Both players spent most of their time in Southaven with the Memphis Hustle and were a big reason why the Hustle had a historic start to their season. Both players also got 100 minutes of action at the NBA level, with one making the most of the opportunity while the other has likely played his last minute as a Grizzly.
At their best
Yuta Watanabe was at his best when he was comfortable this past season. Unfortunately for him that was when he was with the Memphis Hustle, not the Memphis Grizzlies. When he’s comfortable in a system Yuta is an efficient scorer, facilitator and defender. This was clear on January 17th when Yuta went off for 26 points (9-15 from the field) picking up 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Yuta also showed off his offensive prowess with the Hustle dropping 40 points on January 22nd against the Delaware Blue Coats.
John Konchar didn’t get much more run with the Grizzlies compared to Watanabe, but he certainly made more of an impact than his two-way counterpart. At his best, Konchar was an all-around player for the Grizzlies whose job seemed to just make winning plays. Konchar probably peaked against the Lakers on February 29th. In just 12 minutes Konchar scored 5 points, picked up 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a big time block on Dwight Howard. John proved to be a solid player for the Grizzlies who seemed to always make a ton of hustle plays. His personal favorite game was in Atlanta where he dropped a career high 10 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes.
At their worst
Yuta really struggled at the NBA level with the Grizzlies. He only played 4 games with more than 10 minutes and a majority of his playing time came at the end of games in blowouts. Watanabe couldn’t quite get in to a rhythm with the Grizzlies and their various end of bench players. Yuta just looked uncomfortable in nearly all of his 105 minutes and didn’t seem ready for the NBA.
In a recent interview on the Core 4 Podcast, John even admitted that he should have been more aggressive when down with the Hustle. John only had 6 games with double-digit shot attempts in a league he could have easily been more dominant in. This translated to his NBA minutes as well, though it is less of a concern when running with the likes of Ja Morant. However, if John is to take on a larger role with the Grizzlies (or another team) next year then he’ll have to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
What comes next?
Both John and Yuta are set to hit restricted free agency this coming offseason, whenever that may be.
Yuta’s time in Memphis, at least with the Grizzlies, may be coming to an end. It wouldn’t make sense for the Grizzlies to sign Yuta to another two-way deal, and I don’t think they plan on signing him to an NBA deal either. Yuta is a prime candidate to get a training camp invite or a two-way contract with another team. He’s proven to be a very good G-League player, but is quite unproven and has often looked out of sorts in the NBA. Should Yuta not make an NBA roster come next season, he’ll either go play overseas or could sign a G-League contract where the Memphis Hustle should have his rights.
John, however, should be in line for a decent pay raise from his two-way deal. He won’t command a big contract, but he’ll likely land a 2 or 3 year deal with a team option with the Grizzlies or somewhere else. The Grizzlies will prioritize De’Anthony Melton’s restricted free agency over Konchar’s, but they’ll be sure to try and lock him up as an end of bench piece who can come in and make things happen if the team is in a rut. Should the Grizzlies decide not to match an offer sheet on Konchar, he’ll likely land somewhere where he can get more minutes and play in more than just 19 games.
For the Grizzlies, they’ll likely have two new two-way players come next season. They’ll probably fill in one of those two way spots with a Hustle standout like Dusty Hannahs, Jarrod Uthoff or Shaq Buchanan while filling the other with someone who goes undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft.