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Jaren Jackson Jr.’s historic rookie season

Jaren Jackson Jr.’s level of play this year has rarely been seen from a Grizzlies’ rookie.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, Grizzlies fans had finally survived and started to let despair be replaced by hope. Coming off the franchise’s worst season in a decade, Memphis had a high probability of picking in the first few picks of one of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory. After a few months of anticipation and speculation, the end result was Jaren Jackson Jr.

Fast forward a year later, and it seems Grizzlies’ fans are quite happy with the way things turned out. Sure, there is still disappointment. Another losing season, another campaign marred by injuries, and another coaching search. However, this time around the Grizzlies have arguably the best natural young talent in franchise history to be the cornerstone of their future.

Jackson Jr. only played 58 games this year due to injuries. As a result, his statistical totals fall short of other first year players who played full seasons. However, what makes Jackson Jr. so special is the quality of play he showed on both ends of the court. Compared to other Grizzlies’ rookies in franchise history, Jackson Jr.’s effectiveness and production truly stands out.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson Jr. produced a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.4 this season. That is the fourth highest mark in Grizzlies’ franchise history among rookies who played 1500 or more minutes. Only Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim produced a higher mark.

In 1,515 minutes, Jackson Jr. was worth 3.3 Win Shares, the fifth highest total by a rookie in franchise history. The four best marks all came from players who played more than 2,500 minutes in their rookie seasons. As a result, a better indicator of Jackson Jr.’s high level of play may be Win Shares per 48 minutes. Jackson Jr. produced a .105 WS/48 mark, which is the third best mark for a rookie in franchise history behind the Gasol brothers.

On a per-36 minute scale for Grizzlies’ rookies who played 1,500 minutes or more, Jackson Jr. was second in points, first in field goal percentage, first in two-point field goal percentage, and first in true shooting percentage. While his offensive play was at a higher level than many expected, what makes Jackson Jr. truly special is his potential on defense. On the same per-36 minute scale, Jackson Jr. averaged 1.9 blocks, which is fourth among Grizzlies’ rookies. He is only the second Grizzlies’ rookie to register a block percentage of 5 percent or higher with more than 1,500 minutes played.

While his season has a whole illustrates his elite talent, Jackson Jr. also had some historic moments as well. His 36 points against the Nets matched the second highest points scored in a game ever by a Grizzlies’ rookie. He tied the Grizzlies’ rookie record for blocks in a game with 7 against the Knicks. He also produced the third highest Game Score rating for a Grizzlies’ rookie with his breakout performance in Brooklyn.

As can be seen, Jackson Jr. had one of the better seasons by a Grizzlies’ rookie ever. It could be argued it was the best rookie season by a Grizzlies’ player in Memphis for anyone not named Gasol. While statistical totals may have been low, his quality of play more than made up for it in terms of value and impact.

However, to gain true appreciation for Jackson Jr.’s efforts as a rookie, the focus must broaden to the NBA as a whole. Jackson Jr. is the only rookie with 1,500 or more minutes played in NBA history to average at least 19 points, 1.9 blocks, 1 three pointer, and 1 steal on a per 36 minute scale. He also is only the second rookie in NBA history, along with David Robinson, to play more than 1,500 minutes as a rookie and register a True Shooting Percentage of .591 and a block percentage above five.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, the numbers illustrate the overall impact Jaren Jackson Jr. made on both ends of the court. His level of play not only proved to be historic in terms of the Grizzlies, but the NBA as a whole. One other piece of information should add validity to just how special this season was. Jackson Jr. did this at the age of 19, showing just how rare and special his natural talent truly seems to be.

Many have speculated on what type of player Jaren Jackson Jr. could become and to who his game compares to. While some of the names that have been mentioned should make Grizzlies fans excited, these statistics show Jackson Jr. could be a rare player that is hard to compare to others. And that is what should make fans thrilled.

Jackson Jr. performed on a level few rookies have in NBA history. Ever since they have been in Memphis, Grizzlies fans have dreamed of having a true superstar that they could call their own. With no disrespect to the Gasols, Mike Conley, or Zach Randolph, Jaren Jackson Jr. proved this year he truly has the best chance to make that dream become a reality.

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