The NBA’s 10-day contracts can be so fleeting for its development-league players aspiring to reach the big show, but for Timberwolves training-camp invitee Marcus Georges-Hunt one of those was long enough.
He signed such a contract with Miami last February and never played a game for the Heat. Yet he called that short time spent around coach Erik Spoelstra and executive Pat Riley invaluable, particularly for a guy who now has signed on to play for the Wolves’ Tom Thibodeau.
A four-year starter at Georgia Tech, Georges-Hunt played most of last season with Maine as well as Sioux Falls in the development league after he went to training camp with Boston. Waived by the Celtics and sent to Maine to start the season, he signed with Miami and then Orlando late in the season. He played five games for the Magic, which signed him in April to a multiyear contract and waived him in late July.
Time with those three NBA teams allowed Georges-Hunt to see how each franchise does things differently. But it was those few days in Miami that he considers something of a career-changer.
“I learned a lot, offensively and defensively,” he said after Wolves practice Thursday. “I fixed a couple things on my shot, worked on my footwork. Just little things to take with you. … I know Thibs is a defensive guy. I was in Miami for 10 days, and their defensive mind-set is real important to them and their grit to play great on-ball defense is pretty good. Coming in here, me being able to stay in front of my man one-on-one and knowing the defensive principles will be big for the coaching staff.”
He is the kind of “3-and-D” player — a wing defender who can also make the corner three-point shot — Thibodeau is seeking for depth on a team that has the versatility of Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad on the wing.
The Wolves have 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts for their 15-man roster and Georges-Hunt appears to be the favorite for that 14th spot if the Wolves don’t find a player waived or bought out by another team before Wednesday’s season opener at San Antonio.
Rookies Amile Jefferson and Melo Trimble likely will be sent to the Wolves’ new G League team in Iowa and former Los Angeles Lakers swingman Anthony Brown already has been signed to one of the two-way contracts that allows players to shuttle between the NBA and G League.
All four played the final few minutes of Sunday’s blowout loss to Golden State in China, their only preseason game action.
At age 23, Georges-Hunt would give the Wolves a defender who can guard three, maybe four positions and who at one time last season was among the development league’s leaders in points, minutes played, rebounds, steal and free-throws made.
The Wolves have to make such personnel decisions by this weekend and are expected to keep that 15th and final big-league roster spot open to give them roster flexibility.
“It’s going to be a tough decision as we head down the stretch,” Thibodeau said. “I like all our young guys, and they’ve done a good job. It’s the worst part of the job and at the end, you have to do what’s best for your team. So we’ll see how that unfolds.”
When asked about picking up a proven NBA player released by another team in the coming days, Thibodeau said, “You look at everything. Anytime you can improve the team, you do that. But I do like our young guys a lot.”
Georges-Hunt said he chose to go to training camp with the Wolves because Thibodeau’s reputation fits his own defensive-oriented mind-set.
“Just toughness, competitiveness,” said Georges-Hunt, whose contract becomes guaranteed until January if he is on the season-opening roster. “That’s why I thought Thibs brought his own guys who are going to go out, not make excuses and give it all they got and leave it on the floor.”
Georges-Hunt said his game also fits that 3-and-D role that has become sought by NBA coaches.
“A player like that just focuses on the little things,” Georges-Hunt said. “Boxing out, getting rebounds, doing all dirty work, a lot of things that don’t show up on the state sheet. And when it’s time to knock down open shots, you have to be ready to knock it down.”