Jaren Jackson Jr.
BY THE NUMBERS:
58 games played (56 started), 26.1 minutes per game, 13.8 points per game, 50.6% field goal shooting, 4.7 rebounds per game, 16.4 PER, .105 win share per 48 minutes, 100.5 offensive rating, and 102.4 defensive rating.
SEASON IN REVIEW:
These were the words from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that has given hope to the franchise of the Memphis Grizzlies. Jaren Jackson Jr. was one of the only bright spots in an otherwise bleak season for the Grizzlies. It was a pleasure to see him develop and adapt his game to the NBA level. He proved very early on that he was one of the best rookies of an incredible class of rookies.
When Jaren debuted this season the expectations were fairly high for him. The Grizzlies were a team with an aging core but still had the attributes of a playoff team with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley still on the roster. Jaren Jackson Jr. was supposed to be that burst of NBA ready talent to get the Grizzlies back to relevance this season. Unfortunately, the team did not have the talent structure outside of those three to make a consistent run in the standings. However, it did give Jaren the stage to develop his game at the highest level.
In only his second game of the season, Jackon burst onto the scene scoring 24 points and adding 7 rebounds against the Atlanta Hawks. This performance was exactly what he needed to shake the rookie nerves and show people early that he was worth the fourth overall selection.
After this game, he made his debut in the starting lineup playing alongside Marc Gasol in the Grizzlies’ frontcourt. This was a great experience for him as he was not expected to be the focal point in the paint and could shade defenders with the help of a defensive superstar in Gasol. Offensively, he was able to play away from the basket more. He patented his spin move going to the basket that was working well against high-level NBA defenders. Through the quarter-mark of the season with the Grizzlies playing well, he was seen as one of the best rookies in the league next to Luka Doncic.
As the Grizzlies struggled to keep the pace, the national attention shifted away from Jaren Jackson Jr. He still continued to put up high level numbers, but the spotlight and conversation turned to other rookies around the league. In his last 15 games playing this season, he averaged 14.9 points per game with four 20-point games sprinkled in there. Jaren was maintaining dominant play as a rookie in this league.
Unfortunately, a deep thigh bruise kept Jackson out the last 23 games of the season. The Grizzlies played it safe shutting him down around late February, but there was no reason to play him any more this season. It was a fantastic initial season from the rookie out of Michigan State.
WHAT IS NEXT:
It is exciting times for Grizzlies’ fans to think about the future of Jaren Jackson Jr. He should be voted NBA All-Rookie First Team and will have other accolades to point to his incredible debut season with the Grizzlies.
Going forward, it will be most important to continue to improve on his offensive game especially concerning his three-point shot. He only averaged 2.4 per game this season, but as we all know, big men who shoot the three is what the league is focused on nowadays. This attribute of his game is something only he can improve upon with time in the gym every chance he gets.
The biggest question mark for him will be the coaching situation moving forward. J.B. Bickerstaff showed hesitation keeping Jaren on the court in crunch time situations of games. He was always subbed off for more experienced guys. A new coach will hopefully give him a longer leash to become comfortable in all NBA game situations. This will come over time, but Jackson will have no troubles adapting to all situations with a new coaching staff.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has the work ethic and drive to be one of the next great superstars in the NBA. His rookie season showed his raw ability right out of the gate. With an off-season dedicated to nothing but improving his craft, he can jump to an even higher level. It is going to be a treat to watch his development next season and beyond.
The sky is the limit for Jaren Jackson Jr.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com