The NBA G-League officially cancelled the remainder of their 2019-2020 season last week, nearly 3 months after the season was suspended due to COVID-19.
It’s an unfortunate ending to a season that had so much hope and promise for the Memphis Hustle. When the season was suspended, the Hustle were the second seed in the Western Conference with a 26-15 record. In all likelihood, the Hustle were going to get a first-round bye in the playoffs and then host their first-ever playoff game in the 3-year history of the franchise.
Though the season was cut short, it was still a very successful season for the Hustle. Jason March and Dusty Hannahs are candidates for major awards in the league. The Hustle set a G-League record kicking off the season going 10-0. They set various franchise records, particularly on the offensive end where the ranked in the top 5 in the G-League in most of the categories. They even had 3 NBA call ups, with Matt Mooney signing a two-way contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and both Dusty Hannahs and Jarrod Uthoff signing 10-day contracts with the Memphis Grizzlies. They had the luxury of playing 9 guys who ended up playing minutes in the NBA: Josh Jackson, De’Anthony Melton, Marko Guduric, Bruno Caboclo, John Konchar and Yuta Watanabe along with Mooney, Hannahs, and Uthoff.
It’s unfortunate the Hustle didn’t get the chance to make a deep postseason run that had a legitimate chance of ending with them being crowned G-League Champions. Still, the season provided many reasons to celebrate. Let’s take a look at some Hustle-centric awards for the season.
MVP - Dusty Hannahs
Dusty Hannahs was phenomenal for the Hustle in his 3rd year with the squad. His development has been a joy to watch over the years and he really took off this season averaging 21.4 points per game while shooting 48.5% from the field, 44.8% from beyond the arc and 91.5% from the free throw line. Hannahs ranked in the top 10 in the G-League in points per game, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage among other various offensive categories. All in all, Hannahs isn’t just the MVP of the Hustle. He has a very strong case to be the G-League MVP.
Runners Up: Josh Jackson, Jarrod Uthoff
Defensive Player of the Year - Jarrod Uthoff
Jarrod Uthoff had a stellar season in his first year with the Hustle. Uthoff averaged 19 points to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. His impact was arguably greater on the defensive end where he averaged 1.4 steals per game and 1.1 blocks per game. For the analytical types out there: Uthoff led the Hustle in Defensive Win Shares (1.7) and had a stellar Defensive Rating (110) which leads all players who played more than 600 minutes on the season. Similar to Marc Gasol on the GNG Grizzlies, Uthoff was the defensive quarterback for the Hustle and helped anchor that defense.
Runner Ups: Josh Jackson, John Konchar
Most Improved Player - Shaq Buchanan
Shaq Buchanan started off the season as a bench player for the Hustle averaging around 10 minutes per game over the teams first 13 games. However, once January hit and the Grizzlies began calling up the two-way players along with Josh Jackson, Buchanan really took off. In games he started, Shaq averaged 21.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists to go along with 1.4 steals per game. He became a nightly triple-double threat and picked up 5 double-doubles in just 11 starts. Shaq was always a talented player who just needed the opportunity he was eventually given after the first portion of the season. So “Most Improved” might not be the best term for this, but point is Shaq had a dang good season.
Runner Ups: Ahmad Caver, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson
6th Man of the Year - Marquis Teague
Marquis Teague spent this past season in a much different role compared to what he was in the Hustle’s inaugural season. In his first season, Teague was the man at point guard and one of the Hustle’s leading scorers and the Hustle’s MVP that season. This year, however, Teague played in 41 games but started just 15 games for the Hustle. Coming off the bench didn’t hurt Teague’s numbers though, as the vet averaged 18.7 points per game along with 5.6 assists per game. Teague didn’t start a lot of games, but he was on the court more often than not in the tail end of close games.
Runner Ups: Ahmad Caver, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson
Coach of the Year - Jason March
Obviously with the Hustle only having one Head Coach, this was always going to be Jason March. I probably would have skipped over this section had the Hustle not had such great success under March, and this is the easiest spot to put his achievements.
Jason March broke a G-League record having the Hustle jump out to a 10-0 start on the season, and the 26-15 record would look even better had they not lost 4 straight before the suspension. The hot start earned March Coach of the Month honors in the month of November. March did an excellent job with the hand he was dealt this season as Hustle head coach. The year started off with a ton of help from assignee Josh Jackson and two-way players John Konchar and Yuta Watanabe. Still, March was able to respond and have guys like Shaq Buchanan among others ready to step up once the NBA-players were eventually called back up to the Grizzlies.
It’s hard to summarize the Hustle’s season in roughly 1,000 words, but it’s clear that the season was a success for a team in just it’s 3rd season in the league. In addition to the players mentioned above, Josh Jackson, John Konchar and Yuta Watanabe were great veteran leaders who helped the team immensely. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson proved to be a great all-around style player off the bench for the Hustle while Ahmad Caver found a nice niche as a spark plug off the bench. When healthy, Venky Jois proved to be a solid, nifty big man down low, while Raynere Thornton showed off his versitality by playing 4 different positions on the season and doing whatever was asked for him.
The Hustle roster has often transformed each offseason, but hopefully the success from the unfinished season is enough to bring most of this squad back to go after the championship next season. Unless, of course, some of these guys get some well-deserved NBA opportunities.
I do want to wrap up by thanking the Memphis Hustle organization for another great season and being so easy and kind to work with.