Good players are everywhere, you just have to know where and how to find them. Part of the where includes the G League Elite Camp, where many players have shined enough to give themselves an opportunity. Recently, that has included the likes of New Orleans Pelican Jose Alvarado, Charlotte Hornet Cody Martin, Miami Heat Caleb Martin, and Indiana Pacer Duane Washington Jr., among countless others. This is a great stepping stone for fringe prospects to catch the eyes of NBA scouts and anybody else who watched, like me. Here are a few that did exactly that.
Marcus Sasser, Houston* (* = Earned NBA Combine invite)
The roaming microwave scoring guard is a hot commodity in today’s NBA. Recently in the first round, guys like Jordan Poole, Immanuel Quickley, and Bones Hyland slid into the late first round for the ability to provide instant offense. Marcus Sasser showed he’s got that type of goods in both of his two G League Elite and NBA Combine scrimmages. Sasser started the 2021-22 season with a bang for the soon-to-be Elite 8-bound Houston Cougars, averaging 17.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.2 turnovers, and 8.6 three-point attempts per game to go with 43.7/43.7/74.4 shooting splits. He, unfortunately, suffered a foot injury that prevented Sasser from playing another game for Houston beyond December 22nd but made up for the lost time.
Marcus Sasser has deep range and isn’t afraid to show it. Give him a screen and drop coverage and you’re in for not a good time. He routinely dropped bombs from way beyond the three-point line.
Unless you have a versatile big who can defend on the perimeter, switching isn’t a great remedy either. Marcus Sasser has a tight handle and an array of moves he can string together to make bigs out of their element look foolish. Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma can tell you all about it firsthand. Just look at this filth.
Sheesh. As if that wasn’t enough, Sasser can also beat you as a passer too. He won’t fling Luka Doncic-esque crosscourt passes, but he can at least hit the roll man if you trap or find the next shooter if his man is tagging the roller.
Had it not been for his foot injury, Marcus Sasser probably wouldn’t have even been in the G League Elite Camp and garnered more buzz than he had before this week. His performance this week remedied all that. With measurables similar to Immanuel Quickley, Sasser should start getting some buzz in the late first or the start of the second round.
Jules Bernard, UCLA
There wasn’t a player I enjoyed watching more from the G League Elite Camp scrimmages than Jules Bernard. Quite frankly, I thought he was the best player in this event and was shocked he didn’t get the invite. Selfishly as a Laker fan whose roster needs help any way possible, I liked this for the chance Bernard slips through the cracks. It sucks for Bernard but he put enough great tape out there for someone to give him a shot.
Let’s start with bringing energy. Jules Bernard did that on both ends of the floor. Defensively, on the ball, Bernard is versatile and can guard multiple positions with his 6-7 210-pound frame. Sometimes guys can be hounds on the ball but coast when they aren’t directly involved in the play. That’s not Bernard. He was not only alert off the ball but routinely made plays in such circumstances. Take this play for example. Bernard fights over the screen on the dribble handoff and not only blows it up but gets the steal along the way.
This play was another good example and showcases his energy offensively too. He gets the deflection after someone tried to backcut them, forces the turnover, then turns on the jets on the other end of the floor as a cutter to ultimately earn free throws.
Transitioning further onto the offensive of the floor, Bernard flashed some ability to create too. He’s not someone you’re going to ask to run 30 pick and rolls every game, but he can do so in a pinch and did plenty during these scrimmages. He’s a stout straight-line driver. If he sees a lane, he’s pouncing on it instantly.
He can also create some pull-up jumpers in a pinch too. You’re going to rely on a steady diet of it from him, but it’s always nice to have as many players as possible that can win a mismatch or create late in the clock. Jules Bernard does exactly that here. He gets Brady Manek switched onto him and hits him with a stepback three as the shot clock expires.
Jules Bernard also has a good feel. He will make the extra pass and knows how to pass against a scrambling defense. He played on a loaded UCLA team with multiple pros, so he knows how to sacrifice for the better of the team and dial in on the little things. He’s a career 35.4-percent three-point shooter and 77.4-percent free-throw shooter. He reminds me a lot of Kelly Oubre Jr. with less bounce and more focus on the winning aspects of the game. I was a fan of Bernard’s before this event and more so after. Someone will make their team better if they give Jules Bernard a chance, whether as a draft pick or on a two-way contract.
Jared Rhoden, Seton Hall*
If Jules Bernard was my favorite player to watch from this event, Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden was not far behind. If you like guys who play hard all the time, you’ll love Jared Rhoden’s game. I didn’t know much about him before this event, but I’m a very big fan of his now after watching him play four times. Now, if you’re looking for scoring, you’re in the wrong area of the store. But Rhoden excels at making all the right plays to help your team win, especially defensively. This was one of my favorite plays I saw someone make all week.
