The (Memphis) Morning After the NBA Draft

Check out what a few of our passionate Memphis Grizzlies “analysts” have to say about the team’s top 5 selection from last night’s NBA draft.


The smoke has settled. The groans have rumbled. No surprises took place. In a way, I have to think that is a good thing. I didn’t go into the draft as one of Jaren Jackson Jr.’s biggest fans, but now he is one of us. He is going to be a Memphian; and what choice do we have but to accept him and educate him on the spirit of Grit N Grind.

JJJ is one of the younger players who was drafted last night, at just 18 years of age. In college at Michigan State he averaged 10.9p/5.8r/1/1a in a shade under 22 minutes per game. He struggled with foul trouble in his lone season in the Big Ten, averaging over 3 per game.

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Jackson shot 51% from the field and 79% from the line. He averaged 1 three point make per game on nearly 3 attempts. At 6-11, 240 lbs, Jackson has the body of the modern NBA center and the potential to stretch the floor – something Memphis can not have enough of. In addition to his shooting ability, Jackson also averaged 3 blocks per game. The potential combination of rim protection and offensive upside made him too good of a prospect to pass up on. Many pundits (I can’t say I fall in this category) have said on record that they think JJJ has the highest ceiling of any big man in the draft.

He can play the stretch four with Marc and create and interesting dynamic on the court and allow Dillon Brooks and Mike Conley more slashing opportunities. This would be the antithesis of other big men combinations that we have seen alongside Marc, like Brandon Wright and Zach Randolph.

An initial concern of mine is the conditioning aspect and his ability to keep up with the pace of play since he only played 22 mpg under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. However, from his interviews, he does seem to be motivated to play basketball and hopefully that desire will push him to get into the shape that he needs to be in to face the grind of the full slate of NBA games.

Overall, if I’m being honest, this probably is a decent pick for the Grizz since they did not have a top 3 pick and the opportunity to snag one of the “consensus” top guys. JJJ may not be as NBA ready as some of the other prospects that were selected on draft night, but fortunately, he doesn’t need to be….why you might ask?

Next season, Memphis will not be in the mix for a first round pick, unless they actively tank. Memphis only owns its second round pick in 2019 and has a minuscule chance to pick up an additional second round pick.  This means that for the next 2-3 seasons we will be working with expensive, injury prone, and aging talent in Mike, Marc, and Chandler. The bright side is that by the time that those three guys come off the books, Jackson may be ready to be the star that we can build around. Until that time, it looks like we have a new young talent to be excited about; someone who looks to be excited about being here, and is embracing this team, this city.


The word of the day has, thus far, been “upside.”  JJJ has the highest ceiling.  He has the ability to end up the best player in the 2018 draft.  These predictions are largely based on per-minute statistical projections instead of realities, which is somewhat disconcerting.  JJJ only played about 20 MPG at Michigan State.  Is this Izzo’s stubbornness or JJJ unable to justify his presence on the floor due to rampant foul trouble and, perhaps even more worrisome, a lackadaisical attitude.

Undoubtedly, JJJ’s size, skill, and lateral foot-speed make him a tantalizing prospect, and GIFs like the below — where Jackson takes his defender off the dribble with his off hand — are hard to ignore and easy to get irrationally excited about.

An important factor in JJJ’s “upside” is that the upside is actually achieved.  If he never maxes out his RPMs, what’s the point of buying the car?  To accomplish this goal, the Grizzlies must do something they’ve arguably never been able to do: develop and foster young talent.  A quick glance at the Grizz’s young player history certainly doesn’t bode anything but ominous clouds:

Rumors abound that newly crowned coach J.B. Bickerstaff and his staff intend to intensify their focus on player development are welcomed — but as my cynicism will only modestly allow — I’ll believe it when I see it.  JJJ is their first real test, and I agree his success will only be maximized if used properly in the system.  Maybe we’re already seeing signs of this renewed energy — interestingly, it seems Bickerstaff’s phone call to JJJ on Wednesday really sealed the deal of his vision for Jaren in Memphis.  He’s a ball hawk that will block shots, has the lateral quickness to guard anyone in the pick-and-roll, and can step out and hit the outside shot at a surprisingly good clip (never mind his unconventional shot release).  I believe he’ll be — at minimum — a Serge Ibaka.  But I fear his potential will only be maximized when Marc Gasol isn’t on the court.  Is this the start of a low-key sneaky rebuild despite the front office’s insistence that we intend to win games next year?  I’ll leave that to Conspiracy Slim, but in the meantime, I’ll be [Kermit drinking tea meme].


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