Grizzlies

Bane’s Work In The Dark Leading To Bright Future

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Prior to the era of GrizzNxtGen, Memphis Grizzlies’ basketball was synonymous with physicality.

Players like Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol exemplified the “Grit and Grind” style of play for Memphis during the Core Four years. Fans were accustomed to low-scoring, defensive battles that were won in the trenches by rough, sandpaper-esque efforts from the Grizzlies.

But when the last player of that Core Four was traded away in 2018, the Grizzlies ushered in a new era. The acquisitions of Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke from the draft saw the dynamic of the team shift to a flashy, high-octane style of basketball that still retained that edge of physical toughness.

The Core Four’s gameplan was to out-strength the other team and suffocate them defensively. But with GrizzNxtGen, Memphis became a team that played with swagger and confidence, and they certainly wouldn’t let you forget that, either. While Ja Morant‘s fearless style was evident from his rookie year, an unlikely character came through with a tenacity and irreverence matching Morant’s this past season: Desmond Bane.

“Bane-Go!”

The selection of Desmond Bane in the 2020 Draft was one of many impressive moves by Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman and his front office.

In his rookie year, Bane averaged 9.2 points per game, shot the three ball at a 43.2% clip, and made 117 threes over the course of the season. With very solid production in just his first season, the Grizzlies and many others felt as if Bane was the steal of the draft.

Then came the 2021 Summer League which focused on Bane developing other aspects of his game. While he only played in four games between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, Bane averaged 21.5 points on 50% shooting from three and 47% from the field.

The emphasis, however, was on Bane’s on-ball abilities; he ran the point during Summer League. The “sophomore slump” is always a fear for anyone entering their second season. Brandon Clarke fell victim to it in his second year, as he tried to expand his game to the point he no longer looked confident doing what he was originally great at.

Would there be a sophomore slump for Bane as he, too, tried to expand his skillset?

Once the regular season came around, that seemed like a ridiculous question, as he took an astounding leap from his rookie year.

The Leap

Both for Bane and Memphis, this was a delightful development that not many outside or even inside the organization expected.

Bane averaged 18.2 points a game, doubling his efforts from the previous season while still shooting 46.1% from the field. He excelled again at shooting the three ball, but what really impressed fans was his progress playing off the dribble.

Bane continued to improve upon this throughout the season. Whether it was driving to the basket, getting to the midrange or creating for his teammates, his on-ball improvement opened up the game for both him and the rest of the team.

In 2021-22, Bane’s three point attempts nearly doubled, too. In his rookie season, Bane averaged 4.0 three point attempts per game and made them at a 43.2% clip. Last season, he shot 6.9 threes per contest while improving his efficiency, making 43.6% of his attempts.

Having someone that can fill it up from three efficiently and with volume is a luxury the Grizzlies have seldom experienced. Yet, that still isn’t what was most impressive about Desmond Bane last season.

The ability to make the three in a variety of ways like Bane can tends to open up the floor a bit. With that in mind, he more than doubled his two-point attempts from his rookie season to last year, from 3.4 to 7.6. In fact, he shot more two’s than three’s last year, something he did not do in his rookie campaign. While shooting the three ball will always be Bane’s bread and butter, the midrange improvement will ultimately open up his game.

“Them Footsteps Ain’t Scaring Nobody”

This quote exemplifies GrizzNxtGen. This team doesn’t care who you are, and they’re going to go straight at you. Bane is no different, as shown by him saying this directly to Lebron himself.

Much like his performance, this came as a surprise to many Grizz fans, including myself. In his rookie year, Des was stoic to say the least. He went about his business without showing a ton of emotion and that was it.

Sharing a locker room with guys like Ja and Jaren must’ve rubbed off on him, though. His aforementioned stats showed his improvement purely in his play.

But from a mental and intangible perspective, he came into his own on this team, too.

This wasn’t Bane’s only dust-up with an opponent last season, as he had a run-in with Julius Randle in New York and even a sideline spat with Chris Finch during the playoffs.

After a rookie year of relative quietness, Bane’s game exploded both in production and swagger, and that swagger is a huge reason he will be a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

So What’s Nxt?

Bane helped shoulder the load last season, much to the delight of Taylor Jenkins. But with Dillon Brooks being healthy again and presumably taking shots away from Bane, will this affect his production?

Most likely the answer is yes.

But the team will be better for it. He will still get to his looks, provide points whenever needed and average close to, but maybe not as many, points per game.

Since stepping foot in Memphis, Bane’s game overall has grown from just being a three-point marksman. Coincidentally, that progress is partially due to the fact that he is an outstanding shooter.

While some consider the mid-range shot to be a dying breed due to its lack of efficiency, it can still be a useful tool in a player’s arsenal.

Particularly for a player like Desmond Bane.

In his rookie year, Bane shot just 26% of his shots from midrange. Compared with his percentage of perimeter shots that year (54%), it wasn’t exactly his bread and butter.

However, he raised that percentage from 26% to 35% last year, a sizeable increase.

If there is one thing that Bane could improve on, it would be to hit that shot consistently. Not that he has to become a midrange maestro by any means, but enough to make the defender have it in his head when closing out.

With this, the entire floor will open up. Adding this to his already elite shooting and budding off-the-dribble offense, he would become a nightmare for defenders (as if he wasn’t already).

Look for Bane to add some midrange wrinkles to his game for the upcoming season. And in the meantime, enjoy 20 seconds of long-range mastery, and dream of the possibilities with Bane in Beale Street Blue.

Craving More Grizzlies?

Check out last week’s Deep Dive Piece on Steven Adams by Chris Ingram (@chriman_), Adams’ Selfless Style Thriving with GrizzNextGen. And be sure to check out the Grizz 901 Podcast, where the Grizz Lead guys get on to discuss these Deep Dive players and much, much more!

About Ian Sparks

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