The Memphis Grizzlies may be tailing off a bit after initially going a surprising 3-2 during their post-Ja Morant injury days, as they just dropped their second straight loss Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls, but coach Taylor Jenkins is seemingly still rather excited about the progress some of his players are making during such hard times.
Despite best being known for his excellence on the less glamorous side of the ball, throughout this injury-ravaged season star power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. has seen an uptick in both propensity and, in many ways, production within his offensive game.
And while he's already been posting career-high numbers in his scoring average with 21.7 and shot attempts per game with 16.2 on the year, with the recent string of absences from some of the team's core members the big has gone on to see his usage rates and productivity rise even higher and, in Jenkins' eyes, this stretch has provided a great opportunity for him to continue honing his skills.
Grizzlies coach excited about Jaren Jackson Jr.'s new opportunities
"[This opportunity is] huge. I think I was asked about it...before the game. Especially what he did in the Minnesota game, initiating the offense for us. We want anyone to bring it up but obviously our confidence in him, his teammates' confidence in him, I think we discovered playing some pick-and-roll with him to create advantages against a mismatch or him play-making out of that. Obviously, we've had him in the post a lot this season. He's done a great job against single-teams, double-teams, triple-teams at times. This is a great opportunity to expand on his play-making skills out more on the perimeter that's not involving a close out, it involves him just initiating the offense. "- Taylor Jenkins on Jaren Jackson Jr.
Without Morant, Desmond Bane, and Marcus Smart in the lineup, Jackson has been relied upon a lot more as an offensive initiator and overall producer.
Fortunately for the Grizzlies, despite having lost two of their last three outings, he has answered the call and, over his last six games, is posting tremendous averages of 26.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 47.8 percent from the floor.
Hopefully this is a sign to Memphis' coaching staff that Jackson is capable of serving as a reliable tertiary scoring option moving forward and that, once a healthy core comes back on the floor, they can look to run more plays in his direction to help better round out the team's offensive approach.