Instant gratification sucks, and it’s a societal problem. It happens so much in life whether it’s with wanting to skyrocket up the corporate ladder too quick, or rushing to find the one, or wanting to live that luxurious lifestyle.
It’s also a toxic trend in sports fanbases, primarily with young players.
These early 20 year-old’s — or perhaps even teenagers — face gaudy expectations from the moment they really step off the college campus. A lot of times, the higher draft picks receive that “cornerstone” label, which is a lot of pressure for a kid. Not to mention, many draft analysts give them player comparisons and ceilings as well, and fans expect that player to reach those levels within their first or second years in the league.
As a result, instant gratification kicks in, as these fans want them to become that player the moment they step on the court. Having those sort of expectations is unfair for players that may not be able to purchase their own alcohol yet.
Instant gratification and the desire for the upside to cash in immediately has been a thing for the Memphis Grizzlies fanbase and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Coming into the draft, most analysts described Jaren Jackson Jr. as a project, but as someone who could emerge as the best player in that draft class down the road. However, in this rookie season, he surprised many people with his NBA readiness and production. Even alongside Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, Jackson showed that he had the potential of a go-to scorer. At 19, he displayed a lot of promise as a dynamic scorer. He shot 3s at a nice clip for a big man (35.9% on 2.4 attempts per game), his footwork and post moves are advanced for his age, and he has smooth off-the-dribble moves for his size as well.
With a new system and a bigger role, the sky was the limit for Jaren Jackson Jr. Many expected a leap where he averages borderline All-Star numbers.
It hasn’t happened yet.
For the most part, Jaren Jackson Jr. has been inconsistent. Though he’s had plenty of stellar performances, he’s also had some duds. For starters, he’s had games where he’s been plagued with fouls — an area of his game we know was going to be a struggle early in this career. He’s also learning a brand new system. And, he’s transitioning into a premier scoring role really for the first time in his career.
These struggles have garnered criticism on social media from a few members of Grizzlies Twitter, but newsflash — he’s going to be just fine.
As he gains more experience, he’ll pick up on different veteran tricks to stay out of foul trouble, while making a defensive impact. This is his fourth system with his his fourth coach over the past four years, obviously it’s going to be an adjustment. Already this season, he’s flashed major upside in Jenkins’ system as a big man with guard-like handles, a smooth outside jumper, and a devastating post game.
Stop over-criticizing and expecting instant gratification. These growing pains that Jaren Jackson Jr.’s experiencing are a part of growing up as a NBA player. Some nights, he will look like a perennial All-Star big man that could be the “Kawhi of Bigs.” There will be some nights though where he looks like a kid trying to find his footing.
In this city, we’ve seen where the development was long-term, but completely worth it. Mike Conley didn’t play a home game until January of his rookie year, so the coaching staff could save him from criticism. In his rookie contract, he was almost traded for Ramon Sessions and Joe Alexander — who eventually become a journeyman backup point guard and a lottery bust out of the league at the end of his rookie deal, respectfully. Over time though, he continued progressing towards an All-Star level player.
Now, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s trajectory towards being that caliber of player isn’t the same, as he’s way ahead of where Conley was at during this stage of his career. Nonetheless, it goes to show you that players aren’t finished products at 20 years old.
Which is why all this banter about Jackson is goofy.
Already at 20 years old, he’s a skilled big man with great post moves, good handle off the dribble, and a reliable 3-point shot, and he can also impact the game defensively — when he’s not in foul trouble. That’s not all he’ll be — and even if he is, it’s still a starter-level player.
Over time, he’ll learn how to defend without fouling, while gaining respect from referees. As he continues maturing, he’ll have a stronger presence on rebounding on the glass. As he grows more accustomed to a featured role, he’ll become a more consistent scoring presence and look the part of an elite big man.
But what if he’s like this 2-3 years from now?
Then worry about it in 2021 or 2022. Don’t worry about that right now.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has gotten a lot of hype and rightfully so. There aren’t many guys at his size with as much skill as him, or as much two-way upside. Don’t let instant gratification get in the way though, because the hype doesn’t necessarily need to cash in right now.
This season is all about growing — not about wins and losses. We’ve seen Jaren be hard on himself and place a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. His self-accountability and work ethic is evident and will be a driving force behind his improvement over the course of this season and beyond.
Being overanxious and too critical right now is just silly. Be patient with this Memphis Grizzlies team — particularly Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s too talented and important to this team to be impatient with.