Jaren Jackson Jr.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Anderson, Brooks, Jackson

Taking into account both regular season games and postseason contests, the Grizzlies now have a 21-6 record without Ja Morant this season, and that mark may actually understate how well they’ve played without their All-Star point guard, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Sixteen of those 21 wins have been by double-digits, including a 73-point rout of Oklahoma City in December.

The Grizzlies’ depth is one reason why they’ve been so effective when Morant has been unavailable, and the point guard’s subpar defensive numbers are another, Hollinger observes. The Grizzlies gave up more points per possession with Morant on the court than with any other single player on the court this season.

However, digging further into the data, Hollinger unearths several more interesting details, including Dillon Brooks‘ positive impact on the Grizzlies (especially defensively) and how infrequently he and Morant played together this season. The Grizzlies’ performance with and without Morant has also been skewed by their opponents’ shooting luck, which is one reason why Hollinger, unsurprisingly, concludes the team isn’t actually better off without the 22-year-old.

Interestingly, Hollinger’s data shows that the Grizzlies have actually played well with no true point guard on the court, with Kyle Anderson serving as the primary ball-handler. Hollinger suggests that could be a factor in how the team approaches Anderson’s and Tyus Jones‘ free agencies this summer.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • As expected, Morant has been officially ruled out of Friday’s Game 6 vs. Golden State due to the bone bruise in his right knee, per the Grizzlies (Twitter link). Santi Aldama (right knee soreness) and Killian Tillie (lower back procedure recovery) also remain sidelined.
  • After a 5-of-19 shooting performance with four turnovers in Game 4, Dillon Brooks bounced back in Game 5. Although he had just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, Brooks didn’t turn the ball over and was an eye-popping plus-38 in just 24 minutes. He suggested after the game that there’s still room for improvement. “I’m my worst critic. I know I’m playing like trash,” Brooks said, per ClutchPoints (video link). “I know I’m not shooting the three well, but I’m trying to do all the little things.”
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., who bested Brooks with a plus-42 mark in just 25 minutes on Wednesday, is realizing how dominant he can be at just the right time, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He’s the key,” Brooks said of Jackson. “They’ve got no one to guard him. No one to stop him. He needs to keep demanding the ball and the Warriors are going to have to adjust and double-team him soon. He’s going to have to learn how to pass the ball out to get his teammates shots. That’s what he needs to do. I try to tell him to stay aggressive, and you’re a walking mismatch out there for every single player that guards you, so just keep attacking.”
  • Although the Grizzlies will be playing on the road and missing their best player, Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal isn’t convinced the team’s season will come to an end on Friday in Golden State.
  • In case you missed it, Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year on Thursday.

Southwest Notes: Tillman, Jackson Jr., Bane, Alvarado, Ivey

As Michigan State graduates, the Grizzlies’ Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. have a tight bond with the Warriors’ Draymond Green, but those feelings are put on hold during the playoffs, writes Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Green and Jackson have sniped at each other through the first two games of their series, and Tillman hit Green in the eye with an elbow as they chased a loose ball, causing him to need stitches.

“They’re going to try to take your head off. I’m going to try to take their head off. That’s just the reality of it,” Green said. “You’re competing for something that you put your heart into … you dedicate a lot of time to this, you sacrifice a lot of things for this. So ultimately, they stand in the way of what I want, I stand in the way of what they want.”

Tillman and Jackson both view Green as a mentor, Barnes adds. Spartans coach Tom Izzo frequently compared Tillman to Green when he was in college, and Tillman incorporated aspects of Green’s game into his own.

