Through 3 games, the Memphis Grizzlies have again proven to be an enigma. They looked completely lost against Indiana. They set franchise scoring records against Atlanta. They dominated Utah with a vintage Grit and Grind performance. The positive is that it seems the Grizzlies can win in multiple ways.
The concern is the inconsistency that will come as they establish their true talent as a team.
Naturally, this could cause frustration amongst many in the fanbase. However, the difference between this team and last year’s squad is the talent on the roster. Specifically, the addition of Jaren Jackson Jr. has created levels of excitement and intrigue not seen for years. Even if the Grizzlies struggle as a team, witnessing Jackson Jr.’s development first hand should make this season special for fans.
It really begins with perspective. The Grizzlies up and down performances have caused some frustration so far. But the maturation of Jackson Jr’s on court ability has been amazing to witness. The wonderful thing is that if you focus beyond the Grizzlies to the league as a whole, it should only enhance your enjoyment.
The exciting thing about June 21st, 2018 is that it has the potential to be a very significant date for the future of several franchises. The fan bases of the Suns, Kings, Hawks, Grizzlies and Mavericks all went through emotional roller coasters that night. The Grizzlies had so much buzz and speculation focused on Luka Doncic, it almost felt disappointing to settle for Jackson Jr. The Hawks and Mavericks trade had varying reactions throughout their fanbases and the league.
Despite the draft night reactions being a mix of negative or positive, it was buzz. It was hype. It was a storyline. However you want to label it, several franchises coming off a horrible season had a reason to feel relevant. This carried through the summer, as the NBA Summer League was more popular than ever with fans all over wanting to see the young talent.
Last week, after an eternity of waiting, NBA fans finally had their patience rewarded as the season arrived. The season opener between the Suns and Mavericks, pitting Doncic versus Deandre Ayton, caught the attention of many around the nation. Tweet counts and Youtube viewings for the Suns, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Hawks have skyrocketed. These franchises that just last year were afterthoughts are becoming must see due to the franchise altering talents they drafted.
The main attraction with these rookies is how they matchup up against other young NBA talent and each other. The aforementioned Mavericks-Suns showdown was an example. Luckily, Grizzlies’ fans get to experience these matchups to begin the season more than any other team. Last Friday, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young displayed their immense talents in a back and forth shootout. Tonight, Jackson Jr. will test his merits against Marvin Bagley and the rest of the Sacramento Kings’ Bigs. And on Saturday, The Grizzlies host the Suns, and fans get a dose of Deandre Ayton versus JJJ.
This is what the addition of Jackson Jr. brings beyond the box score. Its the storylines, the intrigue of the individual matchups, and the opportunity to see the future now. Over the past few years, a stretch of games including the Hawks, Jazz, Kings, and Suns would have been one of the least interesting on the Grizzlies schedule. But now, how Jackson Jr. does against established bigs or his fellow draft class members keeps you plugged in the whole game.
Memphis has wanted to attract elite talent to the Grizzlies for a long time. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, along with Zach Randolph, have been the closest thing to that. When Randolph left, a huge void was created. That void is now filled by Jackson Jr., with the potential to be our franchise cornerstone of the future. His presence provides a natural relevance that makes you want to watch each and every game. Doncic, Ayton, Bagley, and Young carry similar expectations for their teams.
The peak of that relevance is not now. Jackson Jr., just like his fellow draft mates, are developing their skill sets to the NBA game. Its going to take time. But while its important to remain patient in their development, fans should continue to pay attention.
Keeping an eye on the draft class as whole means you get to enjoy the Mavs-Suns game on opening night. It allows for you to witness the 35 point-10 assist performance by Trae Young. It gives the opportunity to watch highlight after highlight of their talents on display. It simply broadens your perspective of being an NBA fan, and due to the talent you are watching, gives you a nightly source of enjoyment and fun.
As a result, the city of Memphis should not only fully embrace Jackson Jr., but the opportunity that comes with witnessing this entire draft class. The next two games are wonderful opportunities to see how our future stacks up against others. Beyond Bagley and Ayton, there is another four games versus Doncic. The ability to see these talents tangle twice a year in Memphis is not something every city gets.
Even if one or a few does not reach their elite potential, the development of these rookies gives each of their fan bases something to cherish. For Memphis, a town that typically has some of the highest ratings for national broadcasts, paying attention to the development of these young players enhances the ability of being an NBA fan. Now, with the inclusion of one of our own, embracing the evolution of this draft class should create excitement and enjoyment for years to come.