The starting power forward position has been a topic of conversation, or debate, since draft night. You could even argue that it began when the ping pong balls determined the Memphis Grizzlies’ fate.
You were going to see this question arise if the Grizzlies selected Marvin Bagley or even Wendell Carter Jr. With the way Rick Carlisle defines modern basketball, this question might’ve popped up with everyone’s new favorite stretch-4, Luka Doncic.
Since the Grizzlies drafted Jaren Jackson Jr., the starting power forward question became legitimate. Initially, many analysts defined him as a project that was going to take time, which presumably knocked him out of the starting lineup. Then, a string of outstanding Summer League performances, more notably his one with eight 3’s and his other with seven blocks, sparked conversation that he may be ready sooner than we all thought. Though he has gotten in foul trouble quite a bit this season, his preseason play may send you into a dream where Jackson and Marc Gasol are locking down the paint.
In the other corner, though, you still have JaMychal Green. Motivated by a contract year, Green is looking to prove that he should’ve been paid more in the summer of 2017. He’s a versatile, low-usage big man that fits next to Conley and Gasol, primarily because he doesn't need many touches to be effective. This skill set as a 2-way defending big man makes this starting position a battle, even against a potential unicorn-like superstar.
The Grizzlies wouldn’t hurt either way, as both players fit next to their effective duo of Conley and Gasol. Is there a better fit, though? What lineups will best maximize the Grizzlies’ potential?
The Case for Jackson
Jaren Jackson Jr. is to the Memphis Grizzlies what an engagement ring is to a college girl. The engaged college girls flaunt their shiny ring to their friends. Though it has all this glitz and glamour, its shine represents a bright, long, hopefully prosperous future. Likewise, the Grizzlies’ front office and coaching staff couldn’t help but remind you that they have this bright young prospect to usher them into a new era of Memphis basketball.
In the Summer League, Jackson definitely showed why he’s the Grizzlies’ shiniest jewel. His two-way potential is absolutely tantalizing, resembling the likes of Anthony Davis, Kevin Garnett, and Karl-Anthony Towns, to name a few. Coming into the draft, draft analysts marveled at his ability to protect the rim, which shows Defensive Player of the Year potential. In addition, they were mesmerized with his ability to stretch the floor.
A near 7-footer that can has the potential to lead the league in blocks AND shoot 40 percent from 3 at some point in his career? SIGN. ME. UP.
However, it’s not even those aspects of his game that have caught my eye. Sure, the skills I mentioned above are awesome, and it’s what lured me into deciding he was a fantastic pick at 4 for Memphis. Over preseason and Summer League, his post game is far more advanced than any of us expected, as he has nice left-handed hook shot and is an underrated passer there, too.
Slotting him next to Gasol and Conley could unleash a legit “Bounce Back” Grizz squad this year, as they could certainly boast a top-10 defense with a resurgent offense. In addition, he could work in the pick-and-pop with Conley — giving the Grizzlies something different than the inevitable, but effective, Conley-Gasol pick-and-roll.
Case for Green
With Green, it simply gives the Memphis Grizzlies comfort and continuity. JaMychal Green has been the starting power forward ever since Dave Fizdale made the unpopular decision to start him over Zach Randolph.
Though his numbers don’t pop off the board, he has been a solid fit next to Gasol and Conley. He usually gets his buckets off spot-up jumpers, dump-off passes or offensive rebounds, so he needs no special attention to get him going on both ends of the floor.
Defensively, he’s a switch-heavy power forward that has proven himself on that end. Over the past two seasons, he’s been tasked to guard a range of players from Kevin Durant to Anthony Davis to Blake Griffin. He was lauded and praised for his efforts, and he was considered one of the best statistical defenders in the league.
For this season’s Grizzlies team, Green won’t be asked to do nearly as much in the starting lineup. If slotted next to Kyle Anderson, he won’t necessarily have to be the team’s primary frontcourt stopper. With Gasol, Conley and Anderson, or Parsons, as the team’s main facilitators, Green can focus on getting his buckets off cuts to the basket.
Green can primarily focus on being the team’s primary rebounder and garbage man. Last season, he averaged a career-high 10.3 points and 8.4 rebounds — including averages of 11.1 points and 10.2 rebounds after the All-Star break.
Knowing the Grizzlies and their tendency towards comfort and continuity, they’ll go with JaMychal Green on opening night. For the moment, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
JaMychal Green is entering a contract year, and it’s honestly tough to see him in Beale Street Blue past this season. They could look to give him a prominent role by placing him in the starting lineup in order to maximize his trade value at February’s trade deadline.
In the process, it allows Jaren JacksonJr. to ease his way into the NBA and put in work against second units. If they do this though, they must feature him properly. If done right, they could immediately get 15 points and 7 rebounds off the bench from Jackson every night. However, they need to unleash him and not keep him in a box. Put him in situations where he can show off his stellar 3-point shot. Let him put in work in the post. Unleash him to wreak on defense as a shot-blocking, switch-heavy maniac.
They’re going to have to put Jaren Jackson in the starting lineup eventually — and really he should start because he’s better than JaMychal at everything, except for rebounding. He’s the future of this franchise and the crown jewel of the team. However, at this point, it’s looking likely that they’ll stick with what they know and start Green.