“I’ve watched his career every step of the way, trying to figure out how I can mold mine like his and stay in this league for a long time and be productive on the things I’m most comfortable at,” Tillman said.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane, who was listed as questionable before Game 2 because of back soreness, is feeling better, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. “I don’t think he’s at full strength like he was in the regular season, but he’s the ultimate competitor,” coach Taylor Jenkins said.
  • Coming off an impressive playoff performance, Pelicans rookie Jose Alvarado announced this week that he wants to eventually win Defensive Player of the Year honors. “One day I’m going win DPOY,” he tweeted Thursday. “Mark my word!”
  • Purdue’s Jaden Ivey may be the most talented guard in the draft, but he might be an awkward fit with the Rockets, who already have Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green in their backcourt, observes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. If Houston ends up taking Ivey, who is consistently projected as a top four pick, Iko believes Porter would move from lead guard to playmaking forward, which was his original position when he entered the NBA.

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Jenkins, Jackson, Clarke

Grizzlies star Ja Morant admitted Saturday that he hasn’t fully recovered from the right knee soreness that forced him to miss nine games late in the season, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Morant returned for one game at the end of the regular season, then went straight into the playoffs. He has worn a bandage on the knee in each game since he has been back.

Memphis may need the best version of Morant to escape a tight series with the Timberwolves that is now tied at 2-2. He averaged 27.4 points per game during the regular season, but Minnesota has limited him to 20.5 PPG through the first four games of the first round, using multiple defenders to block his path to the basket.

“I can be honest right now,” Morant said. “I’m not Ja right now. I’m not playing above the rim. Most of the times when I go to the rack, I’m getting bumps. I just got to worry about finishing the bucket instead of worrying about the guys with stripes on.”

There’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • Coach Taylor Jenkins didn’t hold back his criticism of the officials after Saturday’s loss, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Wolves shot 40 free throws as all five Memphis starters collected at least four fouls. “I’ve never seen a more inconsistent, arrogant officiated game,” Jenkins said. “So, I’ll take whatever hit is coming my way, protect our guys. We know we’ve gotta get better. But from the get-go, it was foul, foul, foul, foul, foul. Inconsistency. There was actually one play where a foul whistle was blown before contact was even made. It’s embarrassing.”
  • The Grizzlies’ problems go far beyond the officiating, according to Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Among them is a disappointing performance from Jaren Jackson Jr., who is misfiring from three-point range and hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in any game this series. “He still has a bunch of time to come out and play well,” Brandon Clarke said. “Jaren knows the player that he is. We all know who he is.”
  • Nekias Duncan of Basketball News looks at the challenges that the Morant-Clarke pick-and-roll creates for Minnesota’s defense.

And-Ones: Jerebko, Canaan, China, Teammate Award, Future Rankings

While some former NBA players have left Russian teams following the invasion into Ukraine, Jonas Jerebko is resuming his career there. The ex-NBA big man signed with CSKA Moscow, the team tweets. That didn’t sit well with the Swedish National Team, who suspended him, according to Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops.net“Unfortunately, we are forced to state that there are no conditions for Jonas Jerebko to play for the Sweden basketball national team,” a Swedish Basketball Federation press release stated in part. Jerebko played for four NBA teams.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Another Russian team, Unics Kazan, has mutually parted ways with guard Isaiah Canaan, according to a EuroHoops.net story. Canaan is joining Turkey’s Galatasaray, EuroHoops tweets. Canaan appeared in 235 NBA games, most recently during the 2018/19 campaign.
  • Chinese TV has resumed broadcasts of NBA games, Sopan Deb of the New York Times reports. China had boycotted NBA broadcasts since 2019, when former Houston executive Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. China Central Television, its state-run TV network, broadcasted Tuesday night’s matchup between the Clippers and Jazz, which kicked off a full return of the league to China’s airwaves.
  • The 12 finalists for the league’s Teammate of the Year award have been announced, the NBA announced (via Twitter). DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green , Udonis Haslem, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jaren Jackson Jr., Kevin Love, Boban Marjanovic, Chris Paul, Fred VanVleet and Grant Williams are the contenders. The annual honor recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.
  • The Grizzlies top the list on ESPN’s Future Power Rankings, according to Kevin Pelton, Bobby Marks, Andre’ Snellings, and Tim Bontemps (Insider link). They’re followed by the Heat and Suns. The Kings sit at the bottom of the pile.

