Grizzlies fans have been riding high ever since the Grizzlies won the Las Vegas Summer League last week. Although next season should be plenty exciting with Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke as the core of the future of this franchise, next season is likely to feature many, many losses along with all of the excitement so it’s good for Grizz fans to get to celebrate something this time of year.
Personally, watching the Summer Grizzlies in Vegas and Salt Lake City was a ton of fun. After covering the Memphis Hustle the past two seasons I was quite familiar with plenty of names on the roster and was genuinely curious how the players would do with more people watching. For the most part, the players shined brighter than I could even imagine. Yuta Watanabe, Tyler Harvey, and Dusty Hannahs stood out, in particular from last years Hustle squad.
With Ivan Rabb and his partially guaranteed contract very much in question, I noticed a pretty cool trend on Grizzlies Twitter fighting for guys like Dusty Hannahs and Tyler Harvey to make the Grizzlies roster, and for Watanabe to be promoted from his two-way contract. Selfishly, I would love nothing more as all of those guys deserve it with their hard work and dedication.
Despite the hot summer league, Hannahs and Harvey shouldn’t be on the Grizzlies roster next year and Yuta should stick on his two way (for now).
Hannahs was the only player to stick around after the Hustle’s inaugural 2017-2018 season. His loyalty, plus his hot shooting and outgoing personality, quickly made him a fan favorite in Southaven and now has a ton of fans in Memphis as well. Dusty played excellent in Vegas, scoring 11.7 points per game while shooting 48.3% from beyond the arc. For someone who has watched Dusty intently over the past two seasons, his aggressiveness really stood out to me. Dusty was willing to take some big shots late in games that he could have easily passed off to one of the “veterans” on the roster.
The Grizzlies just simply don’t have room for Dusty on their roster. Hannahs has improved his ball handling as well as becoming a more all-around scorer instead of just being a 3-point threat. Still, I’m not sold he’d be anything but a 3-point specialist at the NBA level right now. Dusty’s size is also a big disadvantage for him. Dusty is listed as 6’4” but he’s just generally smaller than most NBA shooting guards. Even in summer league, Dusty would make a great move to the basket only to find his layup attempt end up in the stands. Hannahs’ defense also leaves a lot to be desired, granted mostly because of his size. He puts in the effort, he just doesn’t have the body to guard opposing NBA shooting guards.
Another year of growth with the Hustle would do wonders for Dusty as he learns to finish a bit more cleverly around the rim and continue to work on his ball handling and defense. As of right now though, Dusty isn’t worth the difficulty of opening up a roster spot on an already overcrowded roster.
Tyler Harvey is another example of a Hustle player who stood out in Vegas. Harvey was the second leading scorer for the Grizzlies, scoring 14 points per game while shooting a hair under 42% from the field and beyond the arc. Harvey was arguably the Hustle’s MVP last season before missing the last few games and playoffs with a leg injury. After a rough start in Salt Lake City shaking off some rust, Harvey really showed out in Vegas.
Harvey’s biggest flaw however is that when he isn’t shooting it as well as he did in Vegas, he’s not of much use on the floor. Harvey is 6’4” like Hannahs, but has a longer wingspan that gives him a little more positional flexibility. Harvey can be a point guard, but he’s clearly a score first point guard as he averaged just 3 assists per game in Vegas. He has the potential to be a solid defensive player but still has plenty to prove on that side of the court. Harvey’s shot selection is questionable at best. When playing for the Hustle, Harvey could get away with taking some questionable shots because he was one of the best players on the court.
In Vegas, Harvey took, and admittedly made, some questionable shots late in games for the Grizzlies. With nearly 66% of his shots coming from beyond the arc, Harvey needs to work on his all around scoring game. Harvey has the talent to be an end of the bench bucket scorer on an NBA team but similar to Dusty, he just isn’t worth the difficulty of making room on a crowded Grizzlies roster.
Yuta stole the show in Salt Lake City before being shut down early in Vegas due to a minor calf injury. Despite playing in just 4 games, Yuta shined the brightest of any Grizzly not named Brandon Clarke. Yuta flashed his versatility all summer long and showed his high IQ and potential. In SLC, where Yuta really shined, he averaged 16.5 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game to along with some solid defense. In Vegas, Yuta’s numbers dropped slightly as his role did.
Still, he put up 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists all while shooting 50% from the field over both summer leagues. Yuta’s well-rounded play has some Grizzlies fans thinking they should promote him from his two-way contract to a guaranteed NBA deal. Despite showing no real weaknesses, Yuta doesn’t have that one go-to skill that most NBA players need. He’s good at a lot of things, but not great at any one thing. At this point in time, Yuta isn’t really better than any of the the guys ahead of him on the Grizzlies depth chart.
(Broken record starts playing)
Like Dusty and Tyler, Yuta isn’t quite good enough to warrant the difficulty to open up a roster spot for him right now.
All 3 of Tyler, Dusty and Yuta deserve a chance at the NBA level and may very well get that opportunity with another team. For the Grizzlies, however, none of them are clearly better options than guys like Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson and the multitude of other players the Grizzlies have at the shooting guard and small forward positions. That’s why Yuta should remain on a two-way deal and Dusty and Tyler should stay in Southaven should another no other NBA team come calling. This doesn’t mean these guys are stuck in these roles all season, though.
With the Grizzlies at 18 roster spots right now (19 if you count the rumored Marko Guduric signing) there isn’t any room for Dusty, Tyler, or to promote Yuta. However, there are a few scenarios where things can change. The Grizzlies will have to make some moves to get the roster down to 15 before the season. For this theoretical, let’s assume the Grizzlies cut Ivan Rabb’s partially guaranteed contract and waive Dwight Howard and Solomon Hill to get them to 15. With plenty of trade options involving Andre Igoudala and Jae Crowder coming by the trade deadline it’s possible the Grizzlies are able to open up a roster spot sometime this season. The timing would be tricky, as the deadline to sign players to two-way deals is January 15th, but the Grizzlies could theoretically promote Yuta if they open up a roster spot and then replace Yuta’s two-way with one of Dusty or Tyler. The player who doesn’t get the two-way spot could potentially be rewarded with 10-day contracts later in the season if another roster spot opens.
Tyler, Dusty and Yuta all have solid NBA potential and I truly hope they get an opportunity to shine. However, with the Grizzlies current roster crunch, now isn’t the time to promote these guys despite their hot summer.