Desmond Bane has stayed in the conversation for Rookie of the Year since about the midpoint of the 2020-2021 NBA season. The first year pro out of TCU became one of the best pure shooters in the league, finishing 13th among all players in three point percentage and best among rookies if you take minimum attempts into account. He increased his minutes nightly from the opening of the year, eventually settling in at just over 22 minutes per game, averaging 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per outing while averaging 47% from the field and over 80% from the free throw line. He was an efficient, deadly scorer off the bench for a playoff team, exceling on offense as both a scorer and a playmaker, and carving out a nice role alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson as he returned from injury to make the Grizzlies a formidable threat in the Western Conference.
Bane started 17 games for the Grizzlies over the course of his first season, but had his best games in a reserve role, including a 22 points (9-13 FG, 4-7 3Pt), eight rebounds, three steals and two assists outburst in just 22 minutes against the Knicks earlier this month. His work across multiple roles earned him multiple All-Rookie Team nods by various pundits, and while Anthony Edwards (Minnesota) and LaMelo Ball (Charlotte) get most of the publicity, Bane put on good numbers for a really good team — one that finished four games over .500 and could certainly pull an upset on their way to the West’s eighth seed. Of the top ten rookies according to NBA.com this season, only Ball (lost play-in game Tuesday) and Immanuel Quickley (Knicks) contributed to playoff teams, while others put up big numbers on bad teams.
Tonight (Wednesday), Bane will come off the bench for the Grizzlies as they face the San Antonio Spurs; the winner of that game will play either the Lakers or the Warriors for a chance to enter the “official” playoff bracket as the eight seed against Utah. The game will tip-off at 6:30 CT and can be seen on ESPN.
While Bane’s season has certainly been exciting for Frog fans, we would be remiss to not give a shoutout to Kenrich Williams, who carved out an impressive role for the Thunder after being traded from New Orleans. Kenny Hustle thrived in OKC, culminating in being named to Zach Lowe’s “Luke Walton All-Stars” this season. The list celebrates players who starred in their roles for their respective teams, something Hustle absolutely embodied with his new franchise. Williams played nearly every position on the floor for the Thunder, including point guard, lending him to tell Lowe, “I don’t even think I have a position anymore.” It’s worked out okay.
Hustle stayed in OKC despite being pursued by multiple playoff teams this spring, averaging a career high 8.0 points in nearly 22 minutes per game while shooting career-high percentages from 3 (44.4%) and the field (56.8%). He hauled in four boards per game and dished out nearly two and a half assists for a rebuilding squad that might have a bright future. According to Lowe, “On a rebuilding Thunder team, Williams has flashed skills he did not show in New Orleans: grab-and-go fast-breaks, pick-and-rolls, snazzy passing and cutting — he has nice chemistry with Theo Maledon — and post-ups.”
Both of these former Frogs have bright professional futures with their professional teams, and will continue to make those that watched them grow their games over their time at TCU incredibly proud.
Be sure to watch Desmond’s postseason debut tonight, and look for much more Kenny Hustle next season.