Grizzlies Notes: Jackson Jr., Bane, Contender, Morant

In an appearance on ESPN’s NBA Countdown prior to Wednesday’s game against Brooklyn (video link), Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. said he believes he should win the Defensive Player of the Year award this season. Jackson leads the league in blocked shots per game with 2.2; he also averages 1.0 SPG and 5.9 RPG in 27.3 MPG.

Of course I think I’m Defensive Player of the Year,” Jackson said. “I just think what I’m able to do, I mean the blocks are cool, but you get blocks from contesting shots. I’m able to do a lot more than most people who get a lot of blocks. I’m able to switch out on guards, I’m able to talk.

You’ve gotta be a quarterback on defense and I think that’s what people miss. It’s a mind game. You’re really playing chess. I think Draymond [Green] might have said that one time, you’re playing chess with the offensive team coming down. So, I’m just able to read and I’m able to use my length to my advantage when I can.”

After appearing in just 11 games last season as he recovered from a torn meniscus, Jackson has played a career-high 72 contests to this point, only missing one game for the 50-23 Grizzlies.

Here’s more from Memphis:

  • With his fifth three-pointer in Wednesday’s 132-120 win over the Nets, Desmond Bane broke Mike Miller‘s single-season franchise record for threes made, the team announced (via Twitter). Bane finished the game 8-of-17 from the field, including 6-of-10 from deep, for a total of 23 points. He also chipped in four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and was plus-20 in 32 minutes of action. Bane has now converted 204 three-pointers this season.
  • The Grizzlies are way ahead of schedule in their rebuild, according to Tim MacMahon and Kevin Pelton of ESPN. Many expected the Grizzlies to be in the mix for the play-in tournament again after making their way to the No. 8 seed last season, but they’ve made a major leap and currently hold the second-best record in the NBA, only trailing the 59-14 Suns.
  • Nets star Kevin Durant thinks Ja Morant is bound for Springfield (Massachusetts) when his career is finished, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. “When you got a future Hall of Famer at the head of the snake, it just makes everybody better,” Durant said on Monday. “He’s a combination of players, I feel. I think the greatest players in our game can transform into anybody at any given point. And I think Ja’s on the way to that. When he’s playing, I see like two or three, four different Hall of Famers in his game. From [Allen] Iverson, to he might make a [Michael] Jordan-like layup, or he might run down the court like a [Russell] Westbrook or a [Derrick Rose].”
  • In case you missed it, Morant underwent an MRI and X-ray on his sore right knee on Wednesday.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Powell, Jackson Jr., Wright

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic picked up his 14th technical foul of the season on Wednesday against the Knicks, a decision that won’t be overturned, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets.

The league office previously rescinded Doncic’s technical foul against the Warriors on Feb. 27, but his most recent one will stand. Doncic is now officially two technical fouls away from a one-game suspension, according to league rules. That count will reset once the postseason begins.

The Mavericks (41-26) rank fifth in the Western Conference standings and have 15 games left on the season. The team lost to New York 107-77 at home, shooting a dismal 6-of-44 from behind-the-arc (14%), but it bounced back to defeat Houston 113-100 on Friday and Boston 95-92 on Sunday.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest:

  • The Mavericks are enamored with Dwight Powell‘s physical approach to the game, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News notes. Powell doesn’t score many points per game (8.0), but his toughness and durability on both ends have been vital. He’s started in 56 of his 67 games this season.
  • Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commerical Appeal explores why the Grizzlies’ championship odds may be determined by their second-best player. Starting point guard Ja Morant has put forth an MVP-caliber season, but Memphis will need production from Jaren Jackson Jr. to make a deep playoff run. Jackson has emerged as a versatile defender for the Grizzlies, averaging 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and a career-high 2.2 blocks per game.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic hosts a Q&A with Spurs general manager Brian Wright, who’s helping the team usher into a new era of basketball. Wright was named general manager at 36 years old in 2019. He discussed his tenure with the team, Gregg Popovich and more in the brief interview.

