Marcus Georges-Hunt has never been afraid to step up. After averaging over 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists as a senior at North Clayton High School in Atlanta, Georgia, Georges-Hunt went on to be a four-year starter at Georgia Tech. As a Yellow Jacket he racked up 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game over a 130 game college career, highlighted by his 17 point, 3 rebound and 3 assist per night senior season in which he led his team to the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, Georges-Hunt played limited minutes for the Brooklyn Nets in the 2016 NBA Summer League. He spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season being sent back and forth between short NBA stints and G League stardom. First he was signed as a camp body by the Boston Celtics where he appeared in 2 preseason games before being released and acquired by the G League’s Maine Red Claws.
As a Red Claw, Georges-Hunt put up just under 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 45 games. His time in the G League was disrupted only once in February by a brief 10-day contract with the Miami Heat. Georges-Hunt then played for the Orlando Magic in the 2017 NBA Summer League before being waived and signed shortly thereafter by the Minnesota Timberwolves on August 11, 2017.
Georges-Hunt had been an end-of-the-bench player for most of the season. Over the first 28 games he saw almost exclusively garbage time minutes. He appeared in nine of those first 28 matchups, seeing 1.7 minutes per and putting up virtually no counting stats.
But something changed after a December 14th blowout of the Sacramento Kings. In that game, Georges-Hunt cracked Thibs’ rotation. He played a hair under 17 minutes and went two for three from the floor, including one of two from beyond the arc. Including the game against the Kings, Georges-Hunt has appeared in 18 out of 23 possible matchups since then, averaging 6.4 minutes. He’s shooting respectably from both the floor (44%) and the three-point line (33%). More importantly, Georges-Hunt has been a key defensive cog for the Wolves bench unit in his limited minutes, and has helped them down the stretch in more than one game—none more prominent than Saturday’s shorthanded victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Taking Down the Raptors
When it was announced shortly before game time on Saturday that the Wolves would be without both Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford against the high powered Toronto Raptors, the sentiment among the fan base was that a win was unlikely. Those are the Wolves top two shooting guards, and the team’s depth chart is notably weak on the wing. 6’10” combo-forward Nemanja Bjelica was called on to start, but it was inevitable that either or both of Georges-Hunt and Shabazz Muhammad would see significant playing time. The former was on the floor for 29:21 and the latter saw just 11:36 as Thibs turned to Georges-Hunt to close out the game.
Georges-Hunt was solid throughout. He finished with a career high 12 points to go along with three rebounds and two assists. He showed a surprising ability to get to the basket off of the dribble, both finishing and drawing contact to get to the free throw line. His three of ten from the field wasn’t remarkable, but he did hit one of his three 3-point attempts, which was a key momentum shifter at the end of the third quarter that gave the Wolves a four point lead.
Georges-Hunt catches the pass from Teague at the top of the key with CJ Miles closing out on him. He takes one, quick dribble and steps back into the three pointer. Both the well rehearsed move and confidence in execution highlight the emergence of a player that seems to be coming into his own.
Georges-Hunt made a number of clutch free throws down the stretch, and five total on the night (5-8), but no play was more vital to this Wolves win than the charge he took from All-Star starter DeMar DeRozan.
With less than 25 seconds and the Wolves up by five, DeRozan took the inbound pass in stride on the top of the key. He flew past Andrew Wiggins, who got caught on a screen set by Jonas Valanciunas, and skirted alongside Karl-Anthony Towns to get to the basket. As he elevated to pass the ball to a rolling Valanciunas, he was met by a firmly planted Georges-Hunt. He had clearly set his position outside of the restricted area, and drew a clutch charge that put the game out of reach for the Raptors. MGH gave a much deserved fist pump as he saw the call from his back, and was greeted by appreciative teammates.
Credit to the Coach and POBO
When Glen Taylor signed Tom Thibodeau to the dual role of Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations (POBO), The loudest and most frequent critics would point to the difficulty of both coaching an NBA team every night and managing the intricacies of compiling a Championship level roster.
Thibodeau is among a small group of NBA Executives that hold both titles. Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and The Pistons’ Stan Van currently do, and both Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) recently gave up their POBO role to focus on coaching. The move to combine roles is generally met with skepticism around the league, but it would take time to give Thibodeau a fair and honest judgement.
Thibs is just one and half years into a five year contract, so extensive evaluation still feels premature, but after devoting his first year to roster evaluation we’ve seen significant turnover in the last six months. Beginning with the franchises most lauded, landmark trade acquiring Jimmy Butler, and followed by signing two of teams most accomplished free agents in Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, things looked promising for Thibs the Executive.
The emergence of Marcus Georges-Hunt is another positive step in that regard for the Wolves Chief Strategist. Successful basketball teams have track records of identifying and developing under appreciated players. It will be difficult for Georges-Hunt to get consistent, significant minutes when the Wolves are fully healthy. But if he continues to play the way he did in Saturday’s stunning victory when his number is called, he could become a key contributor down the stretch.