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Why G League Ignite Is Producing Top Picks In The NBA Draft

  • Since its launch, six players have been selected in NBA drafts from the G League Ignite program.
  • That trend will continue this year, starting with projected top-three pick Scoot Henderson.
Oct 4, 2022; Henderson, NV, USA; NBA G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson (0) reacts after scoring a layup during the second quarter against the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 at The Dollar Loan Center.
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Since the NBA established its “one-and-done” rule in 2005, elite players have explored alternative options to a year in NCAA basketball — particularly ones that would actually pay them salaries.

Since 2020, six players have been selected in NBA drafts from the G League Ignite program. Four of the six, led by 2021 No. 2 pick Jalen Green, went in the first round. Two additional players have signed NBA contracts despite not being drafted.

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That trend will continue this year: Consensus top-three 2023 NBA Draft pick Scoot Henderson spent two years playing for the program. Leonard Miller is projected to go in the top 20. Sidy Cissoko, a French prospect and Ignite player, is on the cusp of earning a draft contract.

But what exactly is the pseudo-minor league program churning out NBA prospects?

Ignite was started in 2020 for the express purpose of giving players an opportunity to develop into top NBA athletes earlier than ever before. Though technically in the NBA’s “minor league,” the Ignite is a “non-traditional” team composed of talent that may, in previous years, be scattered across the NCAA landscape. It’s one of two in the G League that doesn’t have a professional affiliation.

“We created team Ignite in the G League as an opportunity for players who choose not to go to college and want to become professionals,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in 2021. “They can go directly into the G League and be well compensated.”

Like other G League teams, players only have to be 18 to be eligible for the Henderson, Nevada-based program — but the team’s roster also includes veterans. Eligible for the G League championship, they play other G League teams as well as international programs. They’re not required to leave after a year — and multiple players have stuck around to reap the maximum amount of benefits the program provides.

Players make between $200,000 and $500,000, comparable to some two-way deals. In addition, players receive extra resources like mentorship programs, financial literacy education, scholarship opportunities, and other “personal development” practices.

The team shows no signs of slowing. Next year’s roster will include Lithuanian forward Matas Buzelis, a potential 2024 No. 1 overall draft pick.

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