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)