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Santa Cruz Weekly Write-Up
By Kevin Danna
Santa Cruz Warriors broadcaster Kevin Danna gives an update on what's going on with the Sea Dubs.
What's up Warriors fans? For those who don't know me (probably all of you), I'm Kevin Danna, the play-by-play voice of the Santa Cruz Warriors. I've been electronically summoned here by the friendly powers-that-be to give you weekly updates on your favorite team in the G League (it's not the D-League anymore; it's the G League, and there's no hyphen between the "G" and the "League." And oh yeah, it was retroactively the G League all along, so technically, it was never the D-League. A lot to take in, I know; that's why they've given me that amnesia pen from Men in Black to wipe your memory clear of any thoughts about the D-League).
Let's break this down in four segments...
1. How's the team doing?
Having won five of their last six to get to 6-3 and currently leading the G League in assists per game, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, point differential, assist-to-turnover ratio, assist percentage, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive rating and net rating, I'd say the Sea Dubs are doing pretty good. When this team has a #FullSquad, they're extremely difficult to beat. If it wasn't for back-to-back blown 19 and 20-point leads against the South Bay Lakers, Santa Cruz would be 8-1. The team's other loss, a 105-97 defeat at the hands of the Iowa Wolves (the artists formerly known as the Iowa Energy) on Sunday, came when the Sea Dubs only had eight healthy bodies. The Warriors got back two players for Tuesday's game against the Texas Legends in a healthier Quinn Cook and Alex Hamilton and handily won in Frisco (not slang for San Francisco; it's a suburb outside of Dallas).
All six of the Warriors' wins have come by double digits, and all three of their losses have come by single digits. Fortunately/unfortunately, they'll have to play the final 41 games of the regular season without Golden State training camp invitee Antonius Cleveland, whose stellar shooting and athleticism off the Santa Cruz bench earned him a two-way contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Bad for the Sea Dubs that they lose some depth; great for Antonius to make an NBA roster. He becomes the first Sea Dub to get a GATORADE NBA Call-Up (which we'll call "Get the Gatorade" from here on out) since Elliot Williams inked a 10-day deal with the Memphis Grizzlies in January of 2016.
You never really know how a team will be in the G League until they've played 15-20 games, and two years ago the Sea Dubs started 9-4 before losing 18 of 21, but I'll say this much – if Santa Cruz is able to keep this roster as it is for a while, this team is going to be very, very, very, very good. This roster, as it is currently structured (and things always change in the G League, so in two weeks, things could look totally different), has the talent to go 35-15 in the 50-game G League schedule.
2. How are the guys on the Golden State roster doing?
Golden State center Damian Jones continues to improve in his second year on assignment with the Sea Dubs, 15.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He was even better during the recent two-game road trip to Iowa and Texas, posting a career-high 29 points against the Wolves on Sunday before going for 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in the win at Texas on Tuesday. Thanks to a current four-game stretch during which he has shot a whopping 81 percent from the floor (34 for 42), Jones is now the Sea Dubs' all-time leader in career field goal percentage (.610). The face-up game continues to develop, and he even hit his first 3-pointer as a pro hooper in a Nov. 15 win over the Salt Lake City Stars, calmly knocking one down from the top of the arc as a trail post. Foul trouble is still an issue for Jones but he has been able to stay on the floor for at least 32 minutes in each of his last three games.
Golden State two-way guard Quinn Cook continues to torch the G League, ranking in the top five in the league in scoring (26.3 ppg, second), assists (8.4, fourth) and plus-minus (12.5, fifth). His strength allows him to bully opposing guards into getting good looks inside, while his sweet shooting touch has him currently on pace to become the first 50-40-90 guy in G League history (it's early, I know, but he is shooting 53 percent from the floor, 44 percent from downtown and 92 percent from the foul line). Oh yeah, and he has 39 assists in his last four games. He missed two games with a left wrist injury but returned Tuesday against Texas to go off for 24 points and nine assists. If you talk to those who closely follow the G League, they'd tell you that Cook is one of the three or five best players in the G League, if not the best.
3. Who else has been impressing lately?
Simply put, Georges Niang is a stud. His handles, distribution capabilities and strong build allow him to play positions 1-4 in the G League, and he is an absolute master craftsman when it comes to low-post moves. Obviously, those moves wouldn't work as well in the NBA at 6-8, but in the G League? Ooo-whee, he puts defenders in the Niang torture chamber at times with his array of moves and hooks. So, so smooth (and his 18.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 64 percent shooting and 56 percent 3-point shooting look pretty good too).
Another guy to keep an eye is second-year Dubs family member Alex Hamilton. It's a small sample size, yes, but the 2016-17 Sea Dub-turned 2017 Golden State Summer Leaguer-turned 2017 Golden State training camp invitee-turned 2017-18 Sea Dub is 5 for 9 from 3-point range this year after shooting just 23 percent from downtown in the 2016-17 G League season. He recently missed four games with left knee soreness but got back into the fold Tuesday, by going for 19 points and five assists on 8 for 10 shooting and 1 for 1 3-pointing. Those five helpers moved him to ninth all-time in Santa Cruz history with 219 assists (ahead of Mychel Thompson, Klay's older brother) and is now just three away from surpassing Seth Curry's eighth-place mark of 221. Knocking down the Splash Brothers' brothers a peg, he is.
4. What's next?
Santa Cruz makes a quick trip back home to take on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (affiliate of the Houston Rockets) on Black Friday before a three-game trip to Reno, Oklahoma City and Sioux Falls. The Sea Dubs and Vipers have some heated history, with the Snakes defeating the Sea Dubs in the 2013 G League Finals (Santa Cruz's first year of existence) and Santa Cruz returning the favor in 2014 by defeating the Vipers in the semifinals to get back to the finals in Year No. 2. If you make it out to Kaiser Permanente Arena Friday night, expect a high-scoring affair – the Warriors and Vipers are both in the top five in the G League in points per game. Lawler's Law need not apply in any game featuring RGV; first to 130 wins.