Site Manager’s Note - Brandon Abraham covers the Memphis Hustle, the G-League affiliate of the Memphis Grizzlies, for us at Grizzly Bear Blues. He’s a great resource for all things Memphis Hustle - they don’t call him “Mr. Hustle” for nothing. Follow him on Twitter here.
Grizzlies fans got pretty excited the other day when the team signed Zhaire Smith to a contract. The excitement fizzled pretty quickly as the Grizzlies waived Smith the next day, before he even suited up for a preseason game. This led to a ton of questions on social media with the most common one being “Why would the Grizzlies sign somebody just to waive them the next day?” The simple answer is this: The Grizzlies didn’t sign Zhaire Smith to play for the Memphis Grizzlies. They signed him to play for the Memphis Hustle.
The Grizzlies, along with the Miami Heat, started a trend last offseason and have continued it this season by signing players to Exhibit 10 contracts throughout training camp. What exactly is an Exhibit 10 contract? It’s essentially a glorified training camp/G-League contract. It allows the player to participate in Grizzlies training camp while also allowing the Grizzlies to control the players G-League rights. With an Exhibit 10 contract, the player would get up to a $50,000 bonus should they spend 60+ days with the G-League affiliate. That number is likely going to be changed this upcoming season as the G-League season will be different than ever before due to COVID-19. Considering most G-League contracts are worth roughly $35,000 over the 5 month season, a potential $50,000 bonus is clearly major money for these G-League players.
So with the extra money, Exhibit 10 contracts certainly benefit the players - but it also benefits teams like the Grizzlies as well. Players who sign E10 contracts are typically better than most G-Leaguers and they have the opportunity for the contract to be converted to a two-way contract (like Miami did with Max Strus this offseason) should the player impress. If not, the player is waived and likely has an agreement to play with the Hustle. Signing a group of players to E10 deals naturally will make the Hustle a better team. Last offseason, the Grizzlies signed Matt Mooney, Dusty Hannahs, Jarrod Uthoff, Ahmad Caver and Shaq Buchanan to E10 contracts and all were key players as the Hustle were one of the best G-League teams last season. Signing players to an E10 contract also benefits a team like the Grizzlies because the Hustle practice at the Grizzlies facility. This gives the Grizzlies front office a front row view at their G-League prospects.
To put it simply, players will sign E10 contracts for extra money and an outside shot at an NBA contract while front offices will do it to get good prospects on their G-League affiliate in hopes that they can find a diamond in the rough. Teams like the Grizzlies will also use E10 contracts to help reward last year’s G-League players financially and keep them around another year.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed as the Grizzlies don’t disclose terms of their contracts, the team signed 6 players to presumed E10 contracts this past offseason. With Hustle star Dusty Hannahs leaving the G-League to play for Kolosses Rhodes in Greece, the Hustle have revamped their roster as they prepare to play in the Atlanta G-League bubble.
Now that we have a general understanding of E10 contracts, let’s take a look at the Hustle core for next season.
The Grizzlies signed Tripp the night of the 2020 NBA Draft to an Exhibit 10 deal after he went undrafted out of Pacific University. Tripp was named the 2019-2020 Defensive Player of the Year for the West Coast Conference. In his senior year, Tripp averaged 16.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.48 steals per game. Tripp will be a decent scorer for the Hustle but will be mostly used to set the tone defensively for them.
Ahmad Caver returns to the Hustle for a second year after signing an E10 contract with the Grizzlies for the second year in a row. Caver didn’t get much playing time early, but with the two-ways and Josh Jackson called up, Caver really shined. Caver averaged 9.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4 assists per game for the Hustle. He’ll bring back an exciting flair to the Hustle and will likely take over main point guard duties.
The biggest name of the E10 signees, Smith has failed to stick in the NBA after being drafted 16th overall in 2018. Smith appeared in just 13 games for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2 seasons due to injury and illness. In those 13 games, Smith played limited minutes and averaged just 3.7 points. In recovery from his injuries, Smith did appear in 28 games for the 76ers G-League affiliate Delaware Blue Coats where he played much better averaging 13.5 points on 53% shooting (37% from beyond the arc). Smith is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Grizzlies.
Bennie Boatwright signed an E10 contract with the Grizzlies last offseason but didn’t play for the Hustle due to a nagging knee injury. As a senior at USC, Boatwright averaged 18.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 47% from the floor and 43% from beyond the arc. Boatwright is finally healthy and appeared in 2 preseason games for the Grizzlies in limited minutes. In those minutes, Boatwright has scored 5 points on 2-6 shooting. It wasn’t great, but it was solid for his first action game action in over a year. Boatwright could sneakily be the most exciting player for the Hustle this season.
The Grizzlies signed Vital to an E10 contract after a 4-year career at UCONN. In his senior season, Vital averaged 16.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for the Huskies. Vital will do a little bit of it all for the Hustle on the offensive end. Vital really improved as a defender his senior season and if that translates to the G-League the Hustle will be very fortunate.
The Grizzlies made their final E10 signee Shaq Buchanan who excelled for the Hustle last year. Ja Morant’s bounce brother at Murray State didn’t get a ton of playing time to start the G-League season last year, but blew up once minutes became available. Buchanan’s traditional stat line of 11.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists doesn’t jump out at you, but his stats at a starter sure as hell do. In the starting lineup, Shaq averaged 21.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists to go along with some solid defense. Simply, Shaq will be the star for the Hustle next year.
So the Hustle figure to be pretty solid next season. However, the one downside to E10 contracts is that the Grizzlies don’t own the NBA rights to any of the players. Should any of the 6 players listed above, or any other Hustle players on standard G-League contracts play extremely well any team can come in and sign them. This is what happened last season when the Cavaliers came in and signed Matt Mooney to a two-way contract.
Still, the Hustle figure to be a ton of fun - and it’s a good look on the Grizzlies franchise to keep giving out E10 contracts to reward some good prospects as they look for a diamond in the rough.
If there are any questions regarding E10 contracts not addressed here, leave a comment in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer them.