Memphis Grizzlies: Unlocking Jaren Jackson Jr.’s Potential

Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Grizzlies are Marc Gasol’s and Mike Conley’s team but Jaren Jackson Jr. will determine how deep a playoff run they will make this year.

In a loaded 2018 draft class, Memphis Grizzlies have found a gem in Jaren Jackson Jr., who has made his way into the starting lineup without facing serious competition.

Much like the previous versions of the Grit N Grind era Grizzlies lineups, the blueprint of this year’s team is slow-paced basketball and hard-nosed defense.

Yet, the team ranks 23rd in offensive rating this season and its offensive options are limited. Jackson is the best offensive player on the team not named Mike Conley or Marc Gasol.

So far this season, coach J.B. Bickerstaff has utilized his skill set effectively. Acting more as high-end facilitator alongside his star teammates.

The rookie has made 59.7% of his shot attempts from within less than 10 ft of the basket, while 24.0% of his shots have been of the catch-and-shoot variety from beyond the arc.

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In other words, he looks for high-quality shots by allowing his teammates to set him up and avoids team-killing mid-range jumpers.

Nevertheless, his 36-point outing against Brooklyn Nets on November 30 belied his years and flashed a potential that demonstrated how the franchise can challenge the Western Conference behemoths when the playoffs arrive.

The young savior did everything from driving to the basket, blocking shots and racking up boards to knocking down clutch threes.

This stellar performance was a testament to the ability to shoulder a bigger workload going forward and single-handedly win games when his teammates are struggling on the offensive end of the floor.

The numbers suggest the same. The 19-year-old unicorn has a usage rate of 22.5% so far this season.

That number jumps to 24.0% in wins and the Grizzlies are 7-6 when Jaren Jackson Jr. has a USG% below 26, whereas they are 6-3 when his usage exceeds the 26% mark, per Also, they are 9-2 in games when their young starlet sports a net rating.

Jaren Jackson Jr.’s passing and ball-handling ability were pointed out as weaknesses prior to the draft. It is true that the rookie needs to polish certain aspects of his game but he has been ahead of the curve so far this season.

So far in the 2018-19 campaign, The rookie has hit 15-of-25 (60.0%) from the field when he dribbled the ball at least 3 times.

Against the Nets, Jackson got the ball at the top of the key on two occasions and drove to the basket for a bucket while being guarded by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Ed Davis respectively. He also did this drive to the basket against Dallas.

So far as Jackson continues to avoid forcing shots and makes the right decisions, allowing him to handle the ball more, especially in the second unit, will add an additional dimension to Grizzlies offense.

It is now up to coach J.B. Bickerstaff to gradually increase his promising rookie’s minutes and allow him to showcase his offensive arsenal.

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Barring an injury, the franchise appears to be playoff-bound this season and it is crucial to maximizing Jaren Jackson Jr.’s potential before the postseason when the opponents will focus heavily on slowing down Conley and Gasol.