The Memphis Grizzlies hosted a draft party at FedExForum the night Jaren Jackson Jr. was taken fourth overall by the franchise.
I remember being in the arena that night — all the hope and chatter was that it was possible Luka Doncic was going to fall to the Grizzlies at four. The crazy trade happened and then Memphis was on the clock. The selection of Jaren Jackson Jr. was announced at the arena, and there were some boos, a few cheers and a lot of underwhelming disbelief.
All Jaren has done since is make the fans cheer and believe. In one season, Jackson Jr. has become the face of the franchise and a budding star. With new running mate Ja Morant and time next to to veteran Jonas Valanciunas, JJJ has a chance to explode as the best player on the 2019-20 Memphis Grizzlies team.
2018-2019 Season Overview
Jaren Jackson Jr. played in 58 games, starting 56, in his rookie campaign — missing 24 games due to injury and precaution. In a lost season, there was no benefit to rushing Jackson Jr. back onto the floor and risk further injury.
In his rookie season, Jaren averaged 13.8 points 4.7 rebounds 1.4 blocks and shot 36% from three. On November 25, Jackson tied the franchise rookie record for blocks in a game with seven. He also became the eighth rookie in franchise history to be named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. His 36 points against the Brooklyn Nets was good for second-most for a rookie in franchise history.
Despite his phenomenal rookie season, setting and tying records, and displaying his star potential, he also exhibited some deficiencies that will need to be addressed heading into his sophomore campaign.
A seven-foot starting power forward averaging only 4.7 rebounds a contest is quite underwhelming. JJJ has put on weight this offseason which should aid him in boxing out and maintaining his position. He also struggled with foul trouble averaging a team-high 3.8 fouls per game. Jaren has to stay on the floor for this team to be successful so he must be smarter going for blocks, steals and working for offensive position.
Jaren Jackson Jr. without question is a starter and a focal point of the offense. He will start alongside Jonas Valanciunas and then possibly slide to the 5 position when the veteran center comes out for a rest. Jaren will most definitely be a focal point of the offense early and often whether it is the Pick-N-Roll, the Pick-N-Pop, posting up on a block, or setting up for a kick-out three. His ability to do it all allows for creativity on the parts of the coaching staff and Ja Morant.
2019-2020 Worst Case Scenario
The worst case is obviously Jaren suffering a major injury, but that applies to all players, so for him specifically, an extended sophomore slump that raises questions about his rookie year being a fluke. Regression and foul trouble could see Jaren lose minutes to a budding star in Brandon Clarke.
Jaren has a long leash due to the low expectations of the season, but if he stays in foul trouble, struggles beyond the arc and doesn't take care of the ball his leash will shorten.
This all sounds crazy, but remember its just a worst-case scenario.
2019-2020 Best Case Scenario
Jaren explodes out of the gate on his ascent to being a Superstar in the NBA. He has immediate chemistry with both Ja and Jonas, leading to him averaging around 20 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
He also manages to stay out of foul trouble allowing for those numbers to happen and ultimately finds his way into the All Star game and on an All Defensive Team.
While the best case scenario would great and is possible, I do believe that Jaren will continue to struggle with foul trouble and rebounding. Remember, he is still one of the younger players in the NBA, he is literally still growing, and he is not even close to his prime yet.
Don’t expect Jaren to make the All Star game just yet, as was the issue with Mike Conley, the West is stacked. You should rightly expect him to average career-high’s in points, rebounds, steals and blocks this season.
Realistic Stat line: 17.5 ppg, 6.1 reb, 1.2 steals, 2.0 blocks and 38% from 3.