The NBA G-League exists for two reasons. The first is to be the outlet for guys that can’t get spots in the NBA to come and shine. And the other is for veteran players that find themselves as free agents to go and show what they still have left in the tank.
This year, we have seen a few big men take significant leaps forward in their games as they were given more responsibility by their respective teams. The specific guys I’m talking about are Chris Boucher of the Raptors and Christian Wood of the Rockets. Both of them are currently hurt but have had some magnificent performances this year.
Let’s look at just how dynamic these former G-League standouts have been. They have been flexing their muscles in the league this year.
Wood Dominated in Wisconsin in 2018-19
Two years ago, Christian Wood played 28 games for the Wisconsin Herd. And he was one of the best players in the league. He shot an astounding 56% from the floor, putting up averages of 29 points, 14 rebounds, and better than two blocks per game. There was never a day where he didn’t bring his best and prove to be unstoppable.
His efforts earned him First-Team All G-League Honors for the second year in a row.
It makes it hard to fathom why the Hornets, 76ers, and Bucks didn’t choose to give him any opportunities. His playing time in the NBA the prior couple of seasons was very limited, despite the knowledge that the former UNLV standout had NBA potential. It was a season to remember for Wood, who would play the entire 2019-20 campaign with the Pistons.
Boucher Was League MVP in 2018-19
As good as Christian Wood was in 2018-19, Chris Boucher might have been even better for the Raptors 905. He averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four(!) blocks per contest. Appearing in 28 games, Boucher averaged 34 minutes, shooting 51% from the floor and 32% from distance.
He was the league MVP, and the Golden State Warriors may have regretted not retaining him. The former Oregon product was a serious force to be reckoned with on the floor. Over two playoff games with the Raptors 905, Boucher blocked 12 shots, scored 45 points, and pulled in 19 rebounds across 80 minutes. He was also voted as the defensive player of the year for his efforts that entire campaign.
Wood Got a Payday with Houston
The Rockets went out and signed Wood to a 3-year, $41 million deal pretty early in free agency. The 25-year-old Wood was signing his first big NBA deal and looked to be a dominant player that broke out at the right time. He averaged 13 & six boards as a Piston in 2019-20, good enough to get him this chance.
Though ankle issues have plagued him, Wood has put up 21 points, 10 rebounds, and better than a block per game on the season. He’s made 51% of his shots and is making a career-best 1.9 threes per contest, shooting better than 37% from beyond the arc.
The entire Rockets roster has been saddled with injuries all year long, but his play remained steady. Don’t be surprised if Wood is in the All-Star conversations next year.
Boucher Tearing it Up for Toronto
The Raptors have spent the entire 2020-21 season playing out of Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena. The poor record is not a reflection of the effort of the players, not by a long shot. Across 59 games (13 starts), Boucher has averaged 14 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. He has shot 52% from the floor, while his slingshot technique has him making 1.5 threes per, at a 39% clip.
The game before suffering an MCL injury, Boucher put up 31 points (6-9 3PT) and 12 rebounds to lift the team past a sneaky-competitive Thunder squad. And in a tough loss to Chicago on April 8, he had 38 points and 19 rebounds.
Among the impressive overall stats, Boucher posted 12 double-doubles, seven games of at least four blocked shots, 26 games of 2+ threes made and had a positive +/- in 32 of 59 appearances. His future is bright in Toronto.
The departures of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka pushed him in as a rotational regular. And boy has the Oregon product thrived. Boucher is just scratching the surface in the NBA. He’s 28 and has several good years left for Nick Nurse.
Boucher’s Teammate Freddie G is Pretty Good Too
Freddie Gillespie began his career at Division-III Carleton College. And then he transferred to Baylor. Gillespie played for the Memphis Hustle in the 2021 G-League bubble and absolutely shined.
He put up 11 points, 10 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game in 15 appearances. His 34 total blocks ranked first in the G-League, and his 0.9 defensive win shares ranked second.
He’s signed with Toronto through the end of the year and is on the come-up.