. He brings positional size and moves relatively well at 6’10. I love his basketball IQ, as he demonstrated great composure with his back to the basket, while setting screens, and in finding gaps within the defense. Magnay also showed good understanding of defensive rotations, and was actively engaged, talking to his teammates. He must continue to work on his lateral speed and agility in order to prove fully capable, defensively. Despite limited attempts from 3-point range, he has a nice soft release and showed signs of stretch ability in Orlando — something to keep an eye on as the 22-year-old Aussie continues to develop.
Top Call-Up Candidates
1. Nate Renfro, 6’8 PF, Austin Spurs
2. Trevelin Queen, 6’6 SG, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
10.0 PTS, 2.3 REB, 1.2 AST, .458 FG, .282 3P
Queen is a versatile combo guard with a quick first step and ability to get to the rim. Great frame and positional size coupled with elite athleticism. He must improve his consistency as a shooter, but he had some nice moments scoring the ball for RGV down in Orlando.
3. Freddie Gillespie, 6’9 PF, Memphis Hustle
10.5 PTS, 10.3 REB, 1.8 AST, .570 FG, 2.3 BLK
Gillespie is more of a traditional post player with good size and a decent foundational skill set. Throughout the Bubble, he did a great job taking up space in the paint and finishing around the rim, rebounding the basketball, and altering shots in the paint.
4. Malik Fitts, 6’8 SF/PF, Agua Caliente Clippers
11.1 PTS, 4.0 REB, 1.4 AST, .468 FG, .348 3P
Fitts has intriguing potential as a modern combo forward prospect. He has impressive ability to dribble, pass, and shoot the ball with good positional size. He’s a capable shooter from distance and physically has the strength and versatility to guard multiple positions. The best could very well be yet to come for Fitts.
5. Rob Edwards, 6’5 SG, Oklahoma City Blue
12.5 PTS, 3.4 REB, 1.5 AST, .413 FG, .440 3P
The Bubble yielded a really impressive showing for the rookie OKC Blue guard. The Arizona State alum showed his ability to score at a high level throughout the tournament, finding that fine balance of being aggressive yet patient. He shot the ball well from distance, while also showing some ability to get to the rim and finish, using his strong frame and athleticism. Edwards is definitely worth an extended look.
6. Anthony Mathis, 6’4 SG, Austin Spurs
13.0 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.2 AST, .417 FG, .380 3P
One of the best shooters in college basketball a year ago, Mathis made the most of his opportunities with Austin in the Bubble. Quite simply, he’s a knockdown three-point specialist. While he has physical limitations, he understands his role and relies on his intelligence to be impactful. Mathis had more than one impressive performance scoring the basketball in Orlando.
7. Elijah Pemberton, 6’5 SG, Santa Cruz Warriors
6.4 PTS, 2.8 REB, 1.0 AST, .533 FG, .444 3P
Pemberton has real potential as a 3-and-D type of prospect. He has a great frame and size for the shooting guard position. He’s another undrafted rookie who’s quietly made the most of his opportunities with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Throughout the Bubble, he moved well without the basketball, took good shots, and showed above the rim athleticism — he also demonstrated some toughness on the defensive end on and off the ball. Pemberton is a solid two-way prospect to monitor.
8. Jordan Ford, 6’1 PG, Agua Caliente Clippers
13.9 PTS, 2.4 REB, 3.5 AST, .471 FG, .433 3P
There’s a lot to love about Ford from an intangible standpoint. He works his tail off on both ends, he’s a tough competitor, and he’s as scrappy as they come. Though he has his physical limitations, I love that he never backs down from an opponent and is always in attack mode. Ford is an overachiever who maximizes any opportunity presented. While he may not immediately end up on a roster, he has qualities that every winning organization values.
9. Jeff Dowtin, 6’3 PG, Lakeland Magic
6.5 PTS, 1.6 REB, 2.5 AST, .482 FG, .500 3P
Dowtin is a combo guard with positional size, length, and feel. He had some nice moments for Lakeland, showing his ability to score and make plays for his teammates as a lead ballhandler. A nice looking undrafted prospect to monitor.
10. Breein Tyree, 6’2 SG, Raptors 905
9.6 PTS, 1.1 REB, 3.2 AST, .437 FG, .333 3P
Tyree is an undersized off-guard with great end-to-end speed and scoring ability from different levels. He has some legitimate upside with reserve-level potential.
1. Axel Toupane, 6’7 SF, Santa Cruz Warriors
17.9 PTS, 8.0 REB, 3.3 AST, .544 FG, .386 3P, 1.7 STL