The wait was longer than anticipated for the professional debuts of G League Ignite top prospects Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga.
The No. 1 and No. 4 ranked players in the class of 2020 joined the G League's new development program back in October, forgoing their NCAA eligibility to earn a salary while training for the 2021 NBA Draft. Joined by other premier prospects like Isaiah Todd (No. 15 ranked prospect) and Daishen Nix (No. 21), these players waited four months for the opportunity to showcase their skillset on a national stage after endless closed-off practices and workouts, learning NBA terminology from experienced NBA coaches and a select group of veterans to prepare the prospects for the next level.
On Wednesday (ET), the Ignite pulled off a 109-104 victory over Jeremy Lin, Nico Mannion and the Santa Cruz Warriors in their first game of the G League Bubble.
How did Green and Kuminga - two potential top five picks in the 2021 NBA Draft - look in their first pro contest?
Kuminga came out looking to attack, using all of his physical 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame to score the rock. He got his first professional bucket on a quick spin out of a post-up and did the majority of his damage in the paint and around the rim.
He showed off his explosiveness with a nice dunk in transition, buried an impressive one-legged fadeaway in traffic and used his body well to take all the right angles for easy layups, including this sweet spin for an and-one finish through contact.
lil spin move from @JonathanKuming6 pic.twitter.com/XwAwgqRIPB- NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 10, 2021
The most plesant surprise came from a handful of nice assists, showing improvement as a playmaker and ball handler.
He had two assists in the first half where he drew the attention of the defence and made the right read to find cutting teammates for easy buckets. In the second half, it was a bounce pass from halfcourt in transition to find his wingman Green running the lane for a highlight dunk.
.@JonathanKuming6 threading the needle to @JalenGreen pic.twitter.com/IZ1u9QwZI0- NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 10, 2021
Known for his knack for scoring and versatile defence, Kuminga's passing was a bright spot in his debut. The one area where he left room for improvement was his perimeter shooting, going 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
As if he wasn't already impressive enough in his first pro contest, Kuminga closed out the game with a clutch blocked shot to end the Warriors' hopes of completing a comeback.
jonathan. kuminga. 👀 pic.twitter.com/BtRKK3GgFn- NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 10, 2021
The NBA prospect finished with 19 points (9-18 FG, 1-7 3PT), four assists, four rebounds, two blocks and four turnovers in 33 minutes of playing time.
It wasn't an ideal start for Green, who appeared to have some jitters in his first game as a pro.
The scoring guard couldn't get into a rhythm offensively, forcing shots when they weren't falling. He had trouble creating separation in the halfcourt which led to a lot of contested looks on his jump shots or turnovers off the bounce.
Prior to the start of the season, Ignite head coach Brian Shaw told NBA.com that he has been driving home the importance of Green (and Kuminga) improving as off-ball scorers, as they both are accustomed to playing with the ball in their hands as premier high school players, and those growing pains came to light in Green's first contest.
He began to settle in a bit more in the second half, running the floor well in transition to give himself some easier looks while also using his gravity to his advantage with some nice passes, an area of his game he was specifically looking to improve on coming into this G League season.
Finishing with just six points (3-7 FG, 0-2 3PT), four rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 22 minutes of action, the best is yet to come for the elite prospect.
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