The Memphis Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, has recently been a site of growth and progression for soon-to-be NBA talent. Josh Jackson and Jevon Carter are two of the more prominent names to don, both, a Hustle and NBA uniform.
Boasting the best offensive rating in the league in the 2019-20 season, and a top five scoring offense per game, Head Coach Jason March will look to orchestrate a defense that was nothing more than average a season ago.
Disney World Welcomes the Hustle:
After finishing last season with the fifth-best record in the league, the Hustle have their sights set on an extended playoff push. Memphis’ season is underway on February 10 versus the Austin Spurs. This will be one of two games before a five-game week starts on February 14 versus the Lakeland Magic.
In a media availability in February 3, Coach March commented on the compressed schedule, “Its pretty rigorous. We’ve got fifteen games, short amount of time. We’re going to be playing a lot, so I’m not going to try to run anyone into the ground.”
Memphis is slated to play against the highly-intriguing G League Ignite on February 24. Their regular season wraps up on March 6 versus the Delaware Blue Coats. Regarding the G League bubble, Hustle guard David Stockton, in a Media Day availability, shared the following perception.
“very different…at this point, usually we’ve had twenty practices…before the first game, so it’s just a heightened process, we got to get to know each other really fast, it’s been a lot different.”
The Hustle’s NBA Assignments:
The Hustle’s bubble roster is compiled of an abundance of young talent. In January’s G League Draft, the team added Baylor product, Freddie Gillespie, and former Maryland guard Anthony Cowan Jr. The rookies will provide much-needed depth, in addition to two-way shooter Sean McDermott from Butler.
The Hustle’s player pool is not limited to their own parent club, however. On February 4, the team announced the additions of two rookies: the Dallas Mavericks’ Tyrell Terry and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Sam Merrill.
Outside shooting from Terry, McDermott, and Merrill will provide the Hustle with necessary spacing. Not every NBA team elected to send their G League affiliate to the bubble. This allows players from other NBA teams to be flexed to another G League squad.
Furthermore, the Grizzlies recently assigned Jontay Porter to the Hustle. Coach March provided the following view of Porter, “[He] sees the floor well with the ball in his hand and at a high talent level. You love adding a guy like that to your roster. He’s going to help the guys around him. We’re excited to have him and can’t wait for him to join us and get on the floor.”
The Hustle should be amongst the most exciting teams in the bubble due to this surplus of highly-skilled youth.
The Depth of the Hustle:
Memphis’ roster aligns with Coach March’s thinking quoted above; they should be expected to have reliable contributors throughout March’s rotations. For an example, undrafted second-year guard Shaq Buchanan provides knowledge of the system and commendable play on both ends of the floor. As a rookie last season with the Hustle, Buchanan averaged 11.1 points per game on 47.2% shooting from the field, and 37.9% from three.
The Murray State alum, and college teammate of Ja Morant, earned a spot on the Grizzlies most recent preseason roster. He displayed his explosiveness in a preseason game on December 17, most notably while catching a lob from Morant.
When asked about the alley-oop in a media availability on February 3, Buchanan recalled the sequence, “Earlier that day he texted me saying we were going to get in the game at the same time and he said it’d be crazy if he could throw me a lob and I dunk it. We got a fast break and he threw me a lob and it happened like old times.”
In addition to Buchanan, the team’s guard depth will be joined by veteran David Stockton. Stockton was most recently playing in Puerto Rico in December. This should be advantageous for the point guard, as Stockton pointed out during the same media availability, “I think it will help me. It was a place where I could go stay in shape, get into game shape. I think it will hopefully give me an edge.”
The Hustle’s Question Marks:
Former USC and current Hustle forward Bennie Boatwright sustained a season-long injury that prevented him from playing last season. With his health back intact, it will be intriguing to observe his performance in the bubble. Coach March noted the following when asked about Boatwright’s return, “Bennie looks great. He’s in shape and he’s shooting the ball really, really well in our practices so far. I’m so very excited to see him on the floor”.
Boatwright becoming a reliable contributor would certainly bolster the team’s hopes of a lengthy postseason.
Another uncertainty surrounding the Hustle’s roster is Zhaire Smith. The 16th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft would provide the team with unrelenting defense partnered with detonating dunks. However, in the Hustle’s Media Day availability, Coach March told reporters, “Right now he is not with us. He’ll join us later. We’re working on him getting here and being a part of it.”
Second-year coach Jason March will look to build off a 26-15 season record from a season ago. The impressive record earned the Hustle second place in the Western Conference before the season was cancelled. Expect the Memphis Hustle to continue this success in Orlando.
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