JaMychal Green spent much of his 2017 offseason under the radar. The Memphis Grizzlies fan base was left with nothing more than speculation about Green’s eventual landing spot in the NBA, and apparently so was JaMychal himself. After a 2016-17 season that was an breakthrough of sorts for the underrated power forward out of the University of Alabama, Green was seeking a large-ish long-term deal to solidify his place in today’s NBA.
I think I speak for the whole of Memphis’ fans when I say we wanted JaMychal back. His role on this team continued to expand last season; he posted career highs in points (8.9) and rebounds (7.1) per game. The future was promising for him, but the free agent money disappeared quickly.
Green was one of the last promising free agents to be signed last summer, and it took until late September before he signed a deal, two-years, $17 million. To you and me, that’s a ton of money, but that contract was significantly shorter and lower than what he was probably expecting. That contract meant that JaMychal Green still has a lot to prove, and just two years to do it.
As elated as Grizzly fans were after the news broke of Green returning, the excitement faded quickly. Just four minutes into the 2017-18 season, JaMychal Green injured his left ankle, an injury that sidelined him for the next 12 games. Though these type injuries can continue to nag a player long into their career, Green came back strong post-injury. He scored double figures in six out of his first ten games.
Production from Green then fell quickly to a level of insignificance. Though he randomly posted double figure scoring efforts, his shooting percentage was wildly inconsistent as the other featured frontcourt option. His rebounding was also consistently low. His minutes per game and rebounding to this point are down from last year, and while his scoring is up to 10 points per game, his shooting percentage is down as well.
Most importantly, but also not totally his fault, he has looked lost on both ends of the floor for most of this season. He couldn’t find his role with a Marc Gasol-centric scheme. Defensively the Grizzlies were switching everything, which continually forced him into mismatches. Basketball just simply looked difficult to JaMychal.
But that is changing. And the Grizzlies are benefitting from it. There are obvious differences in the quality of basketball that Memphis is playing, and JaMychal Green is one of, if not the main, reason for it.
Green’s January has been prototypical JaMychal Green, providing a spark offensively and holding his own on the other end of the floor. He has scored 11+ points in four of five games in this first month of the year. His only blimp, a worthless basketball effort by everyone involved against the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
In those four quality games, Green is shooting 58% from the floor and 57% from three (though he has only attempted seven shots from beyond the arc). His rebounding numbers have significantly improved as well, 8.5 in those four, while getting just 26 minutes a game. He has finally shown his old self, the unorthodox post-moves and capable jumper.
When JaMychal Green is at his best, he his finding open lanes to cut to the rim for easy lay ups and scrapping for offensive put backs. He is reliable for corner threes and tends to make smart passes. But defensively, he has stepped up. The position of power forward has significantly changed in recent years, extending the defense to the three point line. As a mobile big man, JaMychal Green is capable of defending this far away from the rim, and recently that has kept the Grizzlies viable on defense. He has put an emphasis on rebounding, which has proved a necessary luxury for this team.
The Grizzlies are 2-3 in January, with a two point loss to the Washington Wizards and a game in Denver that should be erased from basketball memory. The Grizzlies could easily be 4-1 and its not a coincidence that JaMychal Green is playing well in that stretch.
If he continues to play well, keeping this team relevant against a not-so-tough January schedule, this team could make strides toward not-awful by the end of the season. Mike Conley is rumored to be returning soon as well. Life could be looking up, but don’t count it.