There are many fun and amusing things that you can highlight when talking about the Memphis Grizzlies.
Ja Morant as an entity. Desmond Bane is the sharpshooter who has expanded his game. The Grizzlies’ scouting department consistently finds guys at the tail-end of the 1st round who continue to contribute at a high level. Steven Adams quotes. The tunnel dances. There is A LOT to be happy about if you’re a Grizzlies fan.
Near the top of that list, though, has to be just how good Jaren Jackson Jr has looked.
After having surgery in the off-season to deal with a stress fracture in his foot, Jackson has returned to the Grizzlies lineup and has helped elevate them on the defensive end, all while putting up some of the best offensive numbers of his career.
If I had a vote, I would have voted for Jackson over Marcus Smart to win DPOY last season after he lead the league in blocks and led the Grizzlies to a top 6 defense.
This season, Jackson has injected life into Memphis’s defense in a similar way.
The Grizzlies were 20th in points allowed per 100 possessions through their first 14 games before Jackson returned.
They are now 6th, allowing just over 109 points per 100 possessions. If we only count the games since Jackson returned (on November 15th versus the Pelicans) – they have been the 2nd best defense in the league behind the Cleveland Cavaliers allowing just under 107 points per 100 possessions.
Without him, the Grizzlies’ defense gives up over 112 points. With him, they give up 104.
He has already leap-frogged Brook Lopez to lead the NBA in blocks, averaging 3.3 per game.
But wait… there’s more.
Jackson has a block % of 12.4. No, I have to repeat that… when he is on the court, he is blocking 12.4% of all shots attempted, the most in NBA history.
Opponents are shooting 51.4% at the rim against Jaren – the best in the NBA.
And now, while he’s only played 12 games this season, if we’re not talking about JJJ in the DPOY race at some point this year – the award is wrong. We are wrong. NBA basketball is wrong. Do you get me?
Jaren has been intimidating while playing drop defense this season for the Grizz – using his quick feet to stay with the ballhandler, using his size to make them force up tough shots (opposing teams generate less than 0.75 points per chance when the ballhandler shoots the ball in a Pick n Roll versus Jaren according to a source with Second Spectrum data), splitting the difference so that the big doesn’t get an easy lob behind him and showing off some impeccable timing on blocks and deflections.
Jackson has put on a masterclass thus far on how to defend a pick-n-roll as a big and you can watch him cause chaos… here.