There is no room at the top-tier of American professional basketball—the NBA and the G League, by extension—for everyone to be part of it. Every year we have a plethora of undrafted free agents luckily signed to contracts from NBA/G League franchises to become part of their squads. Every year, too, we see a lot of kids and veterans finding no place in the best hoop leagues in the world, thus looking for chances abroad.
That is not the most common path to building a sustainable career in the NBA, for sure, but for athletes that have worked their whole lives around basketball, it surely is one way to try to reach the pinnacle of the sport in the country where the best hoopers happen to play in.
In this series, we will explore the 2019-20 season of some American players that played basketball either in the CBA (top Asian league, and a place for ex-NBA veterans and young undrafted players) or the EuroLeague (the best-combined league in Europe and the consensus second-best league in the world only behind the NBA). All of these players also played in the NBA or the G League during the 2017-18 or 2018-19 seasons, so they are not too separated from their playing days in American soil and could still be re-called by an NBA franchise soon if they keep their level of play up.
Marcus Georges-Hunt - Guangzhou Loong Lions (China - CBA)
The last time we saw Georges-Hunt play in the NBA-G League circuits, it was all the way back in 2018 and COVID wasn’t even close to becoming part of our most-used vocabulary. Two years ago, Georges-Hunt had just wrapped up his season with the Wolves logging playoff minutes for the Wolves against the Rockets in a series that Minny dropped 4-1. That was definitely a reward for MGH, and probably one much more meaningful than the $1.3 million Minnesota handed him when they signed the guard for a year in August 2017 after he went through three teams during the 2016-17 season.
Let’s rewind for a minute, though, because MGH’s full story merits some words.
And that is because Marcus didn’t become a thing overnight. In fact, Georges-Hunt was already talked about in 2012 when he was a senior at North Clayton High School. He made it to the top of the national ranks then, topping at no. 69 in ESPN’s Dave Telep board. Not bad for a start. And not wrong, either. MGH was dropping more than 24 points per game as a prospect, to go with a monster 14+ boards and 5+ dimes, again, playing combo guard/small forward.
That made Georgia Tech’s alarms rang hard, and the Yellow Jackets offered MGH a scholarship that he ended picking in the summer of 2012. As expected given his amateur resume, Marcus became an instant starter for Georgia Tech as a freshman and never relinquished that role. In his four years playing at the NCAA level, he racked up games (130) and starts (129) only missing time due to injury as a junior and averaging at least 29 minutes per gamein each of his college seasons.
At the end of his NCAA run, Marcus declared for the draft with four seasons of experience under his belt, two over .500 (freshman and senior), and the other two below that winning percentage. Too bad for him, Georgia Tech never made it to the NCAA Tournament in those four seasons. Not that it was MGH’s fault, though, with the College Park, GA native closing his NCAA career with a 13-4-2 average line after posting 16.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game as a senior.
Marcus was always a long-shot to being picked in the draft, and he went undrafted in 2016. That being said, though, he got a hand by Brooklyn and signed with the Nets in time for the Summer League. His middling performance made the Nets pass on him, which meant the Boston Celtics found a way to sign him—and later drop him sending him to their G League affiliate Maine Red Claws.
That kick-started a flurry of transactions involving MGH throughout the 2016-17 season that saw the man become part of three NBA franchises while playing for one at the NBA-level. He found a place in Orlando, although he only played five games for the Magic in April 2017 before being waived once more in July by them.
Never giving up, Marcus found his way—for the nth time—to another NBA squad: Minnesota’s. The Wolves signed him in August 2017 and he went on to play more than half of the team’s games in 2018 with 42. Sure, the minutes were low at 5.3 per game, but it is not that many players have reached that 42-game mark through their careers, much less after being undrafted. The playoff appearances were just the cherry on top.
But that was it for MGH’s American run. He found himself out of the NBA at the end of the 2018 season, and he needed to do something to keep up his pro-basketball career. So he went back to a place he had already been at before: Boston. The Celtics made the same move that they did back in 2016, signing, waiving, and then sending MGH to the Red Claws of the G League. Until he was forced out of the team in December of 2018 with a season-ending injury. Tough luck, but the ultimate event to foster Marcus’ ascension in the Chinese CBA during the 2019-20 season.
You read that right. With the American options limited—if there at all—Marcus decided to cross the pond and sign with the Guangzhou Loong Lions in 2019. And oh boy, did he find his place.
MGH’s hopes to make a playoff run were killed badly by Guangzhou, though, as the team fell short of making the postseason with a not-so-good 10-36 record that left the Loong Lions as the third-worst team in the CBA. Again, destiny wasn’t about to give Marcus a break.
Getting injured once more and banged up a bit, MGH missed a bunch of games through the season finishing with 31 games played by year’s end. Those were far from the league-leading 53 that Mingxuan Hu went on to play, but MGH was one of only four players to average 37+ minutes per game rpgthrough the year. In his age-25 season.
Even though Marcus played way fewer total minutes than other players around the league that could play many more games, his PIR (Performance Index Rating) per minute was high and ranked inside the top-20 among players with at least 30 games played. He finished close to veterans Jeremy Lin and Lance Stephenson on a per-minute PIR basis, and above the likes of other young’ins such as Kay Felder.
While Joe Young was the absolute walking-bucket of the CBA last season (38.3 points per game), MGH finished 9th in points per game (24.4) among players with at least 30 games played. Not only that, but he also posted averages of 7.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 steals per game (!) through the season.
No other player posted a baseline of 24-7-3 in the 2020 CBA. Only six men (Marcus included) were able to reach a 20-7 points-boards average per game, and of course, no one was able to pair those with MGH’s 3 and 2 assists-steals per game. He was just too much for his foes.
Georges-Hunt wasn’t the most efficient shooter of the league, but he made up for that with high volume: MGH attempted 16.9 field goal attempts, hitting 49.5% of them, and 4.3 3 point attempts with a 33.6% success rate. Although that shooting is not going to wow any NBA team, he contributed all across the stat line and showed his all-around game on a nightly basis, which is his main calling card for eventually building his American comeback.
As I am writing this pice, it’s being reported that MGH has signed with the Jiangsu Dragons for the 2020-21 season. It might be a stretch to think about him making it back to the NBA next year, as Chinese contracts usually don’t include NBA-out clauses, but it’s not too late (I mean, he’s 26 years of age...) for Marcus to play another year in Asia, keep building his already good resume, and then attempt a jump back to the Association in 12 months time.
Marcus Georges-Hunt was one of the best players to hoop in China last season, and with that league already dominated, it’s only time for him to come back home and let folks know they were wrong not handing him one more chance before.