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Week-side Help: We Got Shooters (Week 8)

Recapping a fun week with fantastic shooting performances from Jaren and Ja.

Washington Wizards v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Week 8 Results

Memphis Grizzlies 110 (7-16) @ Golden State Warriors 102 Recap | Box Score

Memphis Grizzlies (8-16) 115 @ Phoenix Suns 108 Recap | Box Score

Milwaukee Bucks 127 @ Memphis Grizzlies 114 (8-17) Recap | Box Score

Washington Wizards 111 @ Memphis Grizzlies 128 (9-17) Recap | Box Score

Week 8 Storylines

-G Ja Morant and F Brandon Clarke made their returns from their respective injuries this week.

-Memphis had its most successful week to date with a 3-1 record, the one loss coming to a Bucks team that hasn’t lost since November 8th.

Required Reading

-GBB’s Shawn Coleman on the Grizzlies’ long and enduring search for a superstar appearing to finally come to a head with Ja Morant.

Week 8 Theme: Letting It Fly

Two shooting performances stood out to me this week. One, of course, was the nuclear performance from Jaren Jackson Jr. against the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored 26 points in the 3rd quarter alone for a total of 43 points on 9/15(!) three-pointers. Another, hidden by Jaren’s explosion, came courtesy of Ja Morant on Monday when he shot for a much more modest, but still efficient 3/5 from distance.

Both of these are single game samples, but both players are trending in the right direction of adding a consistent three-point shot to their arsenal. We’ve seen the incredibility fluidity and length Jaren possesses on the defensive end. We’ve seen his incredible ball-handling and touch around the rim. This year’s development is about being more aggressive on offense and he is absolutely doing so. 6.0 3PA per-game this year compared to last year’s 2.4, and he’s improved his percentage a few points from 36% to 40%. A player of his size taking and making threes often is hell on defenses who don’t have the versatile bigs to defend it.

Ja, on the other hand, has been compared to Russell Westbrook and early-Derrick Rose (shudder) as a prospect. Neither of them are well-known for their shooting prowess, but rather for their ability to drive down the court in the blink of an eye and finish at the rim. So far, Ja Morant has shown a great ability to do that. What was only shown in flashes such as Monday night, is his ability to shoot from distance in the NBA.

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

He would take threes in college at a fairly high rate, and shot 35.3% in his final year at Murray State. In the NBA, he’s making threes at an incredibly high 42.6%, but only taking 2.4 a night. Yes, he is an absolute MONSTER in the paint as seen time-and-time again. But a three-point shot in his arsenal would make his lightning-quick drives to the basket even more dangerous if his defender has to commit to defending the perimeter, even if it isn’t as efficient as his current clip. Monday was a good start for Ja, but I’d like to see it more often.

These were good beginnings for both Morant and Jackson. With how much both have surpassed expectations this far, it’s hard not to get greedy and want more from them. I trust both of them to have a consistent and productive presence on the three-point line eventually in their careers. Until then, enjoy the light show.

Week 8 Notes

-This was a good week to be a Memphis fan, not gonna lie.

-Ja Morant this week: 19.6 ppg (.500/.500/.950 shooting), 6.0 assists compared to 2.3 turnovers per game, and a 3-0 record.

-Good news: this week Jaren Jackson Jr. averaged 24.8 ppg on 57.1% shooting, including 45.7% from distance. Bad news: he also averaged 5 fouls a game.

-Since there’s no way to prove me wrong, I’m going to say that if Ja and Brandon Clarke were playing against Milwaukee, Memphis would have won.

-This week was a perfect blueprint of how this Memphis team should play. 40% of their field goal attempts were three-pointers, compared to their usual 35%, and they played at an even faster pace than usual. Going all-in on this run-n-gun offense with Ja, Brandon, and Jaren is a good idea. It helps when players like Dillon Brooks and

Play of the Week: R.I.P. Aron Baynes

I’ve refrained from doing this segment regularly in years past. Why? Because it’s a lot harder to find a play of the week when Tyler Dorsey and Andrew Harrison are starting games for you. Sorry to those guys, but not many players in the league can compare with the electricity of Ja Morant.

Starting this week with what may be the play of the year. This is absolutely beautiful. You’ve probably seen this a thousand times already. Watch another thousand. I can’t freakin’ believe this guy is on our team.

A very worthy runner-up: Brandon Clarke on Ian Mahinmi

Week 9 Schedule and Lottery Power Rankings

Miami Heat @ Memphis Grizzlies Mon 12/16 7 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Weds 12/18 7 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Cleveland Cavaliers Fri 12/20 6 PM CT

Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies Sat 12/21 7 PM CT

This is one of the lightest weeks, competitively, thus far this season. Miami has been pretty good, but OKC, Cleveland, and Sacramento will likely be jostling for position at the top of the lottery rather than fighting for a playoff spot. Despite promise for the future, Memphis appears to be destined for that lottery fight as well.

From least to most likely to have the #1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft come June.

4. Miami Heat

The Heat have been legitimate contenders in the East this season. Finding valuable guys within the margins (Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson) in addition to nailing draft picks (Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Justise Winslow) have come together to really complement Jimmy Butler. The Heat won’t be anywhere near the lottery this season, barring a catastrophe.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

I was expecting them to be worse than this coming into the season. But they have been a pretty average 11-14 this season. It was a rather broad assumption that Chris Paul would be traded from Oklahoma City the instant he was traded for Russell Westbrook. But that...hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it will around the deadline or in the off-season, but they’re good enough to stay out of the depths of the lottery as of now.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

2. Sacramento Kings

The Kings aren’t that bad to be just one below the clearly-tanking Cavs, but they aren’t good either. They are much closer to OKC given their similar records, but I would say that the Kings are worse, as of now. They have a worse net rating than the Thunder, but have been dealing with injuries to De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III all year.

The Kings are currently fighting for one of the last spots in the West playoffs, which is remarkable considering they started the season 0-5, losing by an average of 17(!) points per game.

1. Cleveland

Rumors of a Kevin Love trade and anonymous comments about first-year head coach John Belein have swirled around the Cavaliers while the franchise still adjusts to life after LeBron James. They’re in the bottom-five in offensive and defensive efficiency with not enough of a silver lining from young prospects to keep those rumors and comments at bay.

They’re in the “top” five of the lottery with the Knicks, Hawks, Warriors, and Pelicans. Sitting at 6-20 with a strong likelihood of their veterans being traded away, the Cavs are full steam ahead on the tank job. Which of course means Memphis will somehow lose 96-123.

Have a good week, Memphis.

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