Player Previews Pt. 4: Jamaal Franklin


Earlier this week, we started our player previews, where talk about the probable role and performance of all the players on this new Grizzlies squad. So far, we have parts 1, 2, and 3, on Fab Melo (who’s already gone), Josh Akognon, and Jon Leuer.

So now, we’re thinking about the new rookie — the “grindson” — Jamaal Franklin.

Mar 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Jamaal Franklin (21) is defended by Oklahoma Sooners guard Cameron Clark (21) during the second half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Wells Fargo Center. San Diego State defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 70-55. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Franklin was drafted this year in the second round of the draft, 41st overall, by the Grizzlies. He didn’t play in summer league or in any official Grizzlies capacity due to a minor injury; barring something wildly unexpected, he should be back at full capacity/health.

Picking Jamaal Franklin seemed like a strange move for the Grizzlies, who, more than anything, were really desperate for outside shooting at the time of the draft. Point guard depth, too, wouldn’t have hurt, but the shooting was (and may still be, depending on Mike Miller’s health and Akognon’s play time/usefulness) the main need.

Of course, the Grizzlies were playing the long game, and they recognized that no team who got the Western Conference Finals and who was looking to upgrade was going to give a rookie more than a few minutes of play time, and as such, drafting a low-upside spot-up shooter like James Southerland wouldn’t have been doing them any good if he’s not going to play. I’m sure they thought that the real high-impact shooters would have to be signed in free agency, and the rookies could fill other, smaller holes.

Nonetheless, whether it’s still a desperate need or not, Jamaal Franklin is not a shooter. At the time of the draft, I likened him to Rudy Gay, given Franklin’s poor three-point shooting and his predisposition to bad-long-two-pointers. I figured, too, that the Grizzlies were looking to fill the “create-0ff-the-dribble” hole in the roster.

Now, though, I’ve seen lots of Tony Allen comparisons. Jason Levien referred to Jamaal Franklin as “The Grindson,” presumably hoping that Franklin could turn into the next generation’s Tony Allen.

The Tony Allen comparison is probably more accurate.

The first and most obvious point of comparison there is that Franklin is a stellar defender, to the point where that is probably the highlight of his game, despite his 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists per game stat line. He is a REALLY good defender.

Jamaal Franklin is one of those players whose best attributes is genuinely his athleticism and sheer work ethic. He works hard. He’s got a Kawhi Leonard-esque eye for how offensive rebounds are going to bounce off of the rim, and lanes he can use to secure them. He has the athleticism to then get those rebounds over bigger, more well positioned players.

So, Franklin rebounds really well, but the most important part of that rebounding is how hard he works to secure each one. When you have someone who’s as athletic (and as fast) as Franklin, who has a work ethic and motor like Franklin’s, you inherently have something valuable. If you watch his tape, too, he never stops and celebrates or complains to a ref before running to D up.

Like Rudy Gay, and even Tony Allen, Jamaal Franklin is really good at scoring inside. He has a plethora of really creative moves, and he goes up hard for a dunk basically any time he’s within range, the result being either a switch to a layup or a foul.

What concerns me about Franklin’s strength inside, and basically with his game in general is the tendency to do the exact same move inside, and it’s a hard one.

First, on his way inside, he either Harden-Gathers (as I’ve heard the move called, meaning that he crosses to the inside while still in the process of picking up the dribbleL) or he takes his man to the outside, he passes up the chance for the floater — and admittedly difficult shot — and then he takes a really, really hard layup. See this example:

In college, this was probably a really effective shot. From what I can tell, he made these more often than he didn’t, and when he didn’t, he got fouled. In the NBA? I’m not sold.

He’ll be helped by the fact that he’s biggish for a shooting guard nowadays, 6′ 6”, and he’s not so certain to get demolished on isos — though he’s also turnover prone, a big problem he’ll face against quicker, more wily guards. But if he tries that move on cuts to the basket? Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, Larry Sanders, Roy Hibbert, and hell, even probably an Elton Brand type could stifle that play, easily.

Which, I think, is the cause of his second big problem, and the reason I ever compared Franklin to Rudy Gay in the first place: his tendency to take bad mid-range jumpers.

The good news with Franklin, as opposed to Allen, is that he can at least hit jumpers from the midrange. He has a shot.

Unfortunately, I have the suspicion that Franklin pulls up for these jumpers whenever it’s clear that he isn’t going to beat his defender on the first step. Here’s the problem: he shot 43% on long twos, which is pretty average, but still means that the shot is low-value as opposed to an even low percentage at-the-rim or three-point shot.

My concern is that he shot 43% from midrange in college. In the NBA, he’ll be lucky if he can ever get a mid-range shot from the college mid-range. That basically starts to qualify as in-the-paint.  The college mid-range shot that still qualifies as Mid-range in the NBA is the top of the key, and he shot from below 40% from that far. Very Rudy Gay-esque. He shot below 30% on college 3-pointers, which also qualifies as a mid-range in the NBA.

I’m worried about Franklin’s offense, because he has the tendency to shoot difficult layups already, in the name of drawing the foul, which in the NBA become almost impossible. Then, when he knows he can’t get that shot off, he shoots mid-range jumpers, which are likely to also become much harder in the NBA. He also can’t stretch the floor.

On the bright side, on the occasions that he drives straight in, he does look phenomenal, and his defense is worth the few minutes he’ll earn per game by itself. Plus, he is a pretty decent passer, which may help temper his tendency to pull up for jumpers in NBA games, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The important thing to remember, here, is that between Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, Pondexter, and maybe even Mike Miller, Franklin just is not going to see much playing time, if any. Probably 3-4 minutes at most. Given that he’ll only see that much playing time, being able to play defense at the level he does is probably worth the price of admission.

For more on Jamaal Franklin, here’s his DraftExpress scouting video: