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Who is worth Jaren Jackson Jr.?

If you really wanted to...

2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Let’s begin this by stating the following-

The Memphis Grizzlies should not trade Jaren Jackson Jr. And they’re not going to trade Jaren Jackson Jr.

The 4th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft is exceeding just about every reasonable expectation fans should have had for him coming in to his rookie campaign. Those in the “know” when it came to Jaren will swear up and down they saw this coming...but they’re lying. At least with it happening this soon.

No one saw Jaren Jackson Jr. winning games almost single-handedly for the Memphis Grizzlies in November of his first season in the NBA.

No one saw Jaren being a possible All-NBA Defensive Team selection this quickly.

No one saw Jaren being a scorer of the ball in the ways that he has been able to at this stage, especially off the dribble.

No. One. Saw. This. Coming.

Again, at least not so soon.

The word “potential” is a frightening one. It can always go in a number of different directions - that “potential” being achieved, or not even close, or being realized far more than ever anticipated. Jaren Jackson Jr. appears to have all the potential in the world, and is a remarkably valuable commodity because of it.

So, when people begin discussions of wanting All-Star caliber players on the Grizzlies, such as Bradley Beal of the Wizards, it is hard to imagine parting ways with Jaren in such a trade.

It almost certainly would take Jaren to get such a deal done, however. The question becomes, then, just how many players would you be willing to part with JJJ for in order to acquire their services?

Here’s a list of names as a starting point, taking in to account contracts, age, etc., that at this stage would be worth parting with Jaren Jackson Jr. for, assuming you’re sticking with the Mike Conley/Marc Gasol core (so no Steph Curry, Joel Embiid, or Russell Westbrook, who may be on a general list) and moving Chandler Parsons’ contract makes these names possibilities, give or take some cap filler.

Why make that assumption? Because if Marc and Mike aren’t in the picture, then it makes even less sense to trade Jaren as the hypothetical rebuild begins.

To the list -

  1. LeBron James. Yes, he’s older. Yet when you can get the greatest player of his generation, and possibly of all time, it’s hard to pass up. Acquiring LeBron would immediately make Memphis a possible Finals contender, if they were able to get past the Warriors. LeBron edges KD because of contract certainty.
  2. Kevin Durant. Contract renewal isn’t a guarantee, but any time you can potentially get the greatest scorer of all time, you do it. Durant would also immediately maximize the Conley/Gasol window.
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is only 23 years old and is in the mix to be MVP of the NBA this season. 27.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks a game. Under contract through 2021. Sign me up.
  4. Anthony Davis. If the MVP isn’t Giannis, it is Anthony Davis. Similar points and rebounds numbers to Giannis, plus a better shooter from three and more of a true “big”. Davis is also under team control contract wise until 2020 and is only 25.
  5. James Harden. The reigning MVP can score the basketball with the best of them, and again would maximize this current group of Grizzlies. Flopping aside, his offensive acumen would make Memphis a contender. His long-term deal makes him a bit more valuable than the next guy in this exercise.
  6. Kawhi Leonard. He’s back to being a revelation for Toronto, and is a major reason the Raptors are arguably the best team in the NBA right now. A trade for him is almost certainly a rental, but perhaps he falls in love with playing alongside Marc and Mike? No? OK, well he’s really good and worthy of consideration.
  7. Jimmy Butler. Yes, he has already been traded to Philly. Yes, the Sixers will not move him again. This is a list of who is worth parting with Jaren Jackson Jr. Butler would fit in quite well in Memphis. Maybe you like another wing (see below) more than Butler, and he fills in here. I prefer Jimmy Buckets.
  8. Jayson Tatum. This is a slight stretch for me personally, but I include him because he marries what could be with what is, and this would make it far more palatable to swallow parting with Jackson. Tatum has shown more than JJJ to this point that he can play and be successful for long and meaningful stretches of time. This is also cleaner in terms of Parsons not having to be paired.

That’s it. That’s the list.

There are other tweeners, such as an agreed-to-an-extension Klay Thompson, Ben Simmons or the aforementioned Bradley Beal, that are wings who would be great additions to the current roster but may or may not become better than/greater than the idea of what Jaren can be. An argument can be made for these types of players - former GBBer Matt Hrdlicka did a great job arguing for Beal here. Same logic (what you know you have compared to what may be) applies for Thompson, and to a lesser extent Simmons.

So what must a team bring to the table at this stage to get Jaren?

  • At least a confirmed (or close to it in Tatum) All-NBA player.
  • Preferred contract control.

Why such a steep price for someone that has played 22 NBA games?

2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Because Jaren could become that player...and he is under the “control” of Memphis for almost a decade.

With the way that rookie scale, and eventual first max contracts, are structured, they are designed for players to want to re-sign with their original team once their contracts expire. More money can be made with their initial squad, so most players choose to stay with the familiar and earn extra cash. Assuming Jaren becomes a max player - and if he continues to produce at or near this level he will - Memphis will be able to offer him more years, and more money, than anyone else. Once his four year rookie deal expires, the Grizzlies could offer a five year deal, with options to make the deal even more attractive to Jaren, and guarantee getting a top-10 or so player in the NBA for another four or five seasons beyond the rookie contract.

And at the end of, say, an eight year run with Memphis, he’d only be 27 and eligible possibly for his third NBA contract as he enters and hopefully dominates his prime.

The Grizzlies aren’t getting a top-10 player in free agency more than likely. They have two options - the draft (hello) and via trade. Even beyond one or even two 1st round picks, the visual evidence of what Jaren is, and the idea of what he could possibly be considering what has already been seen, makes Jackson Jr. the most attractive trade piece Memphis has had in a long time...and maybe ever.

So in order to part with that potential, the proven would have to come back. And none of the eight on my list will be moved for that standard Parsons and Jackson offer (although a Tatum-for-JJJ swap could work).

So we arrive at the obvious, which was stated at the start - Jaren Jackson Jr. isn’t getting traded. But it isn’t just because of the fact that no one would be willing to pay the price. It is because, for once, Memphis may have actually won a draft. It is because, health permitting, Jaren Jackson is showing the ability to be one of the best rookies in this draft class at a minimum and one of the best players in the entire NBA overall as time goes on. It’s because once the 1st round pick owed to Boston is conveyed (hopefully this season) the future beyond Marc Gasol and Mike Conley isn’t murky - it’s actually exciting.

And it is because there is remarkable worth in that.

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