The Hustle will kick off their 5th season in Franchise history this weekend, and their first game in the Landers Center in over 600 days. The Hustle were last in the Landers Center on February 29th, 2020 where they fell to the Salt Lake City Stars before the entire country shut down due to COVID-19. The Hustle spent their 4th season in the G League bubble in Orlando, Florida last season in a shortened 15 game season. It was a mixed bag in Orlando, as the Hustle went 6-9 and struggled largely due to the unique circumstances in the bubble where they spent a majority of what was barely a “training camp” with just 6 available players. The core from last season’s squad returns as the Hustle look to get back on track — and like the team we saw in Jason March’s first season as head coach that saw them near the top of the Western Conference Standings.
The upcoming G-League season will be different than years past, despite the return to “normal.” Instead of incorporating the G-League Showcase in the middle of the season, the G-League is experimenting with a new tournament format to tip off the season. Each G-League team will play their first 12 games baseball series style against other teams in their “regional pods.” The teams with the best winning-percentage in each regional pod, along with the next four teams across the league with the best win-percentages will advance to compete for the new “Showcase Cup” in a single-elimination tournament. The teams that do not advance to the Showcase Cup will play two additional games outside of the tournament.
Following the Showcase Cup, team records will reset and the teams will tip off a 36-game regular season beginning on December 27th. The top 6 teams in each conference will qualify for the G-League playoffs after the 36-game season. Jason March had mixed feelings about the new season format. At Hustle Media Days, he told me that he considers himself a traditionalist, but he’s excited for the changes and points out that experimentation is part of what the G-League is all about.
Jason March also told me he’s excited to have more assignment players from the Grizzlies play with the Hustle after the difficulties last season. Due to protocols, the Hustle got 9 games out of Jontay Porter who spent most of the season down in Orlando and 6 games from Sean McDermott who was assigned midway through the Hustle season. With less strict protocols, and everything back in Memphis (except road games) March is hopeful to have the extra hands he had in his first season as Hustle head coach.
The Hustle finalized their roster for the 2021-2022 season yesterday, trimming the roster down to 10 with 3 tryout guys getting cut alongside Jahlil Tripp and Gerard Tarin. With just 10 guys on the active roster, all signs point to the Hustle getting some added help from their two-way guys and assignment players. The full Hustle roster can be found here.
Before we look ahead to the first week of action for the Hustle, let’s analyze some key Hustle stats heading into the season.
66%: The Hustle are returning 66% of their scoring production from last year's squad. Ahmad Caver, David Stockton, Shaq Buchanan, Freddie Gillespie, Sean McDermott, Jahlil Tripp, Sam Merrill and Darnell Cowart bring some continuity from last seasons team which should help them get out to a hot start in the 12-game mini-season ahead of the Showcase Cup.
42: The Hustle did lose one of their best 3-point marksmen from last season in Bennie Boatwright who was traded to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this past offseason. Bennie made 42 triples last season for the Hustle, leading the team by a wide margin as David Stockton had the second most makes with 26. The Hustle will hope that newcomer Reggie Hearn, who has shot 40% from beyond the arc in his 8 G league seasons, will more than replicate the production void from deep left by Boatwright.
Week 1 Preview
- Memphis Hustle vs. Ciudad de Mexico Capitanes 11/5 7 PM CT
- Memphis Hustle vs. Ciudad de Mexico Capitanes 11/7 2 PM CT
- Texas Legends vs. Memphis Hustle 11/16 7 PM CT
Games 1 & 2 Preview: The Hustle will tip off their 5th season on the “road” against the Mexico City Capitanes. Due to COVID-19 and federal protocols, the Capitanes will be based in the US (Fort Worth, Texas) for their inaugural season while playing their “home” games on the road heading into the Showcase Cup. The Capitanes will not compete in the 36-game regular season.
The Hustle will have an early edge on the Capitanes, as the Capitanes won’t have a full roster for the entirety of their training camp like the Hustle have. The Capitanes will have just 12 players on their roster and have been making additions as recently as earlier this week with Mike Torres. The team is likely to be unfamiliar with each other, which should give the Hustle the advantage to tip off the season at the Landers Center, even if they are the road team. Former Hustle player Matt Mooney figures to be a high-scoring option for the Capitanes while Alfonzo McKinnie brings some NBA experience to the squad.
Game 3 Preview: The Hustle will get a week off after their matchups against the Capitanes and then will host the Legends for two games (with the second game to be covered in next week’s Hustle Report). The Legends will seemingly be led by Carlik Jones and Justin Jackson this season with Jackson having spent the 2019-2020 season with the Mavericks. JaQuori McLaughlin and Eugene Omoruyi figure to be some fun two-way guys for the Legends and should be with the Legends when the come visit the Hustle at the Landers Center. The Legends did not participate in the bubble last season, so they’re also likely to take a few games to shake off some rust at the start of this season. The Hustle have a chance to get an early 3-0 start on the season and put themselves in a good spot for the Showcase Cup.