There’s no honor that better represents the purpose of the NBA G League than the league’s Most Improved Player Award. In a league centered around player development, we’re constantly watching players “make the leap” and accomplish their dreams of playing in the NBA. This year, it was Gabe Vincent’s turn.
Not everyone gets the opportunity, but Gabe Vincent’s progress and ability to rise up is what making a mark in the @nbagleague is all about.
— Sioux Falls Skyforce (@SFSkyforce) June 23, 2020
Vincent came into this season with a renewed focus and determination. It was clear early on that he was a different player than he was a year ago, and he not only maintained but built upon that momentum as the season progressed.
Through 31 G League games played this season, Vincent’s numbers jumped to 20.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He led the league with 4.2 three-pointers made per contest, and his 129 made threes ranked sixth in the league (remember, he played upwards of 11 fewer contests than others above him on the list).
Vincent began the 2019-20 season with the Stockton Kings, averaging 23.4 points per game in nearly 32 minutes off the bench each contest. He had led the Kings to a 12-8 record despite a depleted supporting cast at times, and on January 5, 2020, he scored 19 points in just 25 minutes as a visitor in Sioux Falls against the Skyforce.
— Sioux Falls Skyforce (@SFSkyforce) June 24, 2020
The Miami HEAT had seen enough. Three days later they had signed Vincent to a two-way contract, marking the first NBA Call-Up of his career. Three days after that, he suited up in his first game with the Skyforce.
Vincent had other suitors, but Miami (and Sioux Falls) won out. He described the madness of the moment in an interview earlier this season.
“I woke up to a phone call from my agent after our game the night before saying, ‘You might not be playing tonight, a couple of teams are calling and will make a decision soon’,” said Vincent. “I was half awake and immediately that’s the best coffee you could ever get. That automatically woke me up.”
“He told me it was down to Miami and another team, and I was like, ‘Why are you on the phone? Call Miami back right now and let’s get this done!’. The next morning, early, I was on a flight to Sioux Falls. Right as I hopped off the plane, I signed the papers as soon as I could. It was all kinds of exciting and a dream come true.”
OFFICIAL: The Miami HEAT have signed guard Gabe Vincent to a two-way contract and waived guard Daryl Macon. https://t.co/w2HIylnXUo
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 8, 2020
Vincent’s work ethic is special for a number of reasons, and it was highlighted by the fact that he took ownership of his responsibility in Sioux Falls just as much as he did with that of his role in Miami. While it’s exciting to sign an NBA contract, the moment may have been dampened by flying to Sioux Falls in doing so. Not for Vincent. He wasn’t just passing through; he was there to prove the HEAT had made the right choice.
Vincent picked up right where he left off in Stockton, making an immediate impact on a rising Skyforce team in the Western Conference. Sioux Falls went 9-2 in Vincent’s 11 games with the team before the G League was shut down early due to Coronavirus concerns. His averages of 16.4 points in 24.8 minutes per game only scratched the surface of what he brought to the table for the Skyforce.
“It’s incredibly difficult to make the jump that Gabe made this season, but it’s even more remarkable that he did it for two different teams,” said Skyforce Head Coach Eric Glass. “He joined us mid-season and fit in seamlessly with our group. He was able to impact winning immediately and his strong character and leadership helped to elevate our locker room. As an organization, we are extremely proud of Gabe and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to coach him.”
Vincent isn’t one to become complacent, and he proved it this season. His shot at playing in the NBA didn’t slow his progression and improvement, it served as an accelerant. His personality and drive for success has meshed nicely with the heralded Miami HEAT culture, and though earning the G League’s Most Improved Player award is a nice honor, he’s nowhere near finished.
“Most Improved Player was a goal of mine coming into this season, so it’s nice to have accomplished that goal as well as earn the opportunity to further pursue my dreams with the Miami HEAT,” Vincent recently told the UC Santa Barbara athletics’ website. “I’m grateful for the accolade but there is a lot more work to be done.”
Spoken with true Miami HEAT fervor.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) June 22, 2020
As far as how the HEAT feel Vincent has progressed since acquiring him in January? Miami HEAT Vice President of Basketball Operations Adam Simon told the Sun Sentinel that he’s right where they hoped he would be.
“His game is going to go to another level,” said Simon. “Hot it’ll translate and how he’ll be able to make it on the HEAT, that’s to be determined. But I think everything that we had hoped for, when we two-wayed him during the season, I think we’re very pleased.”
Vincent’s Most Improved Player award provided much-deserved recognition of all his hard work to date, but the ascent continues to the up-and-coming sharp shooter.
"He fits so many of the things that we like … high character, super-hard work ethic." – Erick Spoelstra on Gabe Vincent pic.twitter.com/esFnnlmJCK
— Heat Nation (@HeatNationCP) June 24, 2020