The Memphis Grizzlies were already busy this Friday afternoon, as they signed veteran point guard Shelvin Mack. However, they weren’t done there. Grind City Media’s Mike Wallace broke some news Friday regarding a two-way contract:
Grizzlies are signing Atlantic-10 Defensive POY Yuta Watanabe to two-year, 2-Way contract. Watanabe is a 6-9 forward from George Washington who played with Nets in Vegas Summer League. To make room for Watanabe, Grizzlies releasing swingman Myke Henry, who missed summer league.— Michael Wallace (@MyMikeCheck) July 20, 2018
Signing Yuta Watanabe — the second Japanese NBA/G-League player — to a two-way deal is a wise move for the Grizzlies. Most people assumed Myke Henry wouldn’t be back on a two-way deal, and either former University of Memphis players Markel Crawford or DJ Stephens — or perhaps darkhorse candidate Brandon Goodwin — would take his spot.
However, Watanabe is a nice prospect, as he averaged 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 blocks and 24 minutes in 5 Summer League games with the Brooklyn Nets.
Watanabe showed a nice feel for the game on both ends of the court. He has a smooth jumper from outside, something that would be nice with the Memphis Hustle and on the main roster. In addition, he makes smart passes and cuts to the basket, displaying a high basketball IQ.
Defensively, Watanabe doesn’t make booming blocks like DJ Stephens or Jaren Jackson, as the way he swats shots is quite sneaky. At 6’9”, he has good size to guard multiple positions, but he does need to bulk up if he wants to become a more versatile defender.
Having a smart, selfless, high-IQ player like Yuta Watanabe will be nice for the Hustle, as most G-League teams could get pretty chaotic and careless on the court at times. However, he can be a pleasant surprise in spurts on the main roster. You can never have too many versatile shooters that could also defend extremely well, especially in the modern NBA.
Hopefully, Watanabe can build on his Summer League success and become a solid 3-and-D player in the Memphis Grizzlies farm system.