Antonio Blakeney, NBA G League Phenom, Is Balling!

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If an NBA team takes a chance on Blakeney, I predict he’ll reward the franchise, surprise analysts, and become a fan favorite.

I’ll bet many readers have never heard of Antonio Blakeney, a 6’4” 197-pound shooting guard out of LSU. Blakeney showed flashes of pro potential during his collegiate career by averaging 14.8 points, 4 rebounds, and shooting 35% from three. But that performance was overshadowed by LSU’s media darling–Ben Simmons–who got all the hype.

The general media disregard for Blakeney had a trickle-down effect on pro scouts and NBA clubs. Blakeney went undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft.

But that slight didn’t stop Blakeney from pursuing a pro career. He landed on the Chicago Bulls Summer League team and played impressively, too.

That performance led to a two-way contract offer in July. A two-way contract is an agreement that allows a player to spend a max of 35 games with an NBA team and the rest of the season with that team’s G-League affiliate.

Antonio Blakeney has become a poster child for two-way contract success. In the NBA, Blakeney is playing 14.8 minutes per and averaging 7 ppg. In the G League, he’s putting up numbers that are video game-eseque–7.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and a RIDICULOUS 34.9 pounds a game.

That insane G League stat sheet ranks Blakeney first in points, in the top 25 in rebounds, and in the top 15 in assists. He’s a lock to play in the league’s All-Star Game and has to be an early runner for G League MVP.

Watch this video and you’ll see why there’s hype.

Blakeney possesses great speed that enables him to be explosive on the perimeter and to cut inside. If defenses respect that speed and decide to double-team him, Blakeney will dish the rock to teammates for open shots. That means assists and free throws in a style reminiscent of Wizards’ point guard, John Wall.

Blakeney’s speed also helps in transition. After grabbing rebounds (he gets more than the average wing), Blakeney immediately runs in transition, which often results in a quick fastbreak dunk, layup, or assist ala the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But there are downsides to his game, too. One limitation is size. Blakeney is considered to have low-tier size and length among pro guards. Blakeney can’t score by posting up or defending the post because he’ll get beaten by bigger players–either getting blocked on offense or getting bullied in the paint on defense. Lack of size also limits Blakeney’s defensive potential, especially if he has to switch to a player who’s taller and stronger than him.

Courtesy: Blog A Bull

Another weakness is Blakeney’s shooting efficiency. If his shot isn’t falling, he tends to transition into what I call “JR Smith Syndrome.” When down mentally about missed shots, he often tries to create shots that he shouldn’t. Poor shot selection contributes to Blakeney’s streakiness.

All in all, though, Blakeney is performing and has star potential. I liken his overall game to Norman Powell of the Toronto Raptors. Both players are 6’4”, have great athleticism, solid passing ability, and can be streaky shooters. Blakeney has an advantage because he’s three years younger and could have more opportunities to learn if he ends up on a non-competing (rebuilding) team that runs a “spread offense.”

The “spread” is an offensive scheme in which four (or all five) offensive players stand behind the three-point line. This offense is lethal in drive and kick-out offensive plays. That style fits Blakeney’s athleticism.

Atlanta plays that scheme and the Hawks are also a team that’s in full-scale rebuilding mode. The interesting thing about the Hawks situation is that they’re taking a “leash off” approach with their young and promising players, like Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince, who shoot with little to no restrictions. The Hawks would most likely give Blakeney the same kind of freedom if he were to become apart of the team.

Looking for young and promising players, I think trading for Blakeney would be a great investment for Atlanta.

Another reason why Blakeney is a great fit for Atlanta is that he could readily replace the Hawks’ current shooting guard, Kent Bazemore. Reports are that Atlanta is trying to trade Bazemore in exchange for salary flexibility. If Atlanta ends up trading Bazemore, that would open up an opportunity for Blakeney.

I’m obviously high on Antonio Blakeney. He’s balling! But, just like what happened at LSU, he’s not getting much media attention. If an NBA team takes a chance on Blakeney, which it should, I predict he’ll reward the franchise, surprise analysts, and become a fan favorite.


About Andrew Waters

My roots begin in New York. Sports is my world and I spend time watching, talking, and writing about sports–especially the NBA, NFL, and MLB. I pay special attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Charlotte Hornets, and New York Yankees, as well as the exploits of James Harden, Jeremy Lamb, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Dobbs, Giancarlo Stanton, and Andrew McCutchen. l enjoy writing because it gives me the freedom to express opinions. I’m passionate about sports and thrive on sparking conversation about my points of view. I’d love to have you comment on my articles.

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Comments (Antonio Blakeney, NBA G League Phenom, Is Balling!)

    Mac Hanslip wrote (01/06/18 - 7:18:29AM)