Keeping talent in the G-League is tough to do, with NBA call-ups, overseas contracts and higher pay elsewhere making it hard for players to do back-to-back years. After the 905 won the D-League championship, it was expected many of the players would not return without a camp guarantee or a two-way contract. Since no 905 players got either of those many have looked elsewhere to ply their trade.
So far sharpshooter Brady Heslip has signed in Turkey, Antwaine Wiggins signed in Greece, C.J. Leslie is off to Lebanon, Yanick Moreira signed in Russia and Axel Toupane, a borderline NBA player, signed in Lithuania. All five players were a big part of the 905’s roster last season, supporting the team on its title run.
Last season, Heslip was often regarded as the best shooter not in the NBA, and it showed with the 905 as he shot an impressive 41.9 percent from three. Heslip also averaged 16.1 points and 2.9 assists with the 905 often running the offense when Fred VanVleet wasn’t with the 905.
Antwaine Wiggins may have been the best defender on the 905 and gradually worked his way into the starting lineup at times. Wiggins finished the year averaging 18.8 minutes while adding 8.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while shooting 56.4 percent from the field.
Next, C.J. Leslie was a huge part of the 905’s championship last season as he started in 19 games while playing in 45 of 50 games. Leslie finished with 11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 20.8 minutes per game, while shooting 54.4 percent from the field. Leslie came up big in the playoffs as well after Walter Tavares (the 905 still hold his rights) and Toupane got called up.
Yanick Moreira had a big adjustment to make, as the G-League tends towards small ball play and Moreira is anything but. Still, despite playing in a guard heavy league, Moreira ended up finishing the year averaging 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 18.9 minutes per game.
Finally, Axel Toupane, consistently the 905’s best player, signed overseas immediately after being waived by the Pelicans. It does come as something of a surprise as many would have thought he could have gotten training camp invites and maybe a two-way contract. The move may send a message that Toupane’s career in the G-League is over. After three call-ups, he’s definitely good enough to be in the NBA.
It could also be expected that John Jordan and E.J. Singler don’t come back given that they both have spent the past two seasons in the G-League and may look to cash in overseas. The same could be said for Will Sheehey who could make some good money overseas, and already tried the G-League a couple of times with no NBA looks.
As a result of all this roster turnover, only Negus Webster-Chan, Goodluck Okonoboh and Christian Watford may be back. All three of them played sparingly last season as Okonoboh and Webster-Chan were often the two inactives on the roster. While Watford received a ton of DNP-CDs after being acquired from Fort Wayne and did not play a lot for the 905.
To defend their G-League Championship, the 905 will have to use the draft and cast a wide net to rebuild their roster for next season. We’ll see how things shake out.