The Memphis Grizzlies closed out home play in the preseason with a matchup against the Detroit Pistons. Memphis fans have to wait until the regular season to see number one pick Cade Cunningham face off against Ja Morant in person, as he sat out last night’s game.
The Grizzlies really controlled the game from the outset. Though there were a few moments of mediocre execution and defensive lapses, they were locked in for the majority of the game, causing havoc on both ends of the floor.
What stood out to most people invested in Grizzlies basketball is how the duo of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. looked together. They both played to their optimal versions of themselves, giving the Pistons absolute fits the entire game. Some may point to the “it’s just preseason notion,” but that sort of play should generate raving reviews as well optimism for what’s in store this season.
Ja Morant: 24 points, 5 assists, 10-13 shooting (1-2 from 3), +36 in 26 minutes (Grade: A)
So Ja Morant probably showed what he was likely working on “in the dark” this offseason.
He continued his marvelous preseason play with another dominant performance. He walked into this matchup and just smelled blood in the water — poor Killian Hayes and Corey Joseph.
Morant was able to get to his spots wherever on the floor, just slicing the Pistons defense at will. The most promising aspect of his game was the pure mastery he displayed in the mid-range. In the 3rd quarter, he had a sequence where he ran 3 straight pick-and-roll possessions with Steven Adams, all resulting in mid-range jumpers. The defense was playing the drive too hard with drop coverage, and Morant pulled up for easy mid-range jumpers.
That’s a staple in the skillsets of many All-Star guards in the league. If Morant can continue converting on those shots with good frequency, he’ll likely be joining those guards as an All-Star too.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 7-14 shooting (3-6 from 3), +32 in 26 minutes (Grade: A)
Does Jaren Jackson Jr. have your attention now?
Jackson flashed his unicorn upside in last night’s win over the Pistons. He showcased his 3-point prowess and quick release, as he drilled 3 of his 6 three’s. He also took his opponents off the dribble, and one of those was Jerami Grant — one of the more versatile defenders at the 4 spot. He even crashed the glass and took the ball coast-to-coast off rebounds. There were times where he couldn’t convert on those opportunities, but he will as he gets more comfortable.
Jackson’s post game really caught my eye though. He had several good moves where he’d utilize his body to get to his shot, and he also pulled the “KG shoulder fake” out of his bag too. It was very encouraging to see him get to the post game a bit more. It diversifies his offensive portfolio when he gets going there, and it could be something he leans on in any game where his outside shot is off.
Finally, he’s showing legitimate growth as a rebounder. You have to enjoy that, right? If Jackson continues to play like this and build on this performance, it may be scary hours in Memphis.
- Tyus Jones (A): Jones has quietly put together one of the better preseason performances on the team. His confidence has been through the roof, and it’s evident in how he’s running through the offense. More importantly, that confidence is evident in his outside shot as well, as he connected 3 of his 4 three’s. I’d keep an eye on that.
- De’Anthony Melton (B): Melton continued to do a lot in this one. He’s continuing to hum offensively, letting it fly without much thought. He was active on the glass (8 rebounds), and he did a good job finding his teammates. His struggles off drives are what hold him back from an “A” grade.
- Desmond Bane (C-): This wasn’t Desmond Bane’s best preseason performance. He looked a bit rushed out there, and seemed to just not go between 0-100 out there. He won’t go 1-6 every night from 3, so he’ll be okay.
- Steven Adams (B): Even though he didn’t get a lot of shots up, Adams continued to do his job. He battled on the glass for rebounds, set hard screens to free up the perimeter players, and found his teammates for open looks. Not everyone is tasked with scoring, and Adams continues to illustrate how to thrive in other areas while making the most of any bucket opportunities.
- Brandon Clarke (B+): Clarke looked like rookie year Brandon Clarke in this one. He was looking bouncy, finding plenty of looks around the rim. He didn’t give overthink on his drives either, which is a good sign for confidence.