It’s no secret that Jaren Jackson Jr. has risen to the level of the most elite shooters in the game, becoming easily one of the best shooters at his position. Despite his unorthodox shooting form, he’s making nearly 40% of his attempts at very high volume, taking over six threes a game. I decided to dig deep into the film to find out just how he is able to get up those six shots a game and how much room he has to improve.
Transition and Early Offense
Many of Jaren Jackson Jr.’s three point attempts come early in the shot clock before the defense is fully set up and prepared to defend an elite shooter. Many times he would jog up the floor in semi-transition behind Ja Morant and walk into an easy trailing three because the defense was still getting back and figuring out matchups. According to nba.com, Jackson shoots 44.4% from behind the arc “early” in the shot clock, which is defined as being between 15-18 seconds remaining on the clock. Over a third of his three point attempts came in this time frame.
I found that Jackson’s transition attempts came in two scenarios: when the defense was occupied with a cutter or when the defense simply fell asleep and forgot that one of the best shooters in the league was trotting up the floor. When the defense is not fully focused on the situation that is developing in front of them, Jaren is adept at making the defense pay.
Taylor Jenkins deserves a lot of credit for Jaren Jackson Jr.’s three-point surge this season. A new, fast-paced, and revolutionized Grizzlies offense has given Jaren a role where he can thrive in the modern NBA. Though Jaren has obviously put in the work in the gym to improve his shooting ability, Jenkins has done a fantastic job putting him in spots where he is able to succeed. Creative sets and really nice plays out of timeouts have been one of the many reasons that the Grizzlies have exceeded expectations this season and Jaren Jackson Jr. is at the center of many of these plays. Jenkins has built a large part of his offense around getting Jaren the ball in spots where he can quickly and comfortably fire at will.
One of the staples of the Grizzlies’ offense has been a play called HORNS Flare. This play is run almost exclusively for Jaren Jackson Jr. and it is called at least once a game when the Grizzlies need a bucket. HORNS Flare does its best work when the defense is playing drop coverage as their primary pick-and-roll defense, meaning that the opposing big has to make up a lot of ground to contest the open three pointer. Many teams play drop coverage to try to force Ja Morant and Tyus Jones in to pull-up jumpers, so this play is almost always an option.
Even if Jaren Jackson Jr. doesn’t get the shot that the play is designed for him to get, his shooting ability opens up the rest of the floor for his teammates to get open shots. Defenses know that they have to stay attached to him at all times and the attention that he draws running off screens can open up cutting lanes for a guy like Brandon Clarke or may open up a passing lane for Ja Morant to find Jonas Valanciunas under the basket. Two defenders may miscommunicate and chase Jaren off a screen, leaving the screener open for a shot. While Jaren may not have the gravity of the best shooters in the league, his presence is certainly enough to put stress on even some of the best defenses in the league. This gravity was shown in the scrimmage inside the Bubble against the Miami Heat, where the threat of Jaren’s shooting opened up two dunks for his teammates.
How much better can he get?
Jaren Jackson Jr. has the catch and shoot part of his game figured out. According to nba.com, he shoots 40.4% on catch-and-shoot three pointers. His form, though unorthodox, is quick, simple, repeatable, and consistent. The only work yet to do here is to continue to expand his range further so he can take deeper threes and stretch the defense even further as his career progresses.
The area of Jaren’s offensive game that needs the most work is his ballhandling. In the past, I’ve been vocal about the fact that he seems very uncomfortable dribbling the ball with his right hand. I’ve always found this very peculiar because he is a right handed player, but he refuses to make a move with his strong hand. Jackson does have some nice moves in his arsenal, but most defenses would prefer for JJJ to take a few dribbles inside the arc and they will live with the results. If Jaren is able to create a more versatile ballhandling package, defenses will have to respect his driving ability more and it may open up more opportunities for him to shoot.
He has shown flashes of being able to lull his defender to sleep and fire a quick three over the top and has also shown the ability to hit a stepback three. If he’s able to pull these tricks out of his bag on a more consistent basis, he may be an unstoppable shooter.
Yes, Jaren Jackson Jr. is fantastic. He’s one of the best shooters in the league in only his second year. He makes those around him better in his own way. Yes, he is going to get even better. He’s got a lot of areas where there is still a lot of room to grow. The Memphis Grizzlies have the perfect big man to lead them into the future in the modern NBA and he’ll be shooting the lights out for many years to come.