Development — it’s something every player strives to accomplish throughout their careers. This value cannot be stressed more than in the NBA G-League, where players make or break their careers while tending to unruly schedules and conditions while simultaneously battling with teammates in search of the limelight.
The Oklahoma City Blue have ground out a plethora of young and old talent this season in Orlando, receiving praise all season long — but can they develop?
Large media outlets have lowballed the sleepers on the Blue roster, though there seems to be a common chatter amongst all groups — Moses Brown and Omer Yurtseven are dominant.
Both big men’s praises are well deserved as they take the cake for the first and second players on the Blue roster on paper, though the question needs to be asked. Can they shape up in the NBA?
Moses Brown topped the Oklahoma City Thunder’s shortlist of two-way candidates last season as the center inked to a two-way contract in principal late last November. There’s a clear reason why Brown meshed with the Thunder, coming into training camp at a stalky 7-foot-2, 245-pound frame, this seemed like the perfect fit.
The 21-year-old dabbled in the Thunder scene before embarking in Orlando, averaging 3.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, and 4.4 minutes across seven games. Brown’s numbers for his run are pretty unprecedented; however, when you factor in the situations in his appearances (all being double-digit margins of victory), the gravity of his stats is toned a bit. You can’t say that about his time in the Bubble.
Moses Brown has been head-hunting since stepping foot with the Blue. The big man ranks 8th in points (20.3), 1st in rebounds (13.8), and 8th in blocks (2.0), all the while playing just 26.5 minutes a game.
There are real arguments that Brown’s stats down low would never hold up in the NBA. Hoisting height advantages up to six inches against centers, shots have come almost too easy. This claim has some merit to it — though there’s much more to the story. Brown’s staggering aspect working down low has tallied 16.0 points in the paint (2nd in G-League), 8.2 second-chance points (league-high), and 3.9 free throws a game (3rd in G-League.) Against your modern center in the NBA, these statlines would never fly by as Brown’s height becomes normality in moving up.
Brown’s main role in the offense has been pretty regulated to setting screens for the ball-handler and darting inside. Guards cannot handle Brown’s brute force screens ending up with an undersized center either sacrificing an open guard runner or a Brown close shot — they lose either way. If the ball is kicked underneath, Brown’s violent build-up into his dunks forced an out-of-position defender to swipe for a foul or fend off to see a two-handed throwdown. When double-teamed or trapped stagnant below-the-basket, shots still fly in his way and make or miss he’s garnering some stats. Moses leads the G-League in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (ORP) with an 18.4% dice-roll of the big reclaiming possession off a miss, that’s an unprecedented 3% more than second place. Rapid-fire reloads have led to close to half of his points for a reason, he’s turned this league into a 2k simulation.
Numbers here are groundbreaking with Moses Brown, sneaking into every category you could even imagine — what at the next level?
The main comparison that’s tossed around with Brown has to be Dakari Johnson. Johnson posted similar numbers to Moses with the Blue but failed to adapt with the Thunder. Their playstyles are on opposite spectrums. Johnson solely played as an interior big, bullying his way into shots. Brown uses his quick burst to not just create himself shots, but force centers into action on split-second screens.
Moses Brown’s best quality right now has been his pace. The 7-foot-2 big ranks 2nd in the G-League in Pace (110.64), which takes a dropoff, but not by much. Brown’s movement for his size is a show in itself so if his man ever plays high, you may just tack on his points. Driving is his bread-and-butter at the next level, and with an array of playmakers in SGA, Maledon, Jerome, etc. open tries under the rack aren’t out of the equation. With a 7-foot-4 wingspan, blocking won’t be an issue, though closing out on the perimeter has been an issue. Offensive rebounding and second-chances inevitably take the biggest dropoff as a result of being one of a whole bag of 7-footers. Even on the defensive end, he carries his 245 fairly lean, meaning being worked in the post and closed off of the glass would be a common occurrence.
Really what you are left with is an athletic, nimble 7-foot-2 player in the league who has shown major flashes on the boards and blocking. For a team such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, desperately in need of young bigs in preparation of the trade deadline, Brown’s aligns perfectly. Styles of play don’t need to be hijacked with him subbed in, enabling the Thunder’s up-tempo pace to continue, and allowing for the court to stay open when setting screens.
The pieces are all there for Brown, it’s just a matter of if he can transfigure his body and game to meet the NBA’s standards and become more than just a project.
Omer Yurtseven entered this season with a bit of a question mark over his head. The 22-year-old provided quality numbers across his three seasons of college play, playing two years at NC State before taking a gap year to transfer to Georgetown. Yurtseven’s 15.5-point, 9.8-rebound stat line in his final year attracted a lot of attention from pro scouts, yet his 22-year-old tag proved to be enough of a turnoff to go undrafted.
In a similar fashion to Moses Brown, Yurtseven became a primary target of the Thunder, being handed one of the franchise’s first Exhibit-10 deals of the year.
Yurtseven’s improvements across this season are immeasurable. The 7-footer carries averages of 16.2 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks off 22.0 minutes. In his last three games, he has been a completely different player. Yurtseven has outplayed Brown with splits of 25.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks on 70.4 from the field since last week flashing a new set of skills.
Coming off the bench, Yurtseven essentially played like Moses Brown, operating strictly down low for offensive boards and post shots over smaller defenders. Unlike Brown, he’s begun working on all three levels. Off-ball screens have been the trademark of his looks, using his 275-pound frame to flatten defenders for easy takes and posting up for flips at the cylinder. Just like his counterpart, offensive rebounding sources an integral part of his game, ranking second in ORP at 15.2%, just behind Brown.
Though the post game is there, Omer’s range from outside raises the eyebrows of most opponents. The big man’s face-up game nets on average of 1.5 attempts a night, on a quality 31.3% clip. There’s no speed advantage to get open, rather defenders simply accepting his gamble’s from three leaving him space — though he does yield results.
In terms of if Yurtseven can transfer his play to the next level, I’d say yes (for the most part.) The face of the matter is, open looks passed around now simply are not going to be there for Yurtseven, though his size and strength inside would still make him a solid interior force. Setting screens should not be any problem being that most NBA guards would be caught up in his traps, the main point of enigma though comes from deep. Though numbers now suggest he’s a natural from beyond the arch, shooting was hardly in his forte while in college. If his soft-touch triples from the top of the key continue to elevate, there is real potential for Yurtseven to fill in as a backup down the line.
Ten years ago, Yurtseven likely was a draft-day lock providing hardy usage to box-out opponents, muscle in the post, and set screens — times have changed.
Yurtseven’s pretty grounded as a player, ultimately ejecting him from any ability to tinker his role in lineups. Though his strength ousts smaller centers in the league, burly men at the position small or large wouldn’t be a recipient of much post work. Albeit, Omer is 22 so filling out a more acceptable frame to combat the new generation of bigs is obtainable — just not a surefire thing. In spurts he’ll give you exactly what is asked yet with playstyles shifting towards higher-tempo offenses, carving a large role will be difficult unless proven outside.
For a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Yurtseven hints at what Horford has provided thus far, though the unproven three makes him hard to gauge. Under an assumed bench gig, efforts alongside that of Maledon, Jerome, and Diallo make an interesting hypothetical given all three live off penetrations.
A more halfcourt-oriented unit such as the Orlando Magic would drool over this guy, revving to fill right in as a traditional backup splitting looks with Khem Birch.
The floor for Omer appears to be higher than Brown based on acquired skills right now, though, Brown’s unique speed and unproven jumpers garners him boom-or-bust potential.
All-in-all both players deserve all the praise coming their way and under the right team, either could easily groom themselves into NBA pieces.