Grizzlies Notes: Jackson Jr., Bane, Brooks, Defense

The Grizzlies, 15-11, have won six of their past seven games and have been anchored by Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s strong two-way play in Ja Morant‘s absence. Jackson is averaging 21 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks on .510/.413/.750 shooting in the seven contests (28.7 MPG). Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes that it’s been a strange road recently without Morant, but the Grizzlies are thriving with their star player unavailable. Jackson gave a simple, quirky answer on what has led to his strong play.

I’m just working on my reps, day in and day out, like staying on myself and not taking anything for granted, and drinking a lot more water,” Jackson said Thursday night after the Grizzlies’ latest win, a 108-95 victory over the Lakers. “Basically a combo of those two things, just work and water.”

You just got to keep drinking water,” Jackson insisted. “And then we go home and get a good meal and drink some water. You know? It just tastes good.”

Vardon adds that starting wings Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane have also played key roles during the 6-1 stretch (Brooks is now sidelined due to health and safety protocols).

Here’s more from Memphis:

  • Bane, the 30th overall pick of the 2020 draft, has emerged as an early candidate for the Most Improved Player award. John Hollinger of The Athletic writes that Bane was lightly recruited out of high school and accepted his lone major scholarship offer from TCU. Bane was forced into a play-making role his senior year in college and thrived. “I needed that experience,” Bane said, per Hollinger. “My first three years I was really a 3-and-D guy, just space the floor, run the floor, offensive rebound and play hard. I needed to add that skill to my game, to show NBA teams that I could attack closeouts and make plays for other people when teams started running me off the (3-point) line.” In 26 games this season (29.0 MPG), Bane is averaging 16.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 2.1 APG with a stellar shooting slash line of .467/.402/.914.
  • Brooks was fined $25K for “aggressively confronting a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner” after he was ejected in Wednesday’s loss to Dallas, the NBA announced (Twitter link).
  • Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com explores how the Grizzlies have been winning with defense during their current seven-game stretch. As good as Morant is, Duncan writes, his primary replacements — Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton — are much better defenders, which gives Memphis a better point-of-attack defensively. Duncan also suggests that Jackson is coming into his own as a switchable, lengthy defender.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Jackson Jr., Ntilikina

Pelicans coach Willie Green said doctors are “encouraged” by the latest imaging on Zion Williamson‘s surgically repaired right foot, but Scott Kushner of NOLA.com believes it’s hard to see Monday’s update as good news. Another round of scans will be conducted in two to three weeks. In the meantime, Williamson is taking part in 5-on-0 workouts, but hasn’t been cleared for full scrimmages.

Kushner compares the delay to Williamson’s rookie season, when he sat out three months after a preseason knee injury that originally had a six- to eight-week projected recovery time. He will miss eight more games if he’s able to return in two weeks, Kushner adds, and 12 if it’s three weeks. It could be much longer if the next set of scans don’t show improvement.

“We need him,” center Jonas Valanciunas said. “We are waiting every day for him to come back. It’s going to be a different look with our team. But he’s a huge piece for us. We need him back. Then we’re going to see what everything looks like.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Another Pelicans season is already in danger of slipping away, and William Guillory of The Athletic is calling on the organization to place a greater emphasis on Williamson’s weight and conditioning. Guillory adds that while Williamson’s size may not have caused the two injuries, it played a role in keeping him out so long two years ago and will likely do the same this season. New Orleans has been competitive despite its 1-6 start, Guillory notes, but the club doesn’t have anyone to take over on offense in close games.
  • The Grizzlies need more production from Jaren Jackson Jr. to become legitimate contenders, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Jackson, who received a four-year extension before the season began, is the only Memphis big man who can shoot from the perimeter, but he’s connecting at just a 31.3% rate through seven games. In addition, frequent foul trouble is limiting him to just 26 minutes per night.
  • Frank Ntilikina is making a case for more playing time with the Mavericks, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. The former Knicks guard has only been on the court for 61 minutes this season, but Dallas is plus-20 in that time. “When you look at the rotation, you have to play him,” said coach Jason Kidd.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Zion, Valanciunas, Rockets

Don’t count on Grizzlies guard Ja Morant joining the list of NBA stars who have become disgruntled with their circumstances and sought a way out, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. As Vardon details, Morant is thrilled with his situation in Memphis, and all signs point to him signing a long-term maximum-salary extension once he becomes eligible in the summer of 2022.

