How did JaMychal Green become the “middle-child” of the Memphis Grizzlies? When you look at the other bigs on the Grizzlies’ roster, it’s not that difficult to figure out.
Jaren Jackson Jr. represents the youngest child in the family, the center of attention. He represents the future, and the family just simply cannot get enough of him. Even if he does something generally insignificant in the grand scheme of things, the family still thinks of it as a truly remarkable achievement (eight threes in a summer league game?!).
Marc Gasol, on the other hand, exemplifies the first-born, the pride and joy of the family. While he may be far from perfect and has made mistakes, he has always brought honor to the family. He may be getting older and may even leave the home soon, but the family is still very proud of everything that he has accomplished. Even after he finally leaves the home, there will always be a place for him there.
But then there’s JaMychal Green, the prototypical oft-forgotten middle child of the family. He has certainly never been as successful or as lauded as his older sibling, and his family has never looked at him with the same joy and excitement that they do with his younger sibling. For lack of a better way to describe him, he’s just there—a consistent presence in the family, but certainly not a memorable one.
Yet consistency is perhaps JaMychal Green’s greatest strength. To be sure, Green doesn’t represent an immaculate dream like Jaren Jackson Jr., and he will never have a lasting legacy like Marc Gasol. But the Grizzlies do not need a dream talent or a franchise player in Green. Instead, they need someone who will bring consistent effort and production every single night.
And for a high character player who had to persistently strive to make an NBA roster after going undrafted, Green’s effort and work ethic has certainly never been a question.
The real question for Green, however, is what his role will be going forward. As the most experienced power forward on the team, it would make sense for him to be in the starting lineup once again, especially since he posted career highs in points (10.3), rebounds (8.4), and assists (1.4) last season. He also remains a versatile defender who can effectively contain guards on the perimeter, even if he will never make an All-Defense team like the incredibly optimistic David Fizdale may have hoped.
On the other hand, there are two reasons why he may be a better fit coming off the bench.
The first is that with an increase in role came a somewhat significant decrease in efficiency for him last year. While he may have played nearly the exact same amount of minutes he did the previous year, he no longer had Zach Randolph to help carry the load. He may have posted career highs, but his shooting numbers hit a sharp decline as he had the lowest Field Goal % (45) and Free Throw % (72) of his career. His jump shooting in particular had the most concerning regression as his shooting percentage from the 10-16 feet area, which had been one of his most efficient spots on the floor throughout his early career, fell from 41% in 2016-17 to 22% this past year. His Three Point % also fell from 38% in 2016-17 to 34% this past year.
Much like with Marc Gasol’s regression last year, you can certainly argue that Green was limited by the talent (or lack thereof) around him on a terrible team. Perhaps when he has better NBA talent around him, his overall efficiency will improve. However, he might be better-suited for a slightly reduced role off the bench against inferior competition, especially when you consider that Jaren Jackson Jr. may be already prepared to start on opening night.
And that is the second reason why Green would help the Grizzlies more as a reserve: It would help Jaren Jackson’s development. Jackson will likely be a center during the prime of his NBA career, but his almost 19-year-old body is probably not ready to take the punishment of the center position on a nightly basis. If he doesn’t start, he would likely play most of his minutes at center against the NBA’s more physical reserves. Green may very well be the superior player in year one, but it may be more beneficial to the long-term security of the franchise for him to handle the more physical match-ups off the bench.
Regardless of what his final role will be, JaMychal Green will need to be excellent in an exceedingly important year for him. He will be entering into the final year of his two-year, $17 million contract, and his performance this coming season will largely dictate whether he gets another contract of similar value.
It goes without saying that the Memphis Grizzlies will need a strong season from him as well. Since the Grizzlies will need every possible advantage to return to the playoffs, Green will have to continue to be the solid two-way power forward that the Grizzlies have enjoyed for the last four years.
He won’t have to be a star. At the end of the day, that is simply not who JaMychal Green is. He will never be ceremoniously plastered on the top of billboards, and he will never be considered a cornerstone of the franchise. He may not make a bad team good, but he’s a blue-collar player who makes a good team better.
And for the “middle-child” of the Memphis Grizzlies, that is more than enough.