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The Future of the Grizzlies Frontcourt

Over the past 10 games or so, the young big men have gotten their chance to show Grizzlies fans what the future will look like

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In a down season for the Grizzlies, it is hard to turn and find positives about this team. Of course, everyone has looked towards Tyreke Evans who is having an incredible year. However, if the front office has any clue what they are doing, Evans will be shipped off to another team by the trade deadline.

So, fans will then turn to something else to get excited or be hopeful about. The solution to this dilemma may be found in a place you would never expect.

Over these past few weeks, the Memphis Grizzlies (young) frontcourt looks better than they have most of this season. And I’m not talking about Marc Gasol. He, of course, is the catalyst of the team who gets his due credit. Instead, I am talking about three names who have not gotten the recognition they deserve: Deyonta Davis, Jarell Martin, and Ivan Rabb.

These three players have definitely all gone through rough patches in their undeveloped Grizzlies careers, but over the last few games, each have made strides that hopefully show a glimpse of what is to come for them in a Grizzlies jersey. Let’s dive into the numbers a bit and break down each of the three players individually before forming a conclusion of what this means altogether.

Deyonta Davis

Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Deyonta Davis has been a player who has frustrated Grizzlies fans for his whole tenure since being drafted in the 2016 draft. He has the freak athleticism in a traditional center position, so that is what enticed the Grizzlies to draft him. For the two years he has been on the team, he has shown lots of room for improvement. Offensively and defensively, Davis feels most comfortable inside the paint. If he extends outside this area, problems occur.

Now with all that being said, over the last few weeks, Deyonta Davis has had his chance to shine a bit more than in the past. The Grizzlies seem to be embracing this youth movement which gives more opportunity for him. Over the past 10 games, Davis is averaging 17 minutes played, 8 points and 5 rebounds a game. Of course, that does not sound groundbreaking, but compare that to his career totals of averaging 9.5 minutes, 3.3 points, and 2.6 rebounds a game. From that, you can see the bump in production.

Offensively, Davis is still acting like a garbage disposal. He cleans up everything around the glass and puts it back in. For his career, he “shoots” 71.3% of his shots within 5 ft. and 81.9% within 10 ft. of the basket. That percentage of shots near the rim is close to impossible in today’s NBA. And over his improvement these last ten games, that style has not changed much at all. The intensity he plays with is what has stuck out more than anything else lately. He attacks the rim on every shot using his athleticism to have average more rebounds a game over this stretch.

Defensively, he has been understanding the schemes and his role better than he has for his whole career. Davis is switching on screens and using his length to disrupt the shots around the top of the key. This step was the biggest question mark for him. He can always be the rim running, athletic big. Without improved defense, the Grizzlies cannot put him on the floor for that many minutes. In these last few games, it has started to look better with him.

Cleaning up the glass and using his length to disrupt the paint on defense is what Davis is as a player. It may not fit the Spray N’ Pray style of the NBA, but with the right development and maturity, he can fit well in a Grizzlies lineup.

Jarell Martin

Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Coming into this year, the buzz around Jarell Martin was if he could even make the Grizzlies roster. He was the 2015 first round draft pick by the Grizzlies and had not shown anything so far in his career to justify being a lock on the roster. However, if you were to only look at his last 10 games, Martin would look like a completely different player.

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has let him flourish while JaMychal Green has been in and out of the lineup. He turned him into a traditional power forward. Jarell Martin was the type of player who bounced around the lineup never having an exact role. Because of this, his defense was non-existent against the wings that had more speed than him. Dillon Brooks now fills that role letting him fall back to running the paint as a power forward.

Over the last 10 games, he has averaged 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds which is up from his 5 points and 3 rebounds career average. Martin has tapped into his pure athleticism showing off with a big dunk almost every game. He finally seems to understand that settling for jump shots or 3s is not his game as a career 43.8% shooter. As a big man, that is not where you want the total to be. In this stretch, he has upped it about 9 points shooting 52.9% from the field. He is starting to drive to the rim each time he gets the ball, and this is his potential to his game.

