Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. shows his talent nationally against the Warriors


Jaren Jackson Jr. was a force for Memphis.

Jaren Jackson Jr. was a force for Memphis.
picture: Getty Images

For those who watched the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies first round series, their assessment might align with their opinion of the Beatles. Revolution #9. Some people think that it is one of the highest forms of entertainment a person can consume, exquisite excellence amidst absolute chaos. For others, it’s a bunch of random noises that serve no purpose other than to make the experience of the finished product as uncomfortable as possible.

Whatever people might think of the series (or the song), one of the giddy, screeching sounds of Grizzlies vs. Timberwolves was Jaren Jackson Jr. besmirching every human within reach. His foul totals for each game were 5, 4, 5, 6, 6 and 5. One of the most impressive young athletes in the sport couldn’t keep his feet on the ground. When he’s not fouling, he’s actually one of the best defensemen in the NBA and also one of the Grizzlies’ primary options on offense.

It would be logical to assume that the championship-savvy Golden State Warriors would be able to take advantage of Jackson’s hacking tendencies and bench him in foul trouble, but that hasn’t consistently happened. Jackson fouled in Game 2, but in Games 1 and 3 he recorded a total of three fouls in each game. Without Yes Morant in game 4 – whose The postseason is likely over with a knee injury — Jackson recorded five fouls, but he also tucked in 21 points and blocked five shots in one loss.

For all the talk of the Grizzlies’ 20-5 record during the regular season without Morant, despite being able to hold tight without him Monday night, they really could have used a basket or 14. The game’s 101-98 finish was respectable, but at halftime the Grizzlies were leading 41-38 – a score typically found in a playoff game with Ben Wallace or Jason Kidd from the New Jersey Nets era.

Jackson was all over the court in that game trying to be the Grizzlies’ Draymond Green. While his 3s, which he shoots with the arc of a four-seam fastball, didn’t fall, he was able to pull fouls and score near the basket to give his team every opportunity to tie the series with Game 5 at home on Wednesday . In the postseason, Jackson averages 15.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, and 2.4 blocks.

The logical question to ask about the Grizzlies isn’t whether they’re better without Morant – who, while spectacular, needs to play with much more consistency on defense – but what a supporting cast around this young rising superstar needs to look like ? Do they need to find a second star or simply nurture the talent they already have so they can flourish together? For the latter to be true, Jackson must become an All-pTar level player.

Desmond Bane has been a revelation this season. A strong guard who can play defense, doubling his scoring average from 9.2 to 18.2 points per game and shooting more than 43 percent from the 3-point line for the second straight season. That’s the kind of shooting necessary to pair alongside Morant in backcourt, but there’s got to be someone else explosive on this list that doesn’t offer good but great size.

At the 2018 NBA Draft Combine, Jackson measured just under 6ft 8 barefoot. Its wingspan is 7ft 5, and it can move its feet like a guard. Jackson has the potential to be the NBA’s best defensive end, and he demonstrated all of that talent in his 33 minutes against the Warriors in Game 4 — the most minutes he’s played in the entire series. Jackson could one day be like Deion Sanders, using his game to declare that any side of the pitch he defends is a no-fly zone.

However, Jackson still needs some work on offense. He should feel free to keep kicking the ball like a squib kick as long as he’s making a high percentage of those shots. For the playoffs, he shoots 37.3 percent from the 3-point line. Against the Warriors, he had two great 3-point shooting games in Games 1 and 3 but was 2-14 combined in the other two games. For the playoffs, too, he shoots under 40 percent from the field.

Here it would help him to be consistent on the pitch. If he wasn’t always left behind for long stretches because of a bad plague, it might be easier for him to get into a goal-shooting rhythm. He’s a 45 percent shooter from the field for his career, but he’s shot 41 percent this season, and of course he’s dealing with a lot of rotten troubles. He and his team have a bright future ahead of them, but not if he spends most games in his warm-up gear.

The Grizzlies’ roster still needs some tweaking, but it’s very close to championship contention. It doesn’t matter if they win the next three games without Morant or most likely get eliminated because 2021-22 was a rousing success where they finished second after participating in the play-in tournament last season . One of the biggest changes this season was Jackson playing in 78 regular season games this season, up from 11. As much as Morant has improved, without Jackson’s presence, the Grizzlies won’t make the jump they did from last season into this one have made season.

For the first time in franchise history, nothing will propel the Grizzlies to the top of the NBA faster than Jackson takes another step as a player. In the off-season, he certainly needs to add a few moves to his offensive game to get better shots for himself, but most of the time he’s fouling far less often. He’ll have to do this one-on-one defense drill with Morant all summer long – once he’s healthy – and do it with his hands behind his back. No team can win consistently when their best players are on the bench. That goes for Morant and his health and certainly for Jackson keeping his hands to himself. If Jackson makes that adjustment even just next season, the Grizzlies need look no further for a No. 2 than No. 13.

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