ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that JaMychal Green will be out of action for 4-6 weeks after breaking his jaw in Friday night’s home opener.
As a result, the Memphis Grizzlies’ big man rotation is pretty thin, as the only “true big men” are a 34-year old Marc Gasol, rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., and the raw, unproven Ivan Rabb. Because of this, many people may cry for the Grizzlies to go out and acquire another big. In the past, the Grizzlies have acquired big men as short-term solutions to injuries in their frontcourt — as they picked up Marreese Speights and Dante Cunningham to offset injuries.
However, they shouldn’t do that this year.
I’m not just saying this to stand firm on my stance against Joakim Noah and his stans from Twitter. It’s also not me promoting my “position-less basketball” agenda — ok, maybe slightly. This injury allows the Grizzlies to tap into their versatility, something they haven’t possessed in years.
For starters, this injury should move Jaren Jackson Jr. into the starting lineup. With more minutes and more opportunities, the Grizzlies can accelerate the development of their 4th overall pick, who’s already ahead of schedule. He’s flashed an advanced post game for a 19-year old rookie, as he’s been dropping buckets with his left-handed hook shot. His passing is also pretty solid for a big man, and he could tap into that even more with better players on the floor next to him — Mike Conley, Gasol, Garrett Temple, and Chandler Parsons. He could also find easier opportunities to score alongside these players as well. As a result of this injury, there’s no reason why Jackson shouldn’t play 30-35 minutes a night — or until he fouls out, whichever comes first.
Secondly, the Memphis Grizzlies’ two best “small forwards,” Kyle Anderson and Chandler Parsons, are probably best suited for the 4 spot. Everyone knows Parsons can’t keep up with most 3’s in today’s NBA; for goodness’ sakes, he was struggling to guard Bojan Bogdanovic. Giving him more minutes at the 4 stretches the floor out and makes him less of a liability on defense.
In today’s NBA, the “playmaking 4” is a powerful weapon, one that teams have relied on in championship runs. We’ve seen this to a lesser extent with Boris Diaw and San Antonio. Unlocking Draymond Green at the 4 was one of the things that sparked the Warriors’ era of greatness. I’m not saying playing Kyle Anderson here will result in a title. He has the size to play the 4, and with his sneakily superb defense, he could be good switching in the pick-and-roll defensively. Having Anderson attack and create from the 4-spot is more valuable than anything any free agent acquisition could bring right now.
When the Grizzlies move Parsons and Anderson to the 4, it also opens up more minutes for guys like Dillon Brooks, MarShon Brooks and Wayne Selden — who could easily take some minutes at the 3. Doing so would give the Grizzlies more modernized weapons to run their new motion-based offense.
In a “last resort” option, they still have Ivan Rabb, Yuta Watanabe, and D.J. Stephens that could take spot minutes at the 4 or the 5. Though he has a thin frame, Rabb battles for rebounds solely based on positioning — as he averaged 11 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. The Grizzlies shouldn’t be giving too many minutes to their two-way players right now, but Stephens and Watanabe have the versatility to take at least 7-10 spot minutes at the 4 spot.
This injury is a blow to the Memphis Grizzlies’ frontcourt, but they shouldn’t play it safe and acquire some insurance. They need to use this time to tap into the versatility of their talented unicorn and their eight-figure duo of forwards.