The Memphis Grizzlies would have been hoping for a bigger leap in year two from Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Memphis Grizzlies picked 6’11” Jaren Jackson Jr. with the fourth pick of the 2018 NBA draft. He played a total of 58 games last season, averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks and 1.1 assists per game. This was good enough for Jackson to be named to the All-Rookie team.
This season Jackson has increased all of these numbers, averaging 18.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 assists per game. This shows that there has been progression, but probably not as much as the Grizzlies would have liked. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.
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The first reason Jackson has not increased his production to an expected level is the rookie season being had by Ja Morant. The second pick in the 2019 draft has been balling out. He is averaging 18.0 points, 6.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
He has taken over this team and is leading them so well they are eighth in the Western Conference. He is able to control the flow a game in such a way that the Grizzlies are ahead of schedule in their post grit-‘n’-grind era rebuild.
His style of play is taking to the rim, with 65.5 percent of his shots coming from between zero and 10 feet from the hoop. This means that Jackson, who took 66.0 percent of his shots from zero to 10 feet last season, has had to adjust where he plays on the court.
He has done this really well by becoming a stretch-5. Last season he took 2.4 shot attempts from 3-point land, hitting 35.9 percent of them. This season Jackson is taking 6.5 attempts per game from beyond the arc, making 41.5 percent of them. This is making him an incredible weapon on the floor.
This is one of the reasons Jackson’s rebounding numbers have not risen as expected. His offensive rebounding numbers have actually decreased this season from 1.3 to 1.1 per game. The benefit of his 3-point shot far outweighs this small decrease.
Another reason for the apparent lack of production is the continued solid work from Jonas Valanciunas. Since coming over from the Toronto Raptors, Valanciunas has averaged 16.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 blocks per game.
Right now he is playing some of the best basketball of his career and is the third option behind Morant and Jackson. Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins has found a way to keep the production of two players who play the same position on the court at the same time.
Also, Valanciunas plays very close to the hoop. He is taking 1.5 attempts from deep, which is only 14.4 percent of his 10.6 shot attempts per game. As a result Valanciunas is more likely to collect offensive rebounds, as shown by his average of 2.7 per game.
The other reason Jackson’s numbers have not risen as potentially expected is that his is only averaging 28.2 minutes per game. This is a rise of only 2.1 minutes per game from last seasons 26.1.
Part of the reason for this is Jackson is averaging 4.1 fouls per game. This is up from last season’s 3.8 per game, which means Jackson is having to sit when he could still be actively contributing.
Jackson needs to learn how to defend without fouling, which will allow him to produce numbers which are more expected of his talent. When this happens, his combination with Morant will be a very hard one to stop for the Memphis Grizzlies.