“I love everything about it,” Morant said of playing for the Grizzlies and living in Memphis. “I feel like this is my home, from the front office down, the fans, the community. Everybody brought me in and made me feel like family, and me and my family couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Morant – who advocated for the Grizzlies to extend Jaren Jackson Jr. this offseason, per Vardon – believes the Grizzlies already have enough talent to become a viable championship contender. And the young point guard is looking forward to competing for a title in Memphis rather than jumping ship to do so elsewhere.

“Me, I’m not a big fan on the leaving,” Morant said.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report takes a deep dive into the Zion Williamson situation in New Orleans, noting that teams around the NBA will be keeping a close eye on the Pelicans‘ relationship with their star forward. Williamson’s weight and his reaction to potentially playing on a minutes limit when he returns from his foot injury will be worth monitoring, according to Fischer, who notes that the star forward “reached north of 300 pounds” during the offseason and bristled in his rookie year at playing in limited bursts following his return from a knee injury.
  • After signing a two-year contract extension with the Pelicans on Wednesday, center Jonas Valanciunas explained why he was willing to commit to the team before playing in a regular season game, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “From a coaching standpoint, they understand me and what I do,” Valanciunas said. “My teammates, good teammates. They welcomed me. The organization was great talking to me and helping me out. They made it seem like I’ve been here a long time. I wanted to come back.”
  • Ahead of their regular season opener, the youthful Rockets were enthusiastic about embracing the challenge ahead, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Following a blowout loss in Minnesota on Wednesday, they have a better sense of what that challenge entails, Feigen writes. “It’s the NBA. It’s grown men,” rookie Jalen Green said of the physicality he experienced in his regular season debut. “I’m 19 years old. It’s not high school any more. It’s the real league, a man’s league.”

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Nwaba, Zion, Luka

The lucrative four-year, $105MM rookie extension that power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. signed this week with the Grizzlies is very much predicated on his ceiling. Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal details why he considers the agreement mutually beneficial to both sides in a new piece. A big reason: the contract will decrease in value every season once it kicks in, which will give Memphis room to further bolster the roster.

“I’m locked in, I’m blessed, I’m happy I get to be here and be around people I love,” the 6’11” big man said of the deal and his chemistry in Memphis. “It’s a good experience.”

Due to Jackson’s extensive injury history, the agreement contains injury protection related to his left knee, but it only applies to the last year of the deal (for 2025/26), a source informed John Hollinger of The Athletic.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following two injury-plagued years, Rockets swingman David Nwaba is relishing his good health heading into the 2021/22 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Nwaba suffered an Achilles injury in December 2019, and then a right wrist injury in February of this year that ultimately required surgery. “Hopefully, just take care of my body for the length of this season,” Nwaba said of his hopes for the year. “I think we’ve had a lot of improvements on the defensive end.” All told, the 28-year-old has been healthy for just 50 of his past 144 games with Brooklyn and Houston.
  • Thanks to an uncertain recovery timeline for the injured foot of All-Star power forward Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have already proved frustrating to fans ahead of the 2021/22 season, opines Scott Kushner of the NOLA.com. Williamson and team president David Griffin made it seem like the former No. 1 pick could be back in time for the beginning of the year, but it appears that the team was either too hopeful or being deliberately disingenuous, Kushner says.
  • Mavericks All-Star point guard Luka Doncic expressed his excitement about the club’s development ahead of the 2021/22 season, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “I think we’re playing great, sharing the ball,” Doncic said of the team’s 4-0 preseason showing. “Especially on the defensive end, we’ve been way better, and I think that’s the key for us.”