Grizzlies

Jackson’s Dominant Return Highlights Week in Memphis

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The Grizzlies had themselves a mixed bag of a week.

Regardless, in keeping with the spirit of Turkey Day there were still things for Memphis to be thankful for.

Right at the top of this list was the return of the Block Panther himself, Jaren Jackson Jr. As the Grizzlies defense had been rather middling of late, getting their All-Defensive PF back in action couldn’t have happened sooner.

Apart from that, though, there were several things that could’ve gone better this week for Memphis.

The Good

Trip’s Return

The Grizzlies’ unicorn made his long-awaited return to action against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. His return came somewhat ahead of schedule while recovering from off-season foot surgery.

His first game back wasn’t the sort of dominant performance you would’ve like to have seen from Trip. He finished that game with seven points, six rebounds, and five blocks, all while trying to force his shot at times.

It was far from his best game; on Friday against the Thunder, though, JJJ had the most dominant game of his career.

Trip had a 25 point, 12 rebound double-double with two steals and three blocks to boot. All while shooting 7-16 from the field and 3-6 from deep.

He was the most assertive dude on the floor the entire game. In a game where Memphis needed a spark, the ferocity that Jackson showed on the court was unmatched and very needed.

The Thunder simply had no answer for the Memphis unicorn.

Memphis would end up ruling Trip out for the rematch against the Nets on Sunday just to be cautious.

Lucky for Brooklyn.

The Andre Iguodola Trade

When Memphis traded for Iggy during the summer of 2019, they also acquired the rights to the Golden State Warriors’ first round draft pick in 2024. That pick just also happens to be a top four protected pick.

As of this writing the Warriors are sitting 11th in the West at 8-9.

Look, I get it. It’s early in the season, so it’s easy to say Golden State will turn it around.

They’re still 11th in the West with one of the top five starting lineups in the league.

The fact that Steph Curry is playing out of his mind so far this season (he’s already posting 52.9/44.7/90.3% shooting splits) and the team is still below .500? It’s not hard to see the vibe deteriorating even more.

Even their coach has started calling them out, and that’s on top of also exiling their number two overall pick from a few years ago to the G-League.

If the juju in the Bay doesn’t clear up soon and if the team isn’t able to get contributions from their bench and their young guys, that 2024 first round draft pick will be quite the cherry on top of this deal.

The Magic Konch

As the injuries have piled up, already the Grizzlies have embraced their next man up mentality.

The one player on this team who has been ready every single time his number’s been called?

John Konchar.

Jitty has been money for this team since he was extended this offseason.

He’s also had to step into the starting lineup on more than one occasion already.

It’s been in these moments that Konchar has truly proved his worth.

Take a look at Jitty’s week:

  • 11/15 vs NOLA – 9 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl
  • 11/18 vs OKC – 19 pts, 10 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk
  • 11/20 vs BKN – 16 pts, 9 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl

At this point, he’s almost turning into a walking double double when he gets the start.

Konchar is another hooper who just fits with this team—a homegrown hero who has made the most of every opportunity thrown his way to prove he belongs in this league.

Sounds like the definition of Grit and Grind.

The Bad

The Injury Bug Bites Again

The NBA gods giveth, and they taketh away.

Trip made his return to the lineup just in time for the news to drop that Bane would be making the exodus to the injury report.

The loss of Double-Deuce was felt immediately. Before the injury Bane was averaging 25/5/5 while shooting an absurd 45.1% on 8.5 threes attempted per game.

For comparison there’s only one player in NBA history to average that kind of shooting percentage while still averaging over seven plus threes a game over the course of a season: Steph Curry.

You won’t find yourself in more elite basketball company than that, my friends.

On top of Bane’s toe strain, Morant went went down with an ankle injury Friday night against the Thunder as well.

The injury ended up being a grade 1 ankle sprain, and currently has the all pro guard considered week-to-week, although he was upgraded to Doubtful on the latest report.

With Desmond and Ja helping skyrocket the Grizzlies to ‘Best Backcourt in the League’ status, their returns are all the more imperative if Memphis wish to have a realistic shot at the title this season.

The Grizzlies have withstood injuries to their stars in the past. The jury is still out on if they can do it again.

Free Throws

Dead last.

That’s where Memphis ranks in free throw percentage.

That’s not good, and there’s no sugar-coating it.

For the week the Grizzlies shot 65.6% from the line, with an abysmal 54.8% showing on Sunday against the Nets. Currently Memphis is making 69.8% of their free throws while no other team in the league is making less than 70%.

Through the first two years of Coach Jenkins’ tenure the Grizzlies ranked 19th and 18th in FT%, respectively.

That number plummeted to 28th last season while attempting the seventh-most shots from the line in the league.

This has to change and fast.

Quite frankly, you can’t seriously hope to contend for a title if your team is shooting less than 70% from the line.

Jenkins knows this, so look for this to tighten up in the coming weeks.

Memphis can’t afford to not.

Lack of LaRavia

DNP – Coach’s Decision.

Not really something you like to see next to a first round draft pick, especially one that you traded up to acquire.

Yet that’s where Jake LaRavia found himself at the start of this week.

Does Jake ‘The Snake’ seem a little off since returning from a non-COIVD illness that also sidelined Ja Morant? 

Of course, but he’s a rookie; his conditioning will undoubtedly get better. It doesn’t change the fact that LaRavia was contributing prior to the illness.

Sick or not, on the season he’s averaging 41.9%/38.1%/100% shooting splits on 4.8/3.2/0.4 attempts per game. He’s also averaging 3.6 boards per game on top of not really turning the ball over (0.8/game).

The fit is perfect.

Look at the lineup of Bane/LaRavia/Tyus Jones/Brandon Clarke/Santi Aldama. This lineup ranks in the top three used by Memphis both in games and minutes played.  The net rating of this group is 31.1 which also ranks top 5 in lineup combos that have played more than 4 games together.

That’s a deadly bench mob for the Grizzlies. One where LaRavia provides shooting, length, rebounding, and defense.

One that should be used more often.

Quite frankly it’s puzzling to see that he’s vanished to the fringe of the rotation considering this amount of production early.

Compare him to the Grizzlies other first round pick David Roddy who is averaging 37.1%/25.5%/73.33% shooting splits on 5.7/3.0/0.9 per game averages.

In the Brooklyn game, when Coach was forced to play both rookies real minutes, Jake outplayed Roddy.

As the injuries continue to pile up, these rookies are going to have to play, and it looks like LaRavia is ready for the opportunity.

Jenkins just needs to show faith in LaRavia—the same faith Memphis showed when they drafted the rook.

Overall

Look, could it have been better? Of course.

But it also could’ve been a lot worse.

No one likes to see a star player injured, let alone two in a week. But Memphis is built to withstand this type of storm; they did it last season.

Fans also couldn’t have prayed for a better return from Jaren Jackson Jr. as he erupted in his week back from injury with his unicorn traits on full display.

With Thanksgiving days away, it bears repeating: there is a lot to be thankful for with the Memphis Grizzlies.

CRAVING MORE GRIZZLIES?

Check out last week’s Recap by Nathan Qualls (@MemGrizzHomer), Grizzlies Hitting Stride as Jackson Nears Return. 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 Luke Hatmaker

Luke is based out of Nashville, TN where he lives with his cat, Dr. Alan Grant. In addition to contributing to Grizz Lead, he is one of the hosts of the No Bluffin' Podcast for the Grizz 901 Podcast Network and is also a cast member the RPG Radio Show Podcast.

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