Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that Jaren Jackson Jr. will be out for an undisclosed amount of time due to a quad injury.
Sources: Memphis Grizzlies rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr., has suffered a right quad injury and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Organization will be cautious with its young star.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 23, 2019
This obviously stings on a variety of levels. The chances for the Grizzlies of actually conveying their 2019 1st round pick to the Boston Celtics this season just took a serious hit, and that impact will only deepen the longer Jaren is out. If your goal is to play the lottery odds and swing for Zion Williamson, perhaps that is a good thing. Probability-wise, however, Memphis will at “best” reach 4th in the lottery, meaning a 48.1% shot at staying in the top-4, and a 12.5% chance at the #1 overall pick.
Are you feeling lucky?
The smarter long-term play was, and remains even in the wake of this news, to play the best you can to convey this pick. It would allow for the full reset button to be hit from the ground up - a Mike Conley trade, a new coaching staff and front office. The terrible play that is to come in the seasons ahead at least benefits you in terms of draft positioning. Without sending the pick in a weaker draft in 2019, you run the risk of missing out on a top class of 2021 player - the pick is top-6 protected in 2020, and unprotected in 2021. That 2021 could very likely be a top-3 selection in a much better draft.
Speaking of the long-term, Jaren Jackson Jr. has/had an opportunity to be “the man” alongside Mike Conley these next 20+ games. Increased usage, especially in clutch moments (as Memphis experienced Friday night against the Clippers), would do Jaren a world of good as he prepares for the inevitable passing of the torch to him from Conley in the months ahead. He will not be able to get that valuable experience as a top-2 scoring option, or anchor of the defense, while he is out due to injury. This could have been a formative couple of months for JJJ, but depending on how long he is out it will simply be another missed opportunity for the Grizzlies due to the injury bug.
Zion Williamson would be awesome. But he’s probably not walking through that door. Is Jarrett Culver, or DeAndre Hunter, or Cam Reddish, worth another year, or possibly two, of an unclear draft future? There will be time for those debates.
For now, here’s to hoping Jaren Jackson Jr. heals, and heals quickly. The short and long-term future of the Grizzlies depends on it.