Grizzlies Jaren Jackson Jr makes DPOY case in win over Hawks

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr.-Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr.-Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr has been a defensive marvel all season but has been falling behind Bucks center Brook Lopez in the DPOY race. Here is why his most recent game should help him make up some ground, and why he should be the DPOY.

The Grizzlies defeated the Hawks in a close 123-119 victory in Atlanta, making it six wins in a row and gives them a 9-1 record in their last 10 games. A big part of their success has been the play of All-Star forward Jaren Jackson Jr. The month of March has been one of his most productive ever, averaging 21.9 points and 6.7 rebounds to go along with over two blocks and a steal a game. He really stepped up his scoring while Ja Morant was away from the team, with five games of 25 or more over his last 10 games. That is the same amount he had all season prior to that 10-game burst.

As encouraging as it was to see him up his usage as a scorer, it is still his defense that made him an All-Star this season. He put his abilities on display in a huge way against the Hawks, compiling three steals and five blocks, including this monstrous denial of a John Collins dunk attempt.

His rim protection and ability as a help defender have made the Grizzlies one of the toughest teams to score on in the paint. They are fifth in points per game allowed in the paint, according to Despite the NBA becoming an increasingly perimeter-centric league, the ability to deny easy baskets in the paint is still valuable. Enough about the Grizzlies as a team, let’s talk about why Jackson Jr should be the front-runner for DPOY.

Grizzlies Jackson Jr’s athleticism gives him the edge over Brook Lopez

Most NBA fans would agree that it’s a two-horse race for DPOY at this point. Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez has surged ahead in the race thanks to his team’s dominance since the All-Star break, and his own impressive play of course. Jaren Jackson Jr has had to deal with all the distractions caused by Ja Morant’s situation and an increased role on offense, and his block numbers have declined in recent weeks because of it. Despite all that, he should still be the favorite.

This is nothing against Brook Lopez, as he has become an unbelievable defensive player late in his career. However, he doesn’t have the same type of role that Jackson Jr has as his team’s only true interior defender. The Bucks have Giannis, Portis, and Lopez himself who can all handle themselves at the rim and the restricted area. With Steven Adams out, the Grizzlies don’t have any other true paint defenders. Lopez also has more perimeter defenders around him than Jackson Jr does, making it easier for him to focus on the paint.

Jaren has Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane, but he still is asked to switch onto guards and hold his own. Luckily, he is a freak athlete who can recover using his quickness and length even if he gets beat off the dribble. His versatility and ability to roam and help whoever needs it are so valuable to the Grizzlies. Both Brook Lopez and Jaren Jackson Jr are worthy of the award. It seems likely it will end up in Lopez’s hands, but Jackson Jr is even more deserving of the honor.