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Jaren Jackson Jr. shines, Memphis wins Summer League opener over Hawks

JJJ is the future...and other overreactions after one summer league game.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Press Conference Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies opened their 2018 NBA Summer League slate in Utah tonight as they took on the Atlanta Hawks. The game itself, like all Summer League contests, was inconsequential. Memphis won this contest 103-88, and it is always better to win than lose, but Summer League results almost never connect to actual regular season and postseason success. What you look for in these games is the young players familiar with the roster executing scheme and showing development, new players that were undrafted trying to make their mark in limited reps, and seeing what exactly you have in your new draft picks.

After one (again, meaningless) game, Memphis may have a star in Jaren Jackson Jr.

29 points in 23 minutes of play, including a scintillating eight (!!!!!) made three point shots, surely has Grizzlies fans forgetting about what might have been with Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley III. That’s especially true for this one, which he hit to end the first half-

Jackson was a polarizing pick a week and a half ago in the 2018 NBA Draft, a player with defensive prowess and offensive upside but seemingly a project for a roster supposedly built to “win now”. After a press conference and a week of basketball practice and this game, fans probably are a bit more at ease.

Jackson showed that defensive potential in flashes while heating up from beyond the arc, making the case for that “unicorn” big level of production that was believed to be possible for him all along, but just far earlier than anticipated.

Again, it was just one game. There were flaws in the performance - he only had three rebounds, not ideal for your 6’11” big, and he only attempted two shots that weren’t three pointers which is also not ideal. That feels very nit-picky for this performance from such a young player, though. For one night, at least, Jackson lived up to the hype far before many (myself included) thought he would.

Consistency is key. But that was fun to watch. Other key takeaways from this game-

  • Only one game, but Trae Young looked BAD shooting the basketball. 4-20 overall, 1-11 from three. Those stats are almost meaningless this time of year, but he was clearly forcing things. Young must play within himself if he is going to be an NBA success.
  • Deyonta Davis rebounded (seven boards) and defended (two blocks) well at times, but his 2-6 offensive performance left a little bit to be desired. The shooting numbers that don’t matter as much for Trae matter more for Deyonta because he is entering his third NBA season, not his first. The lack of consistency in terms of production, much less the domination you’d expect at this stage from a player like Davis at this level, is concerning. He may well be on the chopping block if things do not turn.
  • Meanwhile, Ivan Rabb looked good offensively. 14 points on eight shots with three assists - not too shabby. Rabb also could hit the glass a bit more (only three rebounds), but at least you’re seeing growth and development in Rabb that isn’t really there at the moment in Davis.
  • Kobi Simmons shined for the Grizzlies, and would be the story if it weren’t for the red-hot Jackson Jr. 21 points on 13 shots, 2-3 from three, three assists and a steal round out a more-than-solid showing for the two-way contracted player for Memphis. Kobi figures to be a major part of the plans moving forward if he can continue to show this level of scoring off the dribble and also begin to create more for others over the days, weeks, and months ahead.

The Summer Grizzlies are back in action Tuesday night against the host Utah Jazz at 8:00 PM CT on NBA TV.

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