For the rest of the month, GBB will be breaking down every Grizzlies player that logged double-digit game appearances for Memphis this season and what their games need moving forward. Welcome to the 2018-2019 Memphis Grizzlies Player Review series!
The G-Leaguers (Yuta Watanabe and Julian Washburn)
BY THE NUMBERS:
Yuta Watanabe: 15 games played, 174 minutes played, 29.4% shooting, 12.5% from three, 76 offensive rating, 111 defensive rating, 3.3 PER, -0.65 win shares per 48 minutes
Julian Washburn: 18 games played (3 started), 254 minutes played, 33.3% shooting, 20.8% from three, 89 offensive rating, 108 defensive rating, 6.5 PER, .023 win shares per 48 minutes
SEASONS IN REVIEW:
We lead off our player review series with the two players that logged the fewest amount of minutes in Beale Street Blue while still participating in at least ten games for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018-2019 campaign. While their impact was minimal with the Grizzlies (although Washburn started three games - this season was so broken), both players played major roles in the playoff appearance for the Grizzlies’ G-League squad, the Memphis Hustle. Their numbers in Southaven were much more substantial.
Watanabe: 33 games played (32 started), 1,119 minutes played, 43.6% shooting, 33.1% from three, 112 offensive rating, 109 defensive rating, 14.9 PER, .112 win shares per 48 minutes
Washburn: 15 games played (12 started), 399 minutes played, 52.3% shooting, 46% from three, 120 offensive rating, 109 defensive rating, 15.2 PER, .133 win shares per 48 minutes
The numbers - along with the highlights above and just watching both players throughout the season - all add up to a somewhat surprising truth. Julian Washburn was a better player this season than Yuta Watanabe was. Yuta was, and perhaps still is, the Grizzlies priority in terms of development due to his age (Yuta is 24, Julian is 27) and general skill set. Yuta theoretically has a more complete game in terms of creation on the perimeter, and also has a bit more versatility between positions as a defender and scorer.
It just didn’t manifest consistently for Watanabe, whereas Washburn took more advantage of his opportunities both with the Hustle and the Grizzlies.
Does that mean that Yuta isn’t worthy of investment moving forward? Of course not - Watanabe had multiple flashes of passing vision and shooting touch that with another year of development could warrant an eventual full NBA contract. Julian is closer to a finished product at this stage, and while that may be a more productive player in the here and now that isn’t the point of the two-way deal...at least, it shouldn’t be if you are the Grizzlies.
You’re looking for the JaMychal Green/Bruno Caboclo types of the world, players that need extra time and attention to find their games in the G-League before becoming rotation NBA players. When looking at both Watanabe and Washburn, it seems more likely that Yuta find that role than Julian because he has more time to achieve it, as well as some physical toold that translate a bit more on a broader scale. There are more tools in Yuta’s tool belt - he just needs to keep learning how to use them.
What is next?
The Grizzlies have Watanabe under a two-way deal for the 2019-2020 season, and while Yuta struggled a good bit at the big league level in 2018-2019 the sample size is far too small to reach a final determination on what he is, or isn’t, as a professional. His ability to play multiple positions and handle the ball as a point forward has real value, especially considering he’s already under contract. Unless a much better option comes along, I expect Watanabe to be back.
Washburn? He’s in a different boat - he is not under contract, and he is probably going to try to stick with an NBA roster through a training camp invite. Julian doesn’t have the same amount of time to “find himself” that Yuta does - there is more urgency for him to make an NBA roster and the big-time money that comes with it...or go overseas to get more cash than the G-League can provide.
Julian was a good addition to the Hustle, but he probably doesn’t make sense for the Grizzlies moving forward as development (hopefully) is emphasized by the new-look Grizzlies front office. Overall, though, the G-Leaguers made a positive impression through their postseason appearance and flashes with the Grizzlies.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com