Why Jaren Jackson Jr. Could Dominate The NBA


The term “unicorn” is used to describe a player that has both the size of a big and the skill of a guard.

Unsurprisingly, it is a player that most teams dream to have a chance of obtaining. In the 2018 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies got their shot at drafting and developing a unicorn of their own.

Jaren Jackson Jr. was one of just four players in the Top Six that were 6’10″ or taller and looked to possess those guard skills. However, he was the youngest, and in his lone year at Michigan State under Coach Tom Izzo, Jaren showed flashes early on that he could erase shots one on end and then knock them down from deep on the other.

At the time of the draft, both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were getting older and it seemed that their best years were behind them. Memphis had a choice to make at pick number four.

Do they nab away Trae Young and have a successor at the point guard spot? Or do they look to find an eventual successor for two-time Allstar Marc Gasol and use his final years with the team as a mentor for their incoming lottery pick?

Luckily, they went with the latter, and the basketball gods blessed them the following year to be able to draft Ja Morant, Mike Conley’s eventual successor.

Fast forward to 2022 and Jaren is just wrapping up his fourth season and about to begin a four year, 104 million dollar deal next season. And after the season Jaren was able to put together, that deal is a bargain to say the least.

First of all, Jaren was the team’s most available player all year long, missing just four games last season.

The 7-footer finished the season with averages of 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. He was the NBA’s block leader and an All NBA Defensive 1st Team selection.

Jaren’s three ball suffered a bit this past season, with him only hitting 32% of his threes on five attempts per game. However, he showed flashes of what his game can look like on a winning team by finding other ways to impact the game.

Not only did Jaren play almost every game this season, but he also continued his trend of lowering his fouls per game and was able to play longer stretches. It is still an area of opportunity for him to grow, as 3.5 fouls per game is not ideal, but he is trending in the right direction by dropping his foul rate 0.3 fouls per game each season so far.

Overall this was an impressive season for Jaren Jackson Jr.


As previously mentioned, technically Jaren is about to begin his fifth season in the NBA. But there is an argument to be made that this next season will be his fourth real season.

In Jaren’s second year with the Grizzlies, he immediately was able to show exactly why the Grizzlies valued him with their previous number four pick and why they moved players around to make sure he could reach his full potential. The visions of him and Ja Morant torching the Western Conference for years was so exciting for Grizzlies fans all over.

Unfortunately the pandemic cut the season short, and upon returning in late July/early August, Jaren suffered a meniscus injury that would cause him to miss the majority of the following season.

The 2020-2021 season would go on to start just three days shy of Christmas, and although Jaren was projected to be back just a few weeks later, both Jaren and the Grizzlies front office agreed it would be much more beneficial to play the long game and not rush Jaren back.


Omit the shortened 2020-2021 season and view the upcoming 2022 season as his fourth, and there are some exciting player comparisons that would allow Grizzlies fans to get pumped about what’s possible to come for Jaren this next season.

In year four, NBA champions Draymond Green, Pascal Siakam, and Giannis Antetokounmpo all took leaps to solidify their status as stars in the NBA. They all had different paths but seemingly ended in similar positions.

Athletically, Jaren is superior to all the players listed here except Antetokounmpo.

Skill-wise, he has the tools and potential to be better all-around than all the players listed.

It took these three Allstars (and NBA champions) four years for them to become the stars that fans know and appreciate today.


First up: Pascal Siakam

Siakam seemed the most unlikely of this bunch to become an NBA Allstar and Champion.

His rookie year, Siakam spent a lot of time with Toronto’s G-League affiliate, Raptors 905, where he led that G-League team to a championship in his first season. By his third season, Siakam was a solid contributor on a championship team led by Kawhi Leonard.

However, he was able to solidify himself as a true star in the NBA going into his fourth year, with averages of almost 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists after Leonard’s departure.


Draymond Green came into the NBA as a player that was prototypical guard/forward size, but he lacked the ball skills that most top ball dominant guards/forwards possess. He wasn’t a knock down shooter, either.

However, early in his career he earned his minutes by hustling and igniting runs that helped a young Warriors team squeeze out wins.

Over his first four years, Green’s averages went from 2.9 points per game in year one, to 6.2 points per game in year two, to 11.7 points per game in year three, and topped out at 14 points per game in Green’s fourth year.

