Week 4 Results
Long Island Nets 111 vs. Memphis Hustle 100 (5-9)
Delaware Blue Coats 95 vs. Memphis Hustle 106 (6-9)
Week 4 Headlines
- Two-Way Player Sean McDermott joins GBBLive!
- Hustle wrap up their season at 6-9 with a win over the Delaware Blue Coats
Hustle Stat of the Season
5: The Hustle lost 5 of their 9 games by 2 possessions or less. In previous Hustle Reports I touched on the Hustle’s poor free throw shooting (league worst 66.2%) as well as their tough schedule (6 of their losses were to teams that made the playoffs). It was ultimately the close games that doomed the Hustle this season. As is expected with such a young squad, the Hustle froze in crunch time of close games and made one too many mental mistakes in the closing minutes. The brightside? In 2 of the final 3 games of the season, the Hustle were able to withstand a late charge by the Westchester Knicks and Delaware Blue Coats to hang on for wins. Even in a short 15-game season, the growth from this young squad was obvious.
Would the Hustle have flipped the script and gone 11-4 if they made their free throws or avoided the mental mistakes in the closing minutes of games? Probably not. However, a few more makes from the charity stripe, or one or two less mental mistakes and the Hustle could have been 9-6 or 8-7 and well in the hunt for the playoffs.
MVP of the Season - Ahmad Caver
Picking the MVP on the season was tough. Sean McDermott was great, but played in just 6 games. The Hustle had 8 players (min. 5 games) average double digits scoring for the team in the bubble. Ultimately though, Ahmad Caver’s big leap and great all-around play gives him my Hustle MVP of the Season. Caver averaged 16.5 points on 52.5% shooting from the field and 42.5% from beyond the arc. Caver also chipped in 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Caver took on a heavier load as a scorer this season off the bench, while showing growth rebounding and passing the ball. Defensively, Caver was phenomenal as usual.
There were certainly a handful of candidates for me to choose from, but Cavers consistency and impact on the game that goes beyond the box score gives him the MVP from me.
Season Grade - B
It wasn’t the best season for the Hustle, going just 6-9, but you really have to look past the record to really appreciate what the team put together this season. The lack of any real training camp hurt the youngest team in the bubble, as most players have admitted they only had a handful of real practices this season. With a team as young as the Hustle, it’s extremely hard to build that chemistry and connection in real time.
Secondly, almost every player grew as the season went on, even if it didn’t always result in wins. Freddie Gillespie expanded his range as a scorer, Anthony Cowan Jr. took on a heaver load later in the season and played well. Shaq Buchanan improved his overall numbers, despite his efficiency dropping a bit. Ahmad Caver broke out in a big way with his all-around game. Jontay Porter made it through the season playing in 9 games without any setbacks. Sean McDermott quickly proved he has the talent level to at least dominate the G-League.
The Hustle wanted to make the playoffs and compete for a G-League Mickey Mouse Ring, but ultimately, the season was pretty successful despite coming up short.
Season in Review
The 5-game losing streak really defined the Hustle season. There is certainly no shame in losing to the Erie Bayhawks, Raptors 905, G League Ignite or the Santa Cruz Warriors (the Wolves loss was bad), but losing those games all in a row really dug the Hustle into a deep hole. They can hang their hats on the moral victory of losing to those playoff teams by a combined 14 points, but I’m certain the players are still looking at that stretch with a little bit of frustration. As I previously mentioned, turn one or two of those games around and the Hustle could be in the playoffs right now.
Overall, Jason March has to be fairly pleased with the way the season turned out for his squad. It was a long 52 days for the team as some quarantined in Memphis or elsewhere, got to Orlando and had just a couple of days to practice before the season started. The team had its ups and downs, but something tells me that there would have been a lot more ups than downs if they were able to play a full 50 game season.
For now, most of the Hustle roster will head back home and play the waiting game. Guys like Freddie Gillespie, Ahmad Caver, Shaq Buchanan and Bennie Boatwright will hope that a team calls taking a chance on the young guys upside offering a 10-day contract as the NBA trade deadline nears. A team may even give a call to David Stockton, a G-League vet at this point, to be an emergency point guard on their team.
For Sean McDermott and Jontay Porter, they got to enjoy a couple of days off before the grind picks back up with the Grizzlies as they prepare for the second half of the season. Neither figures to be big rotation pieces, barring injury, so both will be working on their games in practice and staying ready should they be called upon for the Grizzlies this season.
Lastly, for me, I’ll enjoy the couple days off I had before the Grizzlies return to action on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards where my Grizz coverage will certainly step up a notch now that the Hustle season is done, barring any NBA call ups. It was exhausting, and fun, for me to cover 15 games, write roughly 20+ posts all in the span of about 30 days for the Hustle. I can’t imagine how exhausted the players must feel playing all those games in such a short amount of time.
Here’s to hoping that next season brings us back a step closer to normal, where we can watch the Hustle at the Landers Center in Southaven, MS and get more than just 15 games to watch. Until next season, Hustle fans.