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The Hustle Report: Viva Las Vegas

The Hustle head to Vegas to wrap up the Showcase Cup

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Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 7 Results

Rio Grande Valley Vipers 113 vs. Memphis Hustle 117 (9-6)

Birmingham Squadron 104 vs. Memphis Hustle 96 (9-7)

Game 15 Breakdown

Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 33 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
  • Jake LaRavia- 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
  • Justin Bean- 18 points, 4 rebounds
  • Dakota Mathias- 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Damien Jefferson- 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

The Hustle won a close game over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Friday night. The Hustle led by as many as 20 in the game before holding off a Vipers comeback attempt. It was a monster game from Kenneth Lofton Jr. who set a career high in rebounds with 16 and tied his career high with 33 points. Jake LaRavia was more aggressive and looked more comfortable en route to his best game in a Hustle uniform. Overall it was a great performance by the Hustle who had 6 players in double figures and were able to overcome 31 points from Houston Rockets assignee Josh Christopher. The Hustle held the Vipers to 8-43 (18.6%) shooting from deep as they defeated the eventual #2 seed in the Winter Showcase Tournament.

Game 16 Breakdown

Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Dakota Mathias- 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.- 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Damien Jefferson- 13 points
  • Jake LaRavia- 10 points
  • Justin Bean- 7 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists

The Hustle dropped their final game of the Showcase Cup before heading to Vegas, meaning they had no shot at being one of the 8 teams in the Winter Showcase Tournament. The Hustle had a slim chance of making the tournament regardless, and the Hustle seemed ready to get to Vegas in the matchup against the Squadron as both offenses struggled. The Squadron got 31 points from Javonte Smart and a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double from Zylan Cheatham. It wasn’t a great performance by the Hustle but was ultimately meaningless as the team heads to Vegas.

Assignment Tracker

Birmingham Squadron v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Jake LaRavia: It was a mixed bag with LaRavia this week as he played well against the Vipers, being more aggressive on both ends, but was quiet against the Squadron. On the week, he averaged 14 points and 3 rebounds on 40.9% shooting and 36.4% from beyond the arc. The feel with Jake’s assignment was for him to get reps after coming off foot soreness and it appears his body responded well to getting the reps with the Hustle. LaRavia has been recalled by the Grizzlies and doesn’t appear to be available in Vegas for the Showcase. It will be interesting to see if Jake ends up back in Southaven on assignment when the G League regular season tips off after Christmas.

Kenneth Lofton Jr.: It was a strong week by Kenneth Lofton Jr. who responded well to not playing much in the second half of the comeback against the Magic last Tuesday. Lofton averaged 26.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Hustle, including the monster game against the Vipers. The turnovers are still concerning (10 against the Vipers is gross), but he’s working at getting teammates more involved offensively which is a good sign. Defensively he’s still a bit inconsistent but did come up big with a huge defensive stop on Friday night. It appears Junior will travel with the team to Vegas to continue his run with the Hustle.

Potential NBA Call Ups

With the Hustle heading out to Las Vegas for the 2022 Winter Showcase I decided it would be best to switch up the format of The Hustle Report. Instead of some Hustle stats or an MVP of the Week, I thought it would be more beneficial to highlight some of the Hustle players on G League contracts to keep an eye on this week. With NBA teams able to sign players to 10-day contracts starting January 5th, the Winter Showcase is the best chance to show off their skills with all of the NBA executives and scouts who will find their way to Vegas this week. Listed alphabetically, below are the 4 main Hustle guys to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Justin Bean

Lakeland Magic v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The rookie out of Utah State has quietly had an extremely successful start to his G League career. Bean’s numbers won’t “wow” you. He’s averaging 10.7 points on 46.3% shooting and 39% from beyond the arc to go along with 7.6 rebounds and 2 assists. Bean is also averaging 1.2 steals per game. Bean does a little bit of it all for the Hustle. He’s a fierce competitor who does a ton of the little things for the Hustle. With rebounding being an area of concern for the Hustle, Bean has been great at grabbing boards and when he can’t grab them himself, he does a great job of tipping the ball out to a Hustle player to either create a second chance opportunity or get the Hustle out running on the fast break. In fact, in two of the Hustle’s overtime wins it has been a Bean tip out that leads to the game winning basket. It’s early in his career, but Bean reminds me a little bit of a taller John Konchar. He doesn’t necessarily have a ton of highlight plays, but everything he does contributes to winning basketball.