An interesting fact that Siakam and Green share is that they both were significant contributors in championship runs in their third year.


Last but not least is the Greek Freak — Mr. Giannis Antetokounmpo himself.

Jaren is quite often linked in comparisons to Giannis because of their defensive capabilities and the ability to play out on the perimeter at that size. They both also started their careers with tall, thin frames, but they have continued to fill in those frames without compromising their talent on the basketball court.

The difference between Giannis and these three players is that from the rip he was deemed a project by the Milwaukee Bucks. They knew it would take time for him to develop.

But it was impossible to foresee him being the dominant, top three player in the world that he is today.

But he worked on it— Day by day, year by year.

Giannis got decent playing time as a rookie and even started his sophomore year. You could see the tools start to come about, but his shot was horrendous. His percentage from behind the three-point line that year was an abysmal 15.9%. And although he was never drafted to be a knockdown shooter in the first place, you could tell Antetokounmpo took this personally.

His third year averages jumped to 17 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. The Bucks were clearly looking to turn the keys over to Giannis at this point, and after an impressive third year he exploded.

By year four, Antetokounmpo became a household name and was dominating his opponents night in and night out. He ended that year with averages of 23 points, 5.4 assists, and 8.8 rebounds per game. From that point on, Giannis began to cement himself as a universal superstar and eventually led his team to a NBA championship, grabbing himself a Finals MVP trophy in the process.


Simply put, if you stack Siakam, Green, and Antetokounmpo’s per 36 minutes stats of their third year to Jaren’s theoretical third year, he is the superior player statically at that point. His per 36 averages were 21.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and three blocks per game.

The numbers don’t lie here.

Jaren Jackson Jr. has the tools, the talent, and the athletic ability to become one of the most dominant seven footers in the NBA. But there are three things that could lead to this being sooner than later. These three key improvements have the potential to put Jaren in the conversation for being a Top 5 player at the Power Forward position.


There is no way around the fact that for Jaren to be productive as he truly can be that it will require for his minutes to increase significantly. His career average for minutes is 27.1. There is not one top player in the NBA that averages less than 30 minutes per game, and for Jaren to reach his full potential and productivity, one would imagine he would need to hover around the 32-34 minute per game mark throughout the regular season and playoffs alike.


Excluding the 2020-2021 season where he only played 11 games, Jaren had his worst season yet from behind the three-point line last year, only hitting 31.9% on 5.1 attempts per game. Improving on his low post game will allow Jaren to get going early and make him virtually impossible to guard when his three ball is falling as it has for the majority of his career.

He showed flashes of this his rookie year and even reverted back to it a lot in the second round series against the Golden State Warriors. There aren’t many players in the NBA that can matchup size-wise with Jaren, and he should most definitely look for ways to take advantage of this more often than not.


Sometimes it can be both a gift and curse having a generational talent on your team such as Ja Morant. There are many points in the game where his teammates will almost get caught up with watching his greatness on the floor or simply reverting back to the infamous Ja-Go-Get-A-Bucket “play.”

Jaren falls victim to this, as well. Although he may be rehabbing a injury this off-season, both he and Coach Taylor Jenkins should work together to create more plays and opportunities for Jaren to get going early and stay fully involved throughout the game.

This will increase not only Jaren’s offensive impact, but it would undoubtedly energize him even more on the defensive end. That can be terrifying for the NBA seeing as Jaren already was in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation last season.

This next season is a major one for the Memphis Grizzlies, but it’s even more imperative that Jaren Jackson Jr. further cements himself as a cornerstone of the franchise. With a core of Jaren, Ja Morant, and Desmond Bane, the Grizzlies should be competing for an NBA title for years to come — especially since this core is all 24 years of age or younger.

However, for them to do so, Jaren’s theoretical fourth season will be paramount to set the stage towards what all of Grizz Nation hopes is the birth of the NBA’s next exciting dynasty.

Craving More Grizzlies?

Check out last week’s Deep Dive Piece on Dillon Brooks by Nathan Qualls (@MemGrizzHomer), The Good, The Bad and The Brooks: How Dillon The Villain Fits in Memphis. 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 Chris Ingram

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