It has to be frustrating for Jaren Jackson Jr.
To be sitting, watching, waiting...to see your team struggle as you fill a seat on the bench of a lottery team, wearing a nice jacket/outfit instead of the uniform of the Memphis Grizzlies. To see a victory and not be a part of it, or a loss and not be privy to the lesson that comes with it, all the while knowing that this was supposed to be your time to show with greater responsibility, higher usage in clutch situations, you can be “the man”. To be so young, thinking you are invincible, and then all of a sudden be confronted with a level of basketball mortality, must be disheartening.
It isn’t forever, though.
A deep thigh bruise is the diagnosis for the injury holding Jaren out of games currently for the Grizzlies, and while he is indeed out indefinitely it has been reported that Memphis is proceeding with extreme caution when it comes to their young big man. If the Grizzlies were pursuing a playoff birth, and weren’t mired in the #PlayToConvey movement, perhaps there would be a greater push to get JJJ back on the floor. But since the Grizzlies are eliminated from postseason contention, there’s no point in rushing him back...
There’s an argument for these 20 remaining games being pretty darn important for the development of Jaren. With Marc Gasol gone, this is his chance to fully utilize Mike Conley as a creator in the pick and roll/pop game without having to worry about his place in the roster’s pecking order. Jonas Valanciunas and Joakim Noah wouldn’t eat before Jaren offensively - while his usage was already high (2nd among Grizzlies that have played at least 1,000 minutes), it could’ve grown even more, especially in clutch situations with the game on the line. Valanciunas’ usage in a small sample size of 97 minutes played is 35.5% - that could be Jaren, and yet he is on the bench, missing out on valuable reps and minutes.
So why not get him back on the floor now, for the sake of future growth?
Because without him, there is little to no chance at franchise growth in the future.
He is that valuable, as acknowledged by ESPN’s recent 25 under 25 rankings. Jaren Jackson Jr. came in at #16. 2nd among the 2019 NBA Draft class behind Luka Doncic. He was rated in front of players like Jamal Murray, Deandre Ayton, John Collins, Marvin Bagley III, and Kyle Kuzma. He is someone that can be built around, as ESPN’ Chris Herring wrote about...
Just as it looked like we were going to see Jackson get extended run as the man in the middle following the Marc Gasol trade, the rookie will be forced to sit out indefinitely with a deep thigh bruise. He arguably has -- and often shows -- more defensive potential than any other player from this most recent draft. He can stay with ball handlers and more than holds his own at the rim. But he can score, too. And he’ll be a legitimate problem for the league if he ends up being anywhere near a 40 percent shooter from deep.
Not only is he 2nd among this draft class on this list, he is the youngest player on it overall. At 19.4 years old, Jaren Jackson Jr. is seen as that valuable of an asset.
So why keep him out, potentially for the remainder of the season?
Because to sprint back on the court just to extend how long he has to march up hill makes little sense.
Why rush him back to play with players that may not be on the team this time next year? Of the nine players who logged minutes against the Lakers Monday night, four of them have some sort of option attached to their contract (Jonas Valanciunas, Ivan Rabb, Avery Bradley, Bruno Caboclo), one is a restricted free agent (Delon Wright), two will be unrestricted free agents (Joakim Noah and Justin Holiday), one was on the trade block before the deadline and likely will be again this summer (Mike Conley) and one may get bought out or traded (Chandler Parsons).
That’s all nine players with some level of doubt regarding their future in Memphis.
Ivan Rabb likely will return, and Jevon Carter will probably still be on the squad. Of course Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson will almost certainly still be here as well. But Brooks is already out for the season, and Anderson may soon follow suit. Does it make sense to hurry back the future of your franchise to play alongside mostly veterans that may or may not be on the roster four months from now?
Beyond the roster, there is a growing likelihood of greater organizational overturn. If the goal is indeed achieved and the 1st round pick is sent to Boston this season, a complete reset is not only possible...it should happen. A new front office structure, who likely (hopefully?) will want to hire their own head coach, would be brought in, with new culture and schemes they will need Jaren to buy in to. This new cornerstone could potentially be hurried back in to playing time by folks that may not have a say in his days as a Grizzly moving forward...unless the owner Robert Pera is making this call.
Surely, one would hope he is involved in this call.
The future of the Memphis Grizzlies is, in the short-term, a cloudy one at best. It will probably not be filled with sprints to playoff finish lines in 2020, or 2021. Instead, the pace will be a slogging one, a true trudge through the muck and mire of unpaid debts from failed drafts and trades gone awry. Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to have to carry a good chunk of that burden, at a very young age. It will be difficult, to say the least, and will test him in ways he has never been tested before.
You might as well make sure he is as physically, and mentally, ready for that journey as possible. Let the dust of uncertainty settle before he resumes the march.