Grizzlies

Jackson and Brooks Finding Their Ideal Roles for Memphis

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The Memphis Grizzlies hit a rough patch when Desmond Bane went down with a toe injury, losing four of five games.

Jaren Jackson Jr. returned to the lineup right went Bane went out, but it was always going to be tough to replace one of the best shooting guards in the league this season. So, they had a rough few games as they adjusted to Bane’s exit and Jaren’s return.

Luckily for Grizz fans, this team is able to adapt quickly, and they responded with two impressive wins against the New Orleans Pelicans and New York Knicks. There were ups and downs, but the positives far outweighed the negatives for Memphis in the past week.

The Bad

Free throws.

An unfortunate constant thorn for Memphis teams (Tigers fans know all too well), the Grizzlies continue to struggle at the charity stripe. They shot 69.7% from the line over the past three games, which is just below their season average of 69.9%.

Steven Adams is certainly killing the team average, as he has shot the second-most free throws on the team and is shooting an abysmal 27.9%.

But even aside from Adams, only Bane is shooting above even 80% from the line (among players with at least 15 attempts). Dillon Brooks, Morant and Jackson are all hovering around 75%, with Tyus Jones shooting 65%. Memphis’ shooters have to be more reliable from the line, or they will experience the same heartbreak they had against the Kings this week.

The Good

Ja Morant

Morant had to step up with Bane out, and in the past three matchups he delivered in every facet of the game. He averaged 28.0 PTS, 10.3 AST and 7.0 REB while shooting 50.9% from the field.

Despite the missed free throws, Ja was the reason Memphis had a chance against the Kings, and his late game heroics lifted them past the Knicks.

Most encouraging is that Ja has elevated his play in Bane’s absence by making his teammates better, not just his own play. While he is carrying the scoring load, his increase in assists has been the biggest factor in his play. The Grizzlies needed to spread Bane’s production across the roster, and Morant’s playmaking has made that easier for them.

But someone else is making playmaking easier for Morant, as well.

Dillon Brooks

Dillon always inspires emotion in Grizz fans, whether it be positive or negative.

But while his shooting was off against the Kings, Dillon’s last three games have been almost entirely positive for Memphis. He averaged 20.7 PTS and 4.0 REB on 46.8% shooting and 36.8% shooting from three over his past three games.

The scoring and efficiency is great, but what about Dillon’s notorious ball-stopping?

Well, turns out he actually is buying into a team-player role, as he averaged 4.3 AST, as well.

Brooks has always provided an undeniable energy and defensive presence for Memphis. The only real downside to his game has been that he gets tunnel-vision with the ball and kills the flow of the offense. But if he can continue to dish out assists and play within his role on the team, then he will have a lot more complete games like he had against the Knicks, and the Grizzlies will be even more dangerous.

The Great

Jaren Jackson Jr. is meeting his potential.

That is an admitted jump of the gun after only five games, and Jackson will need to string together a consistent season. But so far he is playing to his potential at both ends of the court, and it has the Grizzlies looking dangerous.

Over the past three games, he is averaging 21.0 PTS and 4.0 stocks (steals+blocks) per game on 55% shooting and 37.5% shooting from three. And although there have been plenty of great things from Trip’s play, there are two main things that bode especially well for Memphis moving forward.

Shot Selection

Jaren’s ability to shoot the three and space the floor has always been a major factor for the Grizzlies. But his inability to be consistently effective inside the arc restricted both him and the team.

Jaren has no intentions of letting that continue. He is taking 60% of his shots inside the arc so far, and he has been punishing defenses for placing smaller defenders on him. He has used his athleticism to take defenders off the dribble, and he has used his size to simply overpower defenders on his way to the cup.

Jaren’s three point shooting is encouraging and will hopefully continue to trend in the right direction. But his ability to dominate the paint will provide another dimension to Memphis’ offense, and they will be one step closer to their peak.

Discipline

Jaren’s defense was obviously his calling card last season, and he will continue to be the anchor for Memphis moving forward. But he can’t be the anchor if he isn’t on the court. He has averaged 3.7 fouls per game in his career, and he has constantly been taken off the court due to foul trouble.

So far this season, though, Jaren is only averaging 2.6 fouls per game, and the main hindrance to his minutes has been his injury restriction. He has been much more disciplined on both ends of the court, and he has shown better control of his body on defense, especially.

While five games is too few to make a real assessment, there was one moment that really stood out regarding his foul trouble.

Against the Pelicans, Jaren got a brutal whistle early, picking up his second foul with 27.8 seconds left in the first quarter and his third with 9:44 left in the second. In the past, this would have completely taken Trip out of his rhythm, and he would have continued to foul and play out of control.

Instead, he maintained his composure and had a great second half, accounting for 17 points, three rebounds and two blocks. But the best part: he only recorded one more foul in the entire second half.

While the points, blocks and rebounds will steal the show when it comes to Trip, his defensive discipline will allow him to accomplish all of it. The best ability is availability, and Jaren may be on the cusp of mastering that.

On Deck

The Grizz come into this week on a roll, and they have a great chance to keep that going. They face a Minnesota Timberwolves team without Karl-Anthony Towns on Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Friday and the Detroit Pistons on the road Sunday. While any team in the league can go off on a night, the only real challenge should be Philadelphia.

And if Morant, Jackson and Brooks can keep playing like this, then next week’s recap will have a lot more positives to harp on.

CRAVING MORE GRIZZLIES?

Check out last week’s Recap by Luke Hatmaker (@luketeno), Jackson’s Dominant Return Highlights Week in Memphis. And be sure to check out the Grizz 901 Podcast, where the Grizz Lead guys get on to discuss the most recent games and much, much more!

About Nathan Qualls

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