As mentioned, Jarell Martin is a freak athlete. He can jump out of his shoes which is shown constantly. The most important area this has affected is in the offensive rebounds he gets each game. In the game against Indiana, all four of his rebounds were offensive. This is crucial to the Grizzlies being able to restart possessions, or it is him putting it back up and in for a bucket.

In this first example, Selden takes a shot from the outside and there are four guys around the 3 point line. Evans and Chalmers are walking back after the shot and only Jarell attacks the glass helping Davis down low. From this, he almost gets an incredible putback dunk but instead gets two free throws.

For this clip from the same game, Evans goes into his patented drives down the lane. Martin has the smart thought to follow him for a possible miss. As anticipated, Evans misses but Martin is there for the easy rebound and put back. He finished this Sixers game with 6 of his 8 rebounds as offensive boards.

Over these past 10 games, he has averaged 2.4 offensive rebounds a game. That is a possibility for two more possessions a contest that he brings to the game. It may seem small, but averaging that when so many games come down to the wire could swing it in the Grizzlies favor.

Jarell Martin has his flaws, but over this last span of a few games, he has looked better than ever. Offensive rebounding and being aggressive when he has the ball are his two strongest assets. The defense and three-point shooting will hopefully come over time. Finding consistency to his game is what the focus needs to be. In this youth movement the Grizzlies are trying out is his best opportunity at building it.

Ivan Rabb

Phoenix Suns v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The sample size is, of course, much smaller with Ivan Rabb, but after seeing him getting more minutes, there is hope he could be a solid player in the future. He was one of the second round picks in this year’s draft for the Grizzlies, along with Dillon Brooks. Luckily, the expectations for him weren’t too high because he just has not gotten that much playing time. He has only played in 12 games this season, and most of those minutes have been in the last 10 games.

Rabb is only averaging 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in those limited games, but what is more important for him is that he is averaging 9.7 points and 6 rebounds in the last 4 games.

As mentioned about the other two players, Ivan Rabb has some faults. He is still not completely melded into the NBA game. He is still working on that midrange turnaround jump shot that was his highlight in college. Plus, his physicality needs some work to battle bigger bodies down in the post. However, the signs are there for him to improve.

Here Rabb makes the smart move to cut to the basket and get the feed from Gasol, but he has got to know defenders are bearing down on him. He doesn’t protect his own shot and gets swatted.

Then we see a pick and roll which he instinctively rolls off the screen when he sees Dario Saric pick up the ball handler. From that Selden finds him for an easy dunk.

The basketball IQ is there for Rabb, but it is just bringing it all together to fit his game at his style. He is shooting 69% from the field this season, which is nice (small sample size). If he can tap into that jumper which he feels confident in and brings it back to the three-point line, that’d be huge for his overall effectiveness. This season he has not shot a three all year. In the new NBA, he will have to be able to stretch the floor to fit in, especially on a Bickerstaff team (if he’s kept).

Overall, it is still the early stages of Ivan Rabb’s career, but the signs have been somewhat promising. The Grizzlies already see that Dillon Brooks was a solid second-round draft pick, and now let’s see how Rabb develops this year and going forward.

In conclusion, these three players are all taking advantage of the situation this season has presented to them. For Grizzlies fans, this is what you need to pay attention to. Development, development, development. Marc Gasol is unfortunately on the back side of his career. The Grizzlies need these young big men to grow into solid players that can be formidable when the day does come and Marc is gone. The bar does not have to be set to high.

Over these past few games, Deyonta Davis, Jarell Martin, and Ivan Rabb have looked very capable to turn into solid rotation guys. The question will be can they tap into their potential long-term. But, after watching them night after night, Grizzlies fans may have something to be excited about for the future of this franchise in these three players.

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