While it wasn’t quite the record-setting 28 players of the 2015-16 season, the Grizzlies used 24 players this season. Most of them played reasonable minutes, but there were a handful who spent barely enough time on the roster to even register in the average fan’s memory. This is our look back at those Other Guys: Vince Hunter, Brice Johnson, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and Briante Weber.
Hunter was initially selected in the NBA G-League expansion draft by the Wisconsin Herd, only to be pried from the Herd when the Grizzlies signed him to a two-way contract.
Hunter spent most of his time in Southaven, where he played 13 games, averaging 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds on .475/.174/.703 on 28.3 minutes per game.
His time in Memphis was much more brief. Hunter played only 4 games in Beale Street Blue, compiling only 6 total points and 3 rebounds while shooting .600 from the floor.
Hunter was eventually waived to make room for Myke Henry’s two-way deal. Following his release on January 13, Hunter made his way overseas to Greece, where he helped AEK Athens win the Greek Cup title.
So, at least someone on the Grizzlies roster managed to hoist a championship trophy. Considering the dearth of events on this list of players, we’ll call that the “best moment” for the Other Guys.
Johnson was originally traded from Los Angeles to Detroit as part of the Blake Griffin trade before being sent to Memphis in the James Ennis deadline deal, and he spent his time with the Grizzlies in the same way he’d spent the previous several years of his career: on the bench.
Johnson appeared in just nine games for the Grizzlies, averaging under seven minutes per contest. He was mostly a negative during his brief moments on the court. The only exception was his best game of the season in Philadelphia, where he was a +20 in a 14-point loss, scoring 9 points in almost 11 minutes.
Johnson’s time came to an end on March 27, when he was released to make room for MarShon Brooks. He spent the remainder of the season as a free agent.
Rathan-Mayes (we’ll call him XR-M for short) spent the early part of the season in the G League with the Westchester Knicks before the Grizzlies gave him a shot in the NBA on a ten-day contract.
Unfortunately, XR-M was unable to capitalize on his short stint in Memphis. Basketball Reference lists him as a shooting guard; he may have been, but he definitely wasn’t a (DAD JOKE INCOMING) Making Guard.
In all seriousness, Rathan-Mayes underwhelmed in limited playing time. He played in just five games, averaging over 23 minutes, with a dreadful shooting line of .286/.071/.444. He hit just one of the 14 three-pointers he attempted, and the lone game he wasn’t a negative in +/- was when he was a 0 in a 9-point loss to the Bulls. He wasn’t helped by the surrounding talent. 51 of his 118 minutes were played with Ben McLemore.
Rathan-Mayes spent the rest of the season with Westchester. He’s still relatively young (23), so hopefully he’s able to earn another shot and capitalizes next time.
Weber returned to Memphis this season to reprise his role of “10-day point guard who everyone inexplicably falls in love with” from the injury-riddled 2015-16 season. He was more efficient his second go-round, though he failed to earn a second contract with the team.
It’s difficult to glean much from Weber’s numbers with the Grizzlies. His DRTG was a worst for his short career, but was likely affected by the dearth of defensive talent around him. His DBPM number was positive, though his OBPM was negative, and he was valued at a replacement player by VORP. And while those numbers are imperfect, it’s still surprising given that his single-game +/- numbers were usually negative.
Following his release by the Grizzlies, Weber became a free agent for the rest of the season. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t at least get another 10-day contract next season.
Ways to Improve
Congratulations. You’ve reached the philosophical rambling portion of this post.
It’s hard to grade players like this. After all, how do you grade someone who barely reached double-digit shot attempts? And what were expectations for these players in the first place? None of them took advantage of their opportunity in the way MarShon Brooks did, but were they really expected to?
Most of these players will spend the majority of their careers on the NBA’s fringes. These players are Gatsby’s boats beating against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the waiver wire. Their only way to improve is pulling themselves from the cycle, finding the consistency to land on the shores of a permanent NBA home.
Considering these four players combined for less than 25 total games, is there any way to give these players anything more than an Incomplete? Any praise seems unwarranted, as does any criticism. The sample is too small, the metrics all muddled by bad surrounding play. These players may be bad, but it’s hard to separate their badness from the rest of the Grizzlies roster, which was also bad.