A confident Jaren Jackson Jr. is finding success just two games into the new season, which should soon force the Memphis Grizzlies to start him.
The initial plan was to slowly integrate rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. into the Memphis Grizzlies‘ lineup. The fourth overall Draft pick had definitely earned a role within a short frontcourt rotation, but the idea was not to be in a rush to develop the Michigan State product.
Even after a 29-point statement performance in Summer League action, this was the organization’s plan. Veteran big man JaMychal Green is a formidable starter at the power forward, alongside center Marc Gasol, so this decision made sense in some ways.
Along came training camp and the five-game preseason schedule in which Jackson Jr. performed exceptionally well. Though the NBA rookie was named the starter once within five seemingly meaningless (record-wise) games, Grizzlies fans immediately began to appreciate the 19-year-old. He may be defensive-minded, but his game encompasses skills from all facets of basketball.
The Memphis Grizzlies opened their season this past Wednesday on the road. Prior to Jaren Jackson Jr.’s regular season debut, his Grizzly teammates were offering high praise for what they had seen in a short amount of time.
As far as being an NBA Rookie of the Year candidate, Grizzlies guard/forward Dillon Brooks said “for sure” about Jackson Jr. “He’s versatile. He plays hard. He loves the game of basketball. He’s unselfish and gets his teammates involved,” Brooks described of Jaren’s skill set.
Dillon Brooks, an NBA sophomore, is not the only one that enjoys watching Jaren Jackson Jr develop on the court. The club’s veterans are also envious of the first-year stud.
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“J.J. will have a great impact on our team, we’re really happy with him,” stated Marc Gasol, who is in his 11th season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
For Jaren, it has to be a major boost to his confidence in having the trust and support of his teammates from the very start of the season. Keep in mind that “Triple-J” would be a sophomore in college had he remained at Michigan State for another year.
Memphis would go on to lose in Wednesday’s meeting with the Indiana Pacers. However, Friday’s home-opener versus the Atlanta Hawks was the dawn of a new day. The slate was wiped clean in what was a polar opposite showing by the Grizzlies.
In the first half, JaMychal Green — who was already ailing from soreness in his left knee — went down after taking an Atlanta player’s elbow to the face. He would not return to Friday’s action, which opened up a greater opportunity for Jaren Jackson Jr.
As a result, Jaren played 28 minutes in the home victory while providing a production line of 24 points (8/12 shooting), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. The Memphis Grizzlies dominated throughout, ending the game with a final score of 117-131.
Now Memphis stands at 1-1 on the new season. Though Jaren Jackson Jr. has been solid in instances of being a frontcourt reserve, the question now becomes “when will the rookie become a piece of the starting lineup?”
With Green’s injury, it remains to be seen if he will be sidelined. Regardless, last night’s stellar showing by Jackson Jr. certainly will have the Grizzlies’ coaching staff mulling their options on how to integrate No. 13 into their starting lineup.
Though Jaren’s rise to fame could have been somewhat predictable, this is a lot sooner than expected. Assuming he breaks into a greater role and receives starter’s minutes sometime soon, his odds at winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award could potentially skyrocket.
Though that opens an entirely different conversation, this demonstrates the Memphis Grizzlies being in excellent hands — both now and in the franchise’s future. Wednesday had Grizz Nation panicking, but Friday reassured everyone that the Grizzlies will be something to watch closely throughout the 2018-19 season.