New-Look Greensboro Swarm Getting Set for 3rd G League Season

By Sam Perley

The NBA regular season is a little over two weeks past its starting point and now, it’s time for the G League to get its 50-game, 2018-19 campaign going. Charlotte’s affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, will start its third season with road meetings against the Wisconsin Herd and Capital City Go-Go tonight and tomorrow followed by its home opener on Saturday, Nov. 10 versus the Grand Rapids Drive.

New Hornets Head Coach James Borrego has stressed increased attention to player development since arriving over the summer, making this upcoming G League season and beyond more of a focal point for the organization. Joe Wolf was recently hired to lead the Swarm, which brings the team an 11-year NBA veteran who has coached at every level the sport has to offer.

G League rosters are constructed primarily of two-way players, affiliate players, drafted players, returning right players and open tryouts. The Swarm have representatives from nearly every category listed below and what exactly each one means:

Two-Way Players – Rookies J.P. Macura (Xavier) and Joe Chealey (College of Charleston) are eligible to spend 45 days on the Hornets’ 15-man NBA roster, with the rest of their time coming in the G League. Both players are controlled exclusively by the organization and can move freely between both levels as needed without any additional roster moves needing to be made.

Affiliate Players – Jaylen Barford (Arkansas), Zach Smith (Texas Tech) and Isaiah Wilkins (Virginia) were each invited to Hornets Training Camp. Once released by the team, all three players chose to sign a contract with the G League and were assigned to the Hornets’ affiliate.

Drafted Players – Chinanu Onuaku (Houston Rockets/Rio Grande Valley Vipers) and Tyler Nelson (Fairfield University) were taken with the second and third overall picks, respectively, in the G League Draft. Onuaku averaged 10.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in 40 G League games last season, while Nelson was the 13th-ranked scorer in NCAA D-1 basketball last year (22.2 PPG).

Returning Rights Players – Cat Barber, John Dawson, Luke Petrasek, Roscoe Smith and Sam Thompson were all members of the Swarm during their most recent G League stints. Barber later played in Italy and Israel after averaging 16.9 points with Greensboro last season.

NBA teams often send their non-rotational players to the G League for additional minutes. Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon, Julyan Stone and Michael Carter-Williams (rehab purposes) all spent time in Greensboro last season and current rookie Devonte’ Graham has already been assigned to the Swarm for the team’s opening two outings.

The three NBA teams that don’t have direct affiliates (Denver, New Orleans and Portland) can assign players to whichever G League franchise they choose. The Pelicans sent both of their two-way players, Charles Cooke and Jalen Jones, on multiple assignments to Greensboro last season.

With the exception of Macura, Chealey and any NBAer on assignment (Graham), every other player on the G League roster is eligible to join an organization outside of the Hornets, although it must be at the NBA level. These players can then sign up to two 10-day contracts before being required to receive a guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season or they’ll be reassigned back to their original G League location.

Players are also allowed to leave midseason (sometimes unexpectedly) to sign contracts with international teams. However, if they decide to return to the G League at any point, they’re considered “returning rights players” and will be assigned to the last team they played for (unless their rights were traded while they were away).

The G League’s unpredictability in terms of roster consistency makes winning and losing really sometimes out of a team’s control. Development and eventual contributions at the NBA level are generally what organizations are targeting more, although those elements are certainly intertwined with on-court success to some degree. Greensboro has averaged just 17.5 victories in each of its first two years of existence, failing to reach the playoffs both times.

That being said, the Greensboro Swarm and G League have plenty of storylines and intrigue to offer. Fans looking to follow the action can tune into Facebook Live every gameday with select contests also broadcasted on ESPN, NBA TV, Twitch and Eleven Sports.