According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a ‘Unicorn’ is something unusual, rare, or unique. Triple-J is in fact a unicorn, and he is Memphis’ Unicorn. Standing at 6’11, Jackson Jr’s future in Memphis is as big as his smile.
Recapping the 2019-20 season for Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., it was a year of growth and a responsibility that was needed for the 20-year old out of Michigan State University. This season Jaren grew up, and rose to the occasion for the young Grizzlies as one of the new faces of the franchises. Electric play on both ends of the floor, and an electric personality off of it. Jaren gave us a glimpse of the Memphis unicorn he can be in the future this past season.
At his best
Right now in the NBA there are two real ‘unicorns’ in the league. Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis and Jackson Jr. of your Memphis Grizzlies. Both played exactly 57 games in the regular season, and both had solid seasons for their respective ball clubs.
Jaren held the edge over Porzingis in three point percentage 39% to 35%, while Porzingis held the points per game advantage over Jaren 20.4 to 17.4. Porzingis also led the +/- advantage over Jackson Jr., +4.7 to -1.8 on the season. One guy is 24 and one guy is 20 years of age, however, and what Jackson Jr., did this season was special statistically.
Jaren’s best stretch of basketball came in early December (12/2/2019 - 12/13/2019) where he averaged 25.8 points per game on 50% shooting from the field. Notably, Jaren let it fly from the field in that six game run - putting up nearly nine three pointers a game, while shooting 39% from deep. A 6’11 “big” putting up guard-like numbers!
The Grizzlies were in the top ten in the NBA in pace per game this season, and you’ll notice in Jackson’s huge game against the Bucks, shots were taken with 15 seconds or more on the shot clock. Head Coach Taylor Jenkins also ran sets to open up JJ around the perimeter.
At his worst
Jaren Jackson’s worst came on games where he couldn’t stay in those games to help the team out, fouling out of games and raising his personal foul average from year one to year two. Games like the Golden State Warriors matchup on November 19th, 2019 a game in which Jaren couldn’t stay out of foul trouble and would eventually end up fouling out in 18 minutes of game action. The Grizzlies lost by 19 points to Golden State and Jaren only scored 8 points.
Jaren’s consistency making his presence from game to game goes hand in hand with the foul issues. You would have games this season where Jaren would be all over the floor, and the stat sheet. Then, the following night, you’d have a game where he wasn’t to be found, and fouling earlY and often.
Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and forget that these guys are still, in fact, kids in the eyes of the NBA. On September 15th, Jaren Jackson Jr. will be legal to drink at the age of 21. To watch him mentally grow from year one to year two, and embrace the new front office is huge, along with a brand new locker-room.
Pair that growth mentally, with the leadership of Triple-J on and off the floor, and Memphis’ future is so bright with Jaren Jackson Jr., as their unicorn big man.