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Desmond Bane’s Breakout Potential

Big things expected in Season 2

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2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Desmond Bane is a smooth-shooting guard that’s built like a tank. The second-year pro is coming into this season with the Memphis Grizzlies with high expectations.

So, is he a sixth man or starter?

That’s a question that Grizzlies fans and those that cover the team has asked many times over the past year about Desmond Bane. It’s still one that has yet to be answered by Head Coach Taylor Jenkins. I think we can go ahead and assume that Ja, Jaren, and Dillon will be starters. So, which two players make up the last two spots in the lineup – Bane, Steven Adams, Kyle Anderson, and DeAnthony Melton all make sense in some form. Parker Fleming broke it down beautifully last week on GBB, read that here.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Looking at Bane’s rookie season, there’s no doubt the Grizzlies were a step ahead of the rest of the league by drafting him with the last pick of the first round. Bane was better than anyone, except maybe Joe Mullinax, expected. If he continues to develop and takes the jump that many do anticipate, the Grizzlies could once again be a season ahead of schedule.

Bane started 17 games as an injury fill-in and came off the bench for the other 51 games he played in last season. If you look at the stats, it would be hard to argue that Bane isn’t better coming off the bench – but, in the famous words of Lee Corso – “Not so fast my friend!”

Last year, Bane was a pretty valuable role player, whether it was starting or coming off the bench. In the 17 games he started, he averaged 8.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in a little less than 24 minutes a game. In the games where he came off the bench, he averaged 9.5 points and 3 rebounds per game in about 22 minutes of action. It’s clear that Bane was relied on more as a scorer when he was coming off the bench, than when he was a starter. And that’s understandable when you are sharing the floor with Dillon Brooks, Ja Morant, and Jonas Valanciunas.

I wanted to take a closer look at how Bane fit with certain lineups of guys, and the numbers show a mixed bag of results. Of the 3-man lineups that played more than 200 minutes together last season, when it comes to net rating, the best lineups with Bane by far include JV. When I look at lineups that include current Grizzlies, the best was a Bane-Tillman-Clarke lineup (+5.4). The worst, Bane-Clarke-Melton (-8.0). Lineups that include Bane with other starters, for the most part, came out about even. There wasn’t a 5-man lineup of returning players that included Bane that has a large enough sample size to take away anything.

2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Now, let’s get to this season, and why I think he would thrive in the role as a starter. He shot 50 percent from the corner on 3’. His point guard is Ja Morant. Ja is the type of player that can get to the bucket whenever he wants to, and once defenses start to collapse, Bane will be out there on the wing to knock down a three. It would make the offense that much more dangerous being on the floor with Jaren and Dillon as well. That group on the floor, along with Adams, would force defenses to stay honest and keep the focus off Ja. This offense could be very dangerous.

The departure of Grayson Allen should also open more minutes for Bane and Melton, but also depends on what the plan is for Jarrett Culver. If Bane is in the starting lineup, that means Melton and Kyle Anderson would be the guys moved to the bench. Both guys have shown they are capable of leading the Grizzlies second unit, along with Tyus Jones. Melton can be that ‘microwave’ type scorer to get a lot of buckets in a short amount of time, so Bane’s bench scoring wouldn’t be missed too much.

2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Best case scenario for Desmond Bane this season is that he is thrust into the starting lineup and the move goes off without a hitch. Shooters shoot, and that’s what Bane is, and if he is given the green light, he could land in the Top-10 in the NBA in 3-pointers and finish as the fourth-leading scorer for the Grizzlies, averaging somewhere between 12 and 15 points a game. If that’s the case, the Grizzlies could play their way into a Top-6 seed and a Division title.

Worst-case scenario for Bane is that he struggles finding his shot out of the gate and loses minutes. We know Coach Jenkins has his guys that he will give a longer leash to than others – see Grayson Allen. It appears that Bane is in that company and has already cemented his place in the rotation, but you never know.

As far as expectations, I think Bane will thrive in whatever role he falls into with the Grizz. He is potentially the third most important player on the team behind Ja and Jaren when it comes to the Grizzlies ceiling this season. The reason is because we don’t exactly know what Bane’s ceiling is yet. We have only seen him do what is asked of him, and that was to be a solid role player, and spot starter. He was fantastic doing that. This season, he will be asked to do more, and he will flourish.

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