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Lester Quinones wins Most Improved Player

The Santa Cruz Warriors guard was the G Leaguer who showed the most improvement over the course of the season. And he got his two-way contract back!

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors
Lester Quinones shows off his wildly improved handle against the Spurs
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Lester Quinones lost his two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors just before the season. He rebounded to become the Most Improved Player in the G League. And, he got his two-way deal back.

The NBA’s Most Improved Player award goes to the player who shows the most growth and progress from season to season. In the G League, things are much more temporary and fluid. A player who gets dramatically better from season to season usually ends up in the NBA, so their Most Improved Player is the one who shows the most improvement over the course of the season. This year, that was Lester Quinones.

Quinones is a rookie out of Memphis, where he was briefly teammates with a young Detroit Pistons center named James Wiseman. The Warriors gave him a two-way deal after the draft, but later pulled it in favor of Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb, and sent Quinones to Santa Cruz.

There, he went to work. For the season, Quinones averaged 21.8 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In February, Quinones started scoring at will. For a six-game stretch starting February 16, Quinones averaged 30 points per game, shooting 58.5% and grabbing nine rebounds.

He won Player of the Week twice, from February 13-26 and from March 13-19. Quinones was Santa Cruz’s leading scorer, aside from a moonlighting Moses Moody, who averaged 24.4 points in his five G League games. He was second in assists, second in steals, second in threes (to Moody) and took the most free throws on the team. In the regular season and showcase cup combined, Quinones shot 38.8% from three-point range.

Santa Cruz Warriors coach Seth Cooper thinks Quinones already shoots well enough to score in the NBA. And if the rest of his defense can catch up to his on-ball defense, Cooper thinks he could be a part of the Warriors future.

“He’s really good and really locked in when he’s guarding the ball,” said Cooper. “But I think can take a step in his off-ball and team defense.”

It’s quite an improvement for a guy who was best known for wearing short shorts and celebrating his made threes by playing air guitar in college.

The Warriors honored Quinones before Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that’s probably employed the most G Leaguers over the last three seasons.

Does he have a future with the organization? Quinones clearly has his supporters in the front office, and this award certainly won’t hurt his chances. The team has the right to extend him a qualifying offer in free agency, thanks to his current two-way deal. Our guess is that he’d certainly get a two-way from the Warriors next year, and just may have played his way into a regular roster spot.

To top off his big night, Quinones scored his first NBA point Tuesday night as well. But he might be less excited about that, or his Most Improved Player trophy, than about beating Jordan Poole in a chair shooting contest.

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