On Friday morning the NBA announced that all three of the Memphis Grizzlies first round draft picks from the previous 2 drafts had been selected to the 2020 NBA Rising Stars game. Sophomore Jaren Jackson Jr. will be joined by his rookie teammates, Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, in the 26th rendition of the game that will take place in Chicago on Friday, February 14th.
Clarke, who grew up in Phoenix but was born in Vancouver, will suit up with the World team, while Jackson and Morant will represent the United States roster. Per the Grizzlies, this is the third time in franchise history that the team will have 3 representatives in the Rising Stars game. In 2003, the franchise’s infant years in Memphis, Pau Gasol and Drew Gooden were joined by Gordan Giricek in the matchup. Then Mike Conley and Rudy Gay were selected to the game along with Juan Carlos Navarro in 2008. I believe the 2020 Rising Stars representatives from Memphis will leave their mark on the game and it will go down as one of the most memorable All-Star Weekend performances in Grizzlies history.
Jackson is the team’s leading scorer on the season at 17.7 points per game. His three point shooting has taken the league by storm and has been an integral piece to the Grizzlies success over the last 2 months as they have climbed to the 8 seed in the Western Conference. Jaren is shooting greater than 40% from the behind the arc, while hoisting almost 7 long-range attempts per game. His defense has improved as the season has progressed, averaging 1.6 blocks and 4.7 rebounds. His appearance in the game should be much more dynamic than his lackluster performance as a rookie (10 points, 6 rebounds, and just 6 shot attempts). Having his point guard and pick and roll partner playing on his team should work in his favor.
Ja Morant’s game seems as appropriate for the all star game setting as an other player in the league. The rookie superstar could easily take home the MVP hardware from this event with his flashy passing, high-flying acrobatics, and his ability to create a highlight literally anywhere on the floor. Morant is averaging 17.5 points to go along with 7.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds, while shooting just under 40% from deep. His ability to take over a game in the 4th quarter could play a role if the game is close in the latter stages. Morant is 4th in the NBA in 4th quarter scoring, averaging a hair under 8 points per game in the final period and 5th in the league in 4th quarter assists. In short, expect the kid to put on a show, hoping to prove to any non-believers that he is ready to be a force in the NBA.
Clarke’s ability to convert lob passes into spectacular alley-oop finishes will definitely be on display inside the United Center on Valentine’s Day. While Brandon won’t be suiting up with his point guard like Jackson, he will be playing with Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeuos-Alexander who will be more than happy to feed the big fella. Clarke is an analytical darling, ranking in the 95th percentile of Bigs in points per shot attempt and in the 90th percentile for effective field goal percentage. The 23-year old’s impact of the bench cannot be understated as it relates to the surprising success of the young Grizzlies squad. The former Gonzaga standout is averaging 12 points which he’s converting at a 63% clip from the field while pulling down 6 boards a game and continuously ignites the team with thunderous dunks.
The future is bright as hell, but the present ain’t too bad either!
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[Top Image: AP Photo/ Brandon Dill]