Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr. finally returns to the lineup

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images /

The Memphis Grizzlies have finally got Jaren Jackson Jr. back from injury. He last played on August 3rd in the NBA Bubble where he tore his meniscus muscle in his left knee.

The Grizzlies played 56 games (77 percent of their season) without Jackson, and he returns just in time to help the Grizzlies make a real playoff push.

Memphis sits 8th in the West and will likely be forced into the play-in tournament as one of the higher seeds. The Grizzlies were one of the two teams (the Portland Trail Blazers being the other) who competed in the inaugural play-in last season.

Jackson’s play and health will be essential to the Memphis Grizzlies if they plan to get out of the play-in and break into the top six in the West. So, how did Jaren Jackson Jr. look in his first game back? Let’s find out.

Jaren Jackson Jr. returns to the Memphis Grizzlies just in time for the stretch run

Jaren Jackson Jr. looked like himself in the 12-point loss to the LA Clippers. Jackson played awesome defense, catapulting 3-pointers like a trebuchet and nearly fouling out in 18 minutes.

Starting with the negativities, Jackson didn’t have his legs completely under him just yet, but that is to be expected in just his first game back. There were moments when he was just slow to react compared to his usual standards with passing lanes and shot contests. Jackson also still lacks the size to wrestle against bigger centers like Ivica Zubac in boxouts.

The other issue, which has always been an issue, is fouling. Jonas Valančiūnas missed the game and will be the center this season but for this game, but Jackson was the center when he was on the court and he struggles to stay in control.

As a center, you will frequently get two or three fouls per game defending the post and contesting the rim, but Jackson still commits rookie-level errors when it comes to fouling.

To credit Jackson, he finished the game with four blocks so he’s doing more right than wrong.

Speaking of which…

Jackson comes back to the Memphis Grizzlies after missing more than eight months of basketball, and his defense was immediately felt on the court. And it carried throughout the game despite his foul troubles.

Jackson’s length, basketball IQ, and speed allow him to be one of the most vertical defenders in the NBA, and that was on full display against the Clippers. Jackson is an elite rim protector – his length and quickness allow him to react, and then recover in time for a second attempt to contest the shot.

The second (and more impressive) aspect is his perimeter defense. He can slide his feet like a small forward and has the wingspan of a Monstar, I’m pretty sure he was made in a lab.

So any time he’s switched onto a smaller player he either has enough length to persuade the offensive player to pass, second guess his choice, or panic while driving. This often leads to a turnover or bad shot.

Or, if none of that works, he can swat the ever-living hell out of your shot.

The last thing to mention is his shooting, last season Jackson shot 39 percent from three on 6.5 attempts and it will something to keep an eye on for the rest of the season.

In his return he made one of four attempts, his spacing and gravity as a shooter while standing at seven feet tall is an offensive element coach Taylor Jenkins has not had all season.

In a *very* small sample we saw Ja Morant try to run some pick and pops with Jackson and it proved effective, as Morant had a runway to the rim in the single time they tried it. We’ll see how it goes through the season but I think it may be a go-to play for the Grizzlies come crunch time.

In conclusion, in very limited minutes Jaren Jackson Jr. looked to be himself, and that’s all the Memphis Grizzlies could ask for coming off that injury.

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