The life of a journeyman NBA player can be exhausting. Until they get their big break, they’re bouncing from one stint to the next and trying to make a strong impression despite the fact that they’re constantly adjusting to new cities, coaches, systems and teammates among other things.
Marcus Georges-Hunt knows all about that, as he’s had quite the journey since going undrafted out of Georgia Tech in 2016. In the last year, he’s been with five different NBA organizations and two G League squads.
As an undrafted rookie, he joined the Brooklyn Nets for Summer League, which led to him signing a contract with the Boston Celtics in September of 2016. One month later, he was waived by Boston, but joined their G League affiliate – the Maine Red Claws. In February, Georges-Hunt signed a 10-day contract with the Miami Heat, but when that deal expired, he re-joined the Red Claws. In April, he was signed by the Orlando Magic and played for their Summer League team this past offseason. However, he was waived in late July. Finally, in August, he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves and that’s where he’s been ever since.
This marks Georges-Hunt’s longest stint with an NBA team and he’ll get a significant payday if he remains on Minnesota’s roster for a few more weeks. That’s because only $275,000 of his $1,312,611 salary is guaranteed, but all NBA contracts become fully guaranteed on January 10, 2018.
The 23-year-old shooting guard is doing what he can to impress the Wolves’ decision-makers and continue to develop while playing for a team that’s clearly in win-now mode. While minutes are hard to come by in Tom Thibodeau’s infamously tight rotation, Georges-Hunt has cracked the rotation recently because he knows his role is to defend and be efficient offensively. HoopsHype caught up with Georges-Hunt to discuss his NBA career thus far, the veterans who have helped him the most, the players he models his game after, his untapped potential, how good this Wolves team can be and more.
How much have you grown as a player from when you first entered the NBA as an undrafted rookie to now?
Marcus Georges-Hunt: When I was in college, I started off as a small forward. Then, by my last year, I was playing point guard. That really helped my all-around game and it gave the people who were trying to figure out what type of player I am [a lot of film] to see and they could say, ‘Oh, he can play one through four.’ They saw me in different situations, saw my strengths – especially my defense – and saw that I could be a 3-and-D guy. And I’ve definitely grown since then. I think it’s just from being around so many organizations that are all different.
Starting with Brooklyn my first Summer League, Coach Kenny Atkinson is a great player-development coach and I learned a lot from him and his staff. Then, I played in the preseason with the Celtics. That’s a great franchise with Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and smart coaches surrounding him. I took a lot from Boston and when I went to their D-League team, the Maine Red Claws, I kept evolving. I was really trying to pick up a lot from my coaches. In the D-League, I learned about how the pro game is played and got comfortable with the flow of the game, and I saw a lot of different techniques and strategies. Then, I was fortunate enough to get a 10-day call-up from Miami and that franchise is all about toughness and grit. Coach [Erik] Spoelstra is a great coach and in the week span that I was there, I learned a lot from guys like Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Dion Waiters. After practicing with those guys and learning from them, I played with a different edge when I went back to the D-League after that. It gave me more confidence because I felt like I could keep compete with anyone. Then, I was in Orlando for the last six games of last season and I got some run there with Coach [Frank] Vogel and his staff, and I just tried to take advantage of it. I’ve definitely gotten more and more comfortable with each week and month. Now, I’m here in Minnesota with a defensive-minded coach in Coach Thibs and I think it’s a good fit.
It seems like your versatility is perfect for today’s NBA.
MGH: Yeah, I think so. I was actually playing the three and the four just the other night. I was guarding a three and then a four. Now, you see teams will sometimes play four guards. It’s almost like there’s no such thing as positions nowadays. That’s where being able to guard one-through-four or one-through five is so valuable to teams. If I can do that and knock down shots to space the floor, it only helps my teammates like Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins because it gives them more room to operate one-on-one.
When you think back to all of the stints you’ve had with NBA teams, which veteran players helped you the most at each stop?
MGH: In Brooklyn, I would say Sean Kilpatrick. I was with him a lot and I learned from him because he had a similar story with how he found his way into the NBA and found his niche. In Boston, I would hang around Isaiah Thomas a lot. He’s always played with a chip on his shoulder and even though he got drafted, he was selected with the last pick and he felt like he was better than that. I loved his grit and how he wanted to show everyone he was better than anyone thought. In Miami, I’d say James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Udonis Haslem. That whole team really took me in and accepted me with open arms from the first day that I got there. It was midseason, but with the way they welcomed me, it felt like I had been there from the start of the season. The chemistry, the brotherly love and the family atmosphere in Miami was really good. In Orlando, that team is really young, but I actually knew Elfrid [Payton] and Aaron [Gordon] before I joined the team, so that was cool and all of the young guys push each other there. Now, Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford have really taken me under their wing. I’m learning so much from them, trying to pick each of their brains day by day.
As of now, which aspects of your game are you working hard to improve?
MGH: Being able to knock down open shots consistently; I want to be more consistent. Also, pick-and-roll reads and then just cleaning up little things, whether it’s my defensive technique or my shot. I just need to play to my strengths and keep my body intact.
I always like to ask this: Who are fellow NBA players that you study or try to model your game after?
MGH: I watch a little bit of everybody, but Dwyane Wade is one. I watch him a lot. I watch Carmelo [Anthony]’s face-up game, his iso plays from the elbow. I watch James Harden’s pick-and-rolls, footwork, body control and how he finishes. I actually used to watch a lot of Jimmy in Chicago when he was up-and-coming. I tell him all the time that I know all of his moves because I watched him so much. I know his favorite moves, what he does at certain spots on the floor and stuff like that. Dion Waiters is another one; I took a couple moves from him as well. Oh, and Paul Pierce when he was playing. He wasn’t the fastest, but I liked his pace and tried to implement that into my game too.
You’re 23 years old and in your second NBA season. How much untapped potential do you feel you have?
MGH: I feel like I have a lot more to showcase. I think I provide good value because teams are always looking for guys who can play defense and make open shots, especially threes. That’s where the game is headed nowadays, hitting threes is so big. If you can defend and knock down open shots, you can probably last in this league for a long time.
Having been around this Timberwolves team for some time now, how good can this group be?
MGH: We can be great. We can score the ball – we have so many different people who are scoring machines – but we need to clean up our defense and be more consistent. We need to play well every single night. But there’s no ceiling for this team; the sky is the limit. We just need to have the right defensive mentality, pick up our play on that end and do all of the little things like being in the right position and communicating better. If we polish up those things, there’s no telling what we can do.
How much did going undrafted motivate you? You brought up Isaiah Thomas and how he uses his draft position to fuel his fire. Do you use that as motivation too?
MGH: I feel like [people have doubted me] my whole life. They said I wasn’t going to be a mid-major player and then I ended up playing in ACC. They said I couldn’t shoot well enough or that I didn’t have enough skills to make it to the NBA. I just take all of that and let it motivate me. I attack each day as hard as I can and make the most of it. I’m here [in the NBA] now, but I know that I can’t anything for granted. This can be taken from you at any time, so you have to make the most of every day, hour, minute and second. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder, and that mindset pushes me.
Interview, Top, Aaron Gordon, Carmelo Anthony, Dion Waiters, Dwyane Wade, Elfrid Payton, Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford, James Harden, James Johnson, Jimmy Butler, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Paul Pierce, Sean Kilpatrick, Tyler Johnson, Udonis Haslem, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic