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Start Desmond Bane you cowards

You’re not really cowards...it is for dramatic effect.

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Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

By now you have undoubtedly heard that Ja Morant injured his ankle in Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. X-rays came back negative, but as we await MRI results it is safe to assume that given how cautious the Memphis Grizzlies are when it comes to injuries that even in a best case scenario Morant is going to miss some time. How much (again, depending on severity) will be up to the Memphis front office, performance staff, and probably Ja himself and how he feels as he recovers from the ankle sprain. But especially with Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. out due to other injuries, there is no need to rush him back.

You can’t replace Ja Morant. It’s not possible given the current state of the Grizzlies roster, but it’s also not realistic in general. Morant is that good. But Memphis cannot play with four guys in the starting lineup. The easiest answer would be to slide Tyus Jones in to that role, give his experience and the additional absence of De’Anthony Melton due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols (whether Melton is out due to contracting the virus or for contact tracing is not publicly known). But these times call for thinking outside the box. And a movement is growing on social media.

OK, it’s a slow moving movement. But the momentum is real. I wrote in this space three weeks ago that Bane should have been considered for the starting two guard spot ahead of Grayson Allen and perhaps even the aforementioned Melton. Coach Jenkins disagreed, as Bane never started a preseason game and Allen has been the starter at the 2 guard through 3 regular season contests. Yet Grayson is struggling (22% from the field, 20% from three) and when his shot isn’t falling his shortcomings defensively really shine through. Of course Bane has his issues on that end as well - he made several rookie mistakes against the Nets when it comes to rotations - but per basketball-reference.com Bane is currently leading Memphis in three point percentage (54.5%) and true shooting percentage (69.2%) and boasts the team’s second best offensive rating (118) behind only Ja Morant (123 - get well soon, Ja).

He needs more than 19 minutes a game. He needs a larger role. He needs to start.

Here’s why.

  • Kyle Anderson - Point Forward. Kyle is playing the best basketball of his career for Memphis, and is quite literally the best option the Grizzlies currently have as both a scorer and facilitator of offense. 2020 is wild. Regardless, your strongest offensive threat for creating offense for himself and for others should have the ball in his hands as much as possible. Bane, Grayson Allen, and Dillon Brooks are perimeter scoring threats (theoretically) and apparently now so is Anderson (41.2% from beyond the arc through three games on 17 attempts). All three can also (again, in theory) facilitate offense in a secondary manner. But of current starters, Anderson is the best option. Ride the hot hand.
Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
  • Keep Tyus as a reserve. Tyus Jones, meanwhile, is struggling offensively at the moment. He currently has roughly the same amount of assists per 100 possessions as Dillon Brooks (5.8 for Tyus, 5.6 for Dillon). He has the worst PER (6.0) and win shares per 48 minutes (-.074) of anyone that has played all three games for the Grizzlies. He simply is currently not himself...and it would be a large risk to throw him in with the starters and hope for/expect improvement. Allowing for him to continue to play alongside the likes of Melton upon his return and Brandon Clarke (who looked better against the Nets but is still working his way back himself after a preseason injury forced him to miss time) will help in the long-term in terms of cultivating much needed chemistry between guys that were the core of one of the NBA’s best reserve units just a season ago. Melton maybe makes sense as a starter when he comes back, but Bane’s simple insertion in the lineup makes it possible for the bench group to have a true point running the show.
Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

There will have to be a lot of things done to keep the ship afloat while Morant is out. And Melton’s return looms large - when he is back, he can certainly assist in terms of replenishing the depth of the back court that is lost with Ja gone. But as was seen in the Orlando Bubble, Melton is not a point guard. Justise Winslow also could help in theory...but that’s a conversation for another article. There is only one true traditional option on the roster, and he is arguably off to the slowest start of anyone on the Memphis roster. Keeping him in the best place to find his rhythm (and subbing him in for Grayson Allen early in the rotation) while emphasizing what has worked to this point with Kyle Anderson’s all-around game and Desmond Bane’s remarkable shooting range (in a small sample size) is the best way to make it through this adverse situation for the Grizzlies.

Yes, he is a rookie. Yes, he will make mistakes. Yes, he is a flawed defender at the moment (and maybe long-term given his wingspan) and teams will try their best to take advantage of him on switches and will likely have success more often than not. But the young guard out of TCU provides Memphis with spacing and creation out of the pick and roll. He is a basketball sponge absorbing all the knowledge he can according to Taylor Jenkins and multiple players like Dillon Brooks, and the best way to learn is to do. These aren’t ideal times. Yet there is an imperfect solution to the problem that could ideally make your offense good enough to survive the days ahead without your franchise superstar.

Start Desmond Bane, you cowards.

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