The Future of the NBA May Not Be From College Basketball

Evaluating G League Ignite and OTE Prospects and Discussing the Future of Those Leagues

Image Credit: Sporting News

For the most part, NBA Draft prospects have come from established college basketball programs. That began to change last year, when Jalen Green was selected second overall from the NBA G League Ignite.

Now, the 2022 NBA Draft has four Ignite and three Overtime Elite prospects among its class of league hopefuls, and I’ll be evaluating each of those prospects and explaining why Ignite and OTE are the next big things.

G-League Ignite Prospects

Jaden Hardy

Hardy, a 6'5" combo guard, averaged 17.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.1 APG on 35–26–88 splits — not exactly eye-popping numbers for someone who was considered a top prospect a few months ago. He is expected to be a mid-first-round pick but has shown his ability to carry an offense with his three-level scoring, even if the stats don’t show it.

Though Hardy is a great offensive player with excellent shot-creating skills, he had a questionable shot selection throughout the year, potentially signaling why he shot so poorly throughout the season. Additionally, there are concerns about his defensive effort at times, which, if ulocked, could make Hardy an outstanding two-way threat at the next level.

MarJon Beauchamp

Beauchamp is a wing who averaged 15 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 2.5 APG on 57–25–65 splits. He is built like an NBA wing at 6'6" and 199 pounds (with a reported 7'0" wingspan) and shows flashes of athleticism that allow him to finish above the rim with ease. Like Hardy, Beauchamp is an electrifying scorer, having scored 20 or more points six times this season in the G-League.

NBA Scouting Live highlights that Beauchamp needs to improve his three-point shooting and his tendency to gamble on defense, while BasketballNews noted that ball-handling and three-point shooting will be “swing skills” for Beauchamp at the next level.

Michael Foster Jr.

Foster is a 6'9", 220-pound big who projects as a talented stretch-four or five at the next level. Foster averaged 14.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2 APG, and 1.9 BPG for the Ignite this year on 49–31–75 splits. NBA Draft Room describes him as having “small forward skills in a power [forward’s] body”, being able to play above the rim on offense while protecting it well on defense. Their NBA comparison for Foster — which I definitely agree with — is Julius Randle.

Some weaknesses for Foster are his shot selection as well as his lack of three-point shooting and defensive discipline (NBA Scouting Live). Foster will also need to develop some ball-handling skills, but is still a force in the paint who will contribute greatly to any team that drafts him.

Dyson Daniels

Daniels is a 6'6" point-forward who put up 11.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.9 SPG, and 0.7 BPG on 45–25–73 splits. A scouting report from NBA Draft Junkies highlighted his unselfishness and ability to stuff the stat sheet as positives for the young Australian. They also mentioned how he excels in transition, pushing the pace and running the floor very well.

At the same time, Daniels is not the most explosive and jump-off-the-page athlete by NBA standards, and he is also unselfish to a point and lacks creativity off the dribble, skills he will need to improve if he wants to be an ideal NBA point guard.

Overtime Elite Prospects

*NOTE: OTE does not keep track of player stats, so statistics for these players may be found elsewhere

Jean Montero

Montero is a 6'3" point guard from the Dominican Republic, where he averaged 13.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 3.5 APG while shooting 40% from the field and 26% from three. He is a natural scorer but also excels at dishing the ball to his teammates, and he thrives in transition, which means he could fit right into a modern NBA offense.

Multiple scouting reports highlight concerns about Montero’s defense, saying he is a little too undisciplined on that side of the ball. Also, statistically, he did not shoot the ball well, and he should make that a point of emphasis if he wants to succeed in the NBA.

Kok Yat

Yat is a 6'8", 185-pound forward and the cousin of current Hornets forward J.T. Thor. A more extensive video scouting report can be found below, but Yat is a great catch-and-shooter with solid mechanics and a willingness to shoot even when heavily contested.

Jeremy Woo’s Sports Illustrated article goes into more detail on the 6'8" sharpshooter:

“[H]is physical profile and projectable jump shot make him a clear person of interest for NBA teams moving forward. He is an above-the-rim leaper, looks like a pretty consistent shooter, and is listed at 6' 8” with a 6' 11" wingspan. He handles the ball and moves like a wing, and has enough lateral quickness to guard the perimeter.”

Dominick Barlow

Finally, Dominick Barlow is a power forward who has burst onto the scene of mock draft boards. The 6'9", 214-pound four is a true two-way player who can score at all three levels (most notably midrange) and is an active defender all over the court (NBA Draft Room).

Weaknesses for the projected second-round pick include an inability to score in traffic and “limited experience against top competition,” according to NBA Scouting Live. It will be very interesting to see how Barlow makes the jump in competition, going up against elite players in the frontcourt and the rest of the league.

So, What’s Next for Ignite and OTE?

Image Credit: Urbanize Atlanta

There are plenty of other Ignite and OTE prospects I did not mention in this article (e.g. Scoot Henderson, Amen & Ausar Thompson, etc.) who are getting ready to make their own impact on the league in a couple years time. Both of these leagues do incredible jobs of developing these prospects into NBA-ready talent, and they are clearly just getting started.

Having these prospects on ESPN’s and Sports Illustrated’s top-100 rankings is another testament to how powerful Ignite and OTE have become as alternative pathways to the NBA. Both of them offer experience against professional competition that college programs do not have, as well as professional training in financial literacy and media communication— all while getting paid. The fact that Ignite and OTE also offer the option to opt out of the program and pursue a college degree if things don’t work out is another bonus.

The results have already begun to show for the Ignite with the top-ten selections of Jalen Green (2nd) and Jonathan Kuminga (7th), as well as the selection of Isaiah Todd in the second-round (31st overall) of last year’s draft. OTE looks to have the same success with their inaugural class of prospects.

The future is undoubtedly bright for both leagues, churning out promising talent left and right, and their prospects’ names will surely be ones to remember for a long time.

The best alternative to college basketball might not be going overseas after all. It’s right here in our own backyard, and more importantly, it’s here to stay.

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