Sorting by


Jaren Jackson Jr. Is Elevating The Grizzlies’ Ceiling

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

It’s not just on the ball, though, where Jackson is making it tough on offenses. He is lurking, deep in the shadows of the help side, and daring you to try and go up for a layup. He’s rotating over at the last second to deliver a hard contest on a 3-ball or to contain a smaller player’s drive to the basket.

And he’s doing all this while averaging a career-low in fouls, an area where he has struggled in the past. 

You can watch all the weak-side action… here

On top of the stellar defensive performances Jackson has put up (including a career-high 8 blocks 2 weeks ago against the Hawks) he is also more efficient than he ever has been on the offensive end. 

He’s averaging just over 17 points a game, but he’s doing so by shooting a career-best on 2’s (60%) and taking the least amount of 3’s in his career per game (4.5), even though he’s still knocking down almost 38% of them. 

He’s shooting a career-high 37% of his shots near the basket and he’s shown off an aggressiveness that wasn’t there in years past. 

Jackson has always had the length and size necessary to be an imposing figure in the middle at nearly 7 feet tall but if he’s actually doing it routinely… that is going to add another fun wrinkle to this Grizzlies offense. 

And in general, when Jackson is playing this way… he helps elevate the Grizzlies from “fun contender” status to “Western conference favorites” in a flash. 

With Morant and Bane already performing at All-Star and All-NBA levels, the real swing factor to the Grizzlies’ success this season (and beyond) is going to be Jackson.

And if this, the DPOY-caliber interior presence with a knack for scoring and knocking down shots, is who they get? 

You might as well start planning parade routes on Beale street.