The talent level in the NBA G League this season might be higher than ever before. Some of the stat lines recorded in November were just absurd. Sharife Cooper dropped 40+ twice. Jaden Hardy averaged almost 30 a night. Trevor Hudgins hit 10 three-pointers in a game. Jay Huff blocked a career-high 8 shots against the Stockton Kings. Jamaree Bouyea nearly tallied a quadruple-double for the Sioux Falls Skyforce (27 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 8 steals). Greensboro Swarm guard Ashton Hagans capped off the month by posting a historic triple-double (15 points, 22 assists, 10 rebounds), on the same night that Chris Chiozza—the League’s leader in assists—dished out another 17 dimes for the Long Island Nets.
Of all the standout players in the G during November, Iowa Wolves star Luka Garza shined the brightest. A quick reminder what the 6-11 center did at the University of Iowa: 2020-21 consensus National Player of the Year, two-time First Team All-American, the only player in Big Ten history with at least 2,250 points and 900 rebounds. Garza graduated as Iowa’s all-time leading scorer and had his No. 55 jersey retired by the program. His list of accolades is seemingly never-ending—just scroll through his bio page here.
And yet…Garza was not a top NBA prospect. There were a lot of questions about how his old-school game would translate to the pros, and whether he was mobile and athletic enough to still be productive at the next level. Despite a remarkable college career, the Hawkeye legend fell all the way to the 52nd pick in the 2021 Draft, where he was scooped up by the Detroit Pistons.
As a rookie, Garza played in 21 games for the G League’s Motor City Cruise, averaging 21.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. He was named to the G League All-Rookie Team and the All-NBA G League Third Team. He also appeared in 32 games for the Pistons, contributing 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest (17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes).
Detroit moved on from Garza this past summer, and the 23-year-old eventually signed a two-way contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was able to learn from All-Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert throughout training camp and preseason. Since then, Garza has spent much of his time with Minnesota’s G League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.
“That was one of the draws of coming here—being able to develop my game, but do it in a place that’s basically my second home,” Garza told reporters in mid-October. “I’m from DC, but now it feels like I’m from Iowa. I love it out there, so I’m super excited.”
Back in his “second home,” the big man averaged 27.3 points (second in the G League), 8.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists (first among centers) in November. His efficiency was ridiculous—he shot 67.6 percent from the field and 55.2 percent from behind the arc (on 4.1 attempts per game). Just look at the array of ways he scores in the highlight clip below: finishes out of the pick-and-roll, fade-away baseline jumpers, put-backs, three-pointers, floaters in the lane, crafty post moves—he does it all.
With Garza in the lineup, the Iowa Wolves went 6-1 in November; without him, they were 0-2. After Towns suffered a right calf strain a week ago, Garza was temporarily called up from Iowa to Minnesota. In December, our “G League Player to Watch” might just get an opportunity to prove himself on the big stage.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (NOVEMBER STATS)
Jaden Hardy, Guard, Texas Legends: 29 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 55 FG%, 48 3P%
Jay Huff, Forward, South Bay Lakers: 17.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 4.4 blocks, 68 FG%
Sharife Cooper, Guard, Cleveland Charge: 26.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 51 FG%, 45 3P%
Kenneth Lofton Jr, Forward, Memphis Hustle: 27.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 57 FG%
Mark Williams, Center, Greensboro Swarm: 23.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 63 FG%
Chris Chiozza, Guard, Long Island Nets: 15.1 points, 11.9 assists, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals
Jamaree Bouyea, Guard, Sioux Falls Skyforce: 18.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.5 steals, 53 FG%
Luka Samanic, Forward, Maine Celtics: 21.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 blocks, 53.7 FG%.
NOVEMBER CALL-UP TRACKER
DaQuan Jeffries, Guard, Westchester Knicks to New York Knicks
Alize Johnson, Forward, Austin Spurs to San Antonio Spurs
Dru Smith, Guard, Sioux Falls Skyforce to Miami Heat
Saben Lee, Guard, Raptors 905 to Philadelphia 76ers Toronto Raptors
Devon Dotson, Guard, Capital City Go-Go to Washington Wizards
Ibou Badji, Center, Wisconsin Herd to Portland Trail Blazers
AJ Lawson, Forward, College Park Skyhawks to Minnesota Timberwolves
Orlando Robinson, Forward, Sioux Falls Skyforce to Miami Heat
Jordan Hall, Forward, Austin Spurs to San Antonio Spurs