The Utah and Vegas Summer Leagues are underway, and given that I’m a hoops-starved basketball enthusiast, it’s time for The BarnBurner’s Ridiculously-And-Irrationally-Early-Player-Eval-Overreacting-To-Like-Four-Summer-League-Games, or “IEA” for a shorter and more reader friendly approach.
At the outset, I’d like to point out that I’ve watched three of the four games that have been played, paying special attention to fourth overall pick, Jaren Jackson, Jr. (“JJJ”) — mostly because, he’s, as cannot be repeated enough, the fourth overall pick. JJJ is the literal fruit borne from the tanking tree — a season of misery with a glimmer of hope.
Through watching him on the court, I can’t help but be reminded of — hyperbole alert — Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett. In particular, the way JJJ moves with fluidity, despite being 6-11 and all arms and legs, and his KG psychopath-esque aggression with the ball and on the defensive end of the floor. If you’re an eye-test believer, he just looks “better” and more capable than his compatriots on the court. I’ve also seen this dude in multiple games sell out into the stands for balls going out of bounds. IN SUMMER LEAGUE. You can’t teach that brand of hungriness — it’s ingrained in a player’s DNA. In other words, JJJ has the “want it” personality that is coveted by teams in their star players.
Whoa Is This Dude a Steph Curry/Kevin Garnett Hybrid Mutant?
A question on many of our lips after JJJ’s first game as an NBA player as we excitedly devoured his gaudy stat line: 29 points on 8/13 from three in 23 minutes. If you [somehow] missed the fireworks, feast your eyes on this:
Jaren Jackson Jr Went CRAZY in his summer league Debut | 29 Pts and 9 Treys pic.twitter.com/hoAVahPcqy
— Frankie Vision (@FrankieVision) July 3, 2018
While his shot is slightly unconventional (read: ugly), that MFer splashes in more often than it doesn’t — JJJ has shot 56% from 3 on over twenty attempts in summer league thus far. The last made shot in the above — a one-dribble step-back — while outrageous and certainly won’t be a oft-used tool in JJJ’s repertoire, demonstrates the rook’s confidence when he shoots. How many other teams have a PF/C who can catch fire from the outside comparable to the great shooters in the league? None? I can’t think of one. Comment below if you can. Or better yet, tweet me: @TheBarnChief.
Jaren Jackson Jr. Is 6-11, has a 7-5 wingspan, and had the best block rate of any NBA Draft first round center prospect of the last 15 years. He also hit 39.6 percent from 3, and can do this: an off-the-dribble, step-back, above-the-break 3. pic.twitter.com/YuBWWY6Hcm
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) July 3, 2018
Versatility Is The Name of JJJ’s Game.
If ever there was a game to highlight the various and versatile things JJJ can do on both sides of the court, look no further than this July 7th Vegas Summer League game against the Detroit Pistons:
— NBA (@NBA) July 8, 2018
First offensive play of the game, JJJ calls for a post-feed to the high right block. Drives left, spins right, finishes at the rim using his length with a nifty lay-in. Notably, this isn’t the first time he’s used this move in summer league. In fact, many are already deeming it his signature move. Though he’s struggled a bit to finish, this is a nearly unstoppable action that — once he adds some weight — should be easy buckets. Fast forward to seconds later: Jevon Carter waits for a trailing JJJ at the top of the key, quick pass, without missing a beat, JJJ steps into a three and [insert wet emoji]. JJJ has also shown a cerebral screen and pop acumen around the entirety of the arc, syncing with his guards and reading where they want him to be. When in deep post position, JJJ always goes up strong, intending to dunk the soul out of whoever guards him. Here’s an and-1 drunk in which he utilizes his extremely long appendages to finish through contact.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 8, 2018
Though not all of his dunk attempts go according to plan:
Jaren Jackson Jr. with possibly worst attempted dunk I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/ThtOGI5SVg
— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) July 8, 2018
The rook is not without a sense of levity:
that dunk was just a lil short 😂😂😂😂 😂🤷🏾♂️ good win‼️
— Jaren Jackson Jr. 🎰 (@jarenjacksonjr) July 8, 2018
And, of course, the coup de gras/cherry on top is the ensuing block party. One, a perfectly-timed chase down (without fouling). Others, JJJ is set in the paint, laying in wait like a spider ready to pounce. We knew the blocks would be there, but the offensive aggressiveness has been a pleasant surprise.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 8, 2018
JJJ is a brand new car filled with all kinds of gadgets you know are going to be useful and fun but you can't quite figure out how they work yet
— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) July 8, 2018
You’ll also note in the post-game interview, JJJ delivers the now Grizz-twitter infamous response to what he prefers for his pre-game meal: “I like Caesar salads. They’re bangin’.” Beyond being a simply amazing quote on its own, it has the makings of a viral t-shirt [BarnBurner copyright]. I’ve determined that this kid was created in a lab to be love-able and the media face of a franchise — an obvious testament to his parents’ excellent work raising him.
Though impossible to tell from the games on TV, JJJ’s BBIQ (“basketball IQ” for the uninitiated) has evidently been impressing the various beat writers and blog-boys fortunate to be in attendance at summer league, who are sitting close enough to the action to hear him shouting out offensive sets and quarterbacking the defense in live action.
Crazy to listen/watch Jaren QB a D up close. You see it on tape but to hear the communication is awesome. Has that visual fire to him too.
— Cole Zwicker (@colezwicker) July 8, 2018
Indeed, if you watch closely, you’ll notice JJJ jabbering to his teammates, calling out screens and identifying passes and off-ball cuts before they happen. I can think of one teammate that will appreciate the intricate attention to detail: Marc Gasol.
This was as impressive as anything JJJ's done — here you see him in a key last second SLOB correctly identify the cross screen action and properly call the pass so DD gets the contest. heady stuff from an 18-year-old https://t.co/t5hvTjZa3d
— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) July 4, 2018
With all this said, I’m not surprised that numerous Hall of Famers have taken a personal interest in the young man’s NBA path. We’ve seen him have personal conversations with Kevin Garnett and Dikembe Mutombo (evidently clapping the loudest from the front row during JJJ’s defensive extravaganza), who seem to be just as invested in JJJ’s development as Grizz fans. Sometimes, however, you’re reminded that he’s definitely 18 — an NBA fan just as dumbfounded by the Boogie signing as the rest of us:
— ESPN (@espn) July 3, 2018
These moments make him all the more endearing. All told, Grizz fans should be thrilled to see JJJ wearing the Grizz on his chest. You’re in for a ride. Watching him develop in the FedEx Forum is going to be a helluva time. I’ve already got eyes on Rookie of the Year, an idea that no longer seems that far-fetched…
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— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 2, 2018
[banner image from Detroit Free Press]