This is awesome. Rhoden tags the roll man and then gets back to his man Tyrese Martin (who himself earned an NBA Combine invite and had a great week). But not only does he get back, but he never overcommits, sticks with Martin on the drive, forces a contested shot that goes nowhere, and finishes it with a rebound. That’s perfect, awesome defense.
There, Jared Rhoden was off the ball, but he made plays on the ball too. This play was a great example. He navigates over the screen in pick and roll, gets back to his man, and deflects the pass, forcing a turnover. Again, awesome defense.
Jared Rhoden’s effort stuck out in every facet of the game, but especially in transition. This play was a great example of it. First, he strips his man to jar the ball loose and force yet another turnover. But then, he outruns everybody, including the guy he just stripped, to beat everyone to the floor and draw free throws. Effort is a skill and Rhoden has a lot of it.
Jared Rhoden is a tremendous defensive player who can make plays both individually and within the team structure while outhustling everybody on the floor. He is not a particularly great offensive player; creating offense for himself was a chore for him. But, versatile, long (he has a 6-10.5-inch wingspan) who can hit 43-percent of their catch-and-shoot looks will absolutely have a spot in the NBA. I didn’t know much about Jared Rhoden before this week. Now? He’s one of my favorite prospects in this entire class.
Tevin Brown, Murray State
Tevin Brown was another player whose phone didn’t ring with a combine invite. It’s a real shame because he shined during this event with a game tailor-made for today’s NBA. Brown has the rep of a shooter; he shot 38.6-percent from deep on over 7 three-point attempts per game and just under 75-percent from the free-throw line. He can hit spot-up threes or on the move. Hitting this off a dribble handoff from way beyond the three-point line is a good example.
Tevin Brown is not just a shooter, however; far from it. He has a solid feel (3.3-1.8 career assist-to-turnover ratio) and can create a shot for himself. That’s super important, especially in situations where he either gets a big switched onto him or a team wants to use him to attack a weaker defender. Murray State developed his ability to create and gave him plenty of reps as a primary or secondary creator. He’ll likely play more of the latter but the more creation on the floor, the better, and Brown provides it.
Tevin Brown is no slouch defensively either. He steps up when bigger players attack him, but he’s best sticking with guards on the perimeter. This play is a good example. Brown gets skinny when the screen comes and cuts JD Notae’s driving lane off, forcing him to kick it out.
Brown is not as big as this guy, but he reminds me a lot of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He’s a perfect role player who can provide a great blend of shooting, playmaking on the move, and defense. He and Ja Morant shared the floor together for one year at Murray State; it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Memphis’ great and smart front office looks to a familiar face to add to their depth.
Jalen Wilson, Kansas*
There’s one guy Jalen Wilson reminded me of watching him play four times from Tuesday to Friday: Kyle Kuzma. Wilson does not have the wingspan Kuzma does, but they share nearly the same measurables. Wilson checked in at 6-7.25 with shoes and 225-pounds; Kuzma is 6-9 221-pounds. Kuzma was in Wilson’s shoes back in 2017, when a strong showing matched with stellar shooting at the NBA combine prompted the Lakers to select him with the Nets pick acquired in their D’Angelo Russell trade. Wilson did not have a strong performance during the NBA combine but did during the G League Elite camp.
Kyle Kuzma was not a very good shooter while at Utah. He only shot 30.2-percent from three on 1.8 three-point attempts per game and 63.3-percent from the free-throw line for his Utah career. That sounds… a lot like Jalen Wilson, who shot 29.8-percent from three on 3.5 attempts per game and 67.5-percent from the free-throw line. But yet, like Kuzma, that didn’t stop Wilson from letting it fly, and he looked comfortable doing so.
That’s a tough shot but Wilson made it look easy. If Wilson can improve as a shooter the way Kuzma has to the ‘good enough’ 34-percent on 5.5 attempts per game mark in the NBA, Wilson will be a legitimate NBA contributor. Wilson is a solid scorer and playmaker on the move but needs that shooting to keep defenses honest. If defenses have to honor his shot, he can make them pay.
Wilson is a slick passer too when he gets in the paint. He registered 20 more assists than turnovers in two years as a Jayhawk. He’s not going to manipulate defenses but when he sees help coming he knows how and when to dump it off to a teammate.
Lastly, Jalen Wilson is a tenacious rebounder. Any time the ball came off the rim he was right there fighting for it. Of course, you know who else is a good rebounder for his position? Kyle Kuzma, who just averaged a career-high 8.5 rebounds per game for the Wizards and averages 6.2 per game for his career. Jalen Wilson averaged 7.9 and 7.4 rebounds per game in the two seasons he registered legitimate playing time in Lawrence. Wilson needs to make strides defensively, but Kuzma did also coming out of Utah. Wilson helped himself this week and should get looks in the second round.
Kenneth Lofton Jr., Louisiana Tech*
No one, at least from this event, improved their stock more than Kenny Lofton Jr. For more on how Lofton fared this week, click here to read more on him and others who shined during the NBA Combine.