Jacob Gilyard

Lakeland Magic v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Gilyard has been a steady presence for the Hustle in his rookie season out of Richmond. Like Bean, he isn’t the flashiest player but he’s dang effective. On the season, Gilyard is averaging 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 8 assists per game. He’s shooting 41.9% from the field and just 29.1% from the three-point line but has shown flashes of catching fire from deep as he averages 38.5% from beyond the arc in 8 road games this season. Gilyard knows not only how to effectively pass the ball but also take care of it. His 8 assists per game don’t do justice with how effective he is at finding open teammates and creating good looks. His 2 turnovers per game may seem like a lot, but that’s mostly due to the nature of the G League and working with new players than anything else. Over a stretch of 5 games from November 30th through December 10th, Gilyard dished out 43 assists and just 4 turnovers creating an absurd 10.75 assist to turnover ratio. On the season, Gilyard is 4th in the G League with a 4.0 AST/TO ratio (min. 10 games). While scouts will likely have concerns with Gilyard’s 5’9”, 160 pound frame, he’s proven able to overcome that and be an effective point guard.

Dakota Mathias

Lakeland Magic v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Mathias has been everything the Grizzlies organization could have asked for. He’s been a solid veteran presence with the Hustle and has played out of his mind regardless of his role. He’s averaging 16.8 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s shooting an absurd 42.6% from beyond the arc on 8.1 attempts per game. While his greatest attribute to NBA scouts will be his shooting, Mathias has also proven to be a more well rounded guard. He’s not just a gunner, as he’s taken a step back offensively to let assignment players or two-way transfers take over the offense when they’re with the Hustle, but also steps up when called upon. Outside of his scoring, Mathias has 4 games with 5+ assists in just 16 games. Mathias figures to have his limitations on the defensive end at the NBA level, but it won’t be for lack of effort. Mathias is constantly communicating on the defensive end and battling regardless of the matchup.

Romeo Weems

Birmingham Squadron v Memphis Hustle Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Weems may be a little bit of a surprise on this list given his stats. He averages just 6.6 points per game, the lowest of the Hustle rotation players, and 3.8 rebounds. He has a total of 7 assists in 268 minutes so far this season. That, however, is vastly downplaying Weems’ impact with the Hustle. While Weems is likely still shaking off some rust from missing nearly the entire season last year with a wrist injury, he’s profiled as a really solid 3 and D guy. When scouts watch G League games, they don’t always look for the best scorer but instead look for guys who can fill a role. Outside of maybe Justin Bean, I’m not sure anybody else on the Hustle roster can “fill a role” quite like Weems can. While his 3-point shot has been a bit streaky, Weems doesn’t command the ball offensively and instead floats around from beyond the arc and is a good enough shooter to create space for the offense. Get distracted and Weems has a quick first step and can make a fast cut to the hoop for an easy layup. Defensively Weems has incredibly long arms to go with his 6’7” frame on the wing. He averages 1.2 stocks per game but has a knack for creating deflections and making things difficult for the opposing team. Weems won’t catch you by surprise at the Winter Showcase, but when you watch him play it’s easy to envision him as a really solid role player coming off the bench for your NBA squad.

Showcase Cup Preview

Memphis Hustle vs. Westchester Knicks (6-10) 12/20 8 PM CT

Memphis Hustle vs. Motor City Cruise (3-13) 12/22 4:30 PM CT

Game 1 Preview: The Hustle’s first matchup in Vegas is against the Westchester Knicks. The Knicks struggled down the stretch, losing their last 3 games heading to Vegas. They have a couple of interesting players in DeQuan Jeffries and MJ Walker.

Game 2 Preview: The Cruise struggled throughout the first 16 games in the Showcase, going just 3-13 leading into Vegas. The Cruise have some fun players in Buddy Boeheim and Braxton Key. Ultimately though, the Cruise have struggled without Devontae Cacok who has been injured and RJ Nembhard who has decided to play overseas.

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