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Desmond Bane at 100: Already Elite

100 games into his career, Desmond Bane truly is establishing himself among the elite shooters in the league.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Like many fellow members of the 2020 NBA Draft class, Desmond Bane’s career has gotten off to a pretty unique start. Monday night was the 100th game of Bane’s young career (105 if you include the playoffs.) What is different is that Bane reached this career milestone less than a year since he made his career debut on 12/23/2020. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and a condensed schedule, many players have played significantly more basketball in 2021 than any other calendar year in their careers, whether it was before or in the NBA.

In my opinion, that makes the success Desmond Bane has experienced so far this season even more impressive. Bane, a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate (perhaps with teammate Jaren Jackson Jr.), has been one of the best breakout performers in the league this year. It was fair to label Bane as one of the best young shooters in the league coming into his second season. However, Bane has quickly established himself among the elite shooters in the league overall.

Bane is one of only eight players this season shooting 45% or better from the field and 40% or better from three while averaging 10+ FGAs and 5+3PAs per game. He is among the top 15 in total threes in the league, and is well on his way to challenging Mike Miller’s franchise record for most threes by a Grizzlies player in a season, which stands at 201. He truly is one of the best shooters in the league, with a legit chance at a 50-40-90 season on singificant volume.

Yet what stands out more about Bane now 100 games into his career is just how rare of a talent he is proving to be, both in terms of the Grizzlies franchise and the NBA as a whole.

As mentioned above, while Bane has played 100 games in less than a year, it only took a few games to realize just how special of a shooting talent he is. The big thing is that myself and many others quickly claimed Bane was one of the best shooters in franchise history less than a month into his career, and the stats prove that. Not only does Bane have nearly 40 more threes than O.J. Mayo (165) or Jaren Jackson Jr. (161), Bane has made his threes in more than 600 less FGA than Mayo and more than 200 less FGA than Jackson Jr through 100 career games.

That is the difference that stands out between Bane and most shooters to begin their career. While his frequency is certainly impressive, it is the accuracy and quality of his shots. And this season, Bane has quickly established he can produce threes better than any other Grizzlies player has to begin his career:

Most Times in first 100 career games with 4+ 3s in a game for a Grizzlies Player:

Bane 18, Juan Carlos Navarro 14, Jaren Jackson Jr. 13

What makes this feat even more impressive is that Bane has produced ten of these games in his last 17 played. In fact, putting number of career games aside for the moment, only 20 Grizzlies players have attempted 450 or more threes in their career in franchise history. Bane is in the top 2 among 3P%, TS%, and eFG%. The other player in the top two of those three categories is Mike Miller. Without a doubt, it seems Bane clearly is the second best three point shooter in franchise history.

If he surpasses Miller for the franchise record in three pointers in a season, Bane may have a very valid case for the number one spot.

Bane’s shooting success starts to really become impressive when you compare his production to others in NBA history.

Bane’s rare combination of significant quantity and elite accuracy from beyond the arc to begin his career is quite impressive. While this list contains players with a wide variance when it comes to their career trajectory, the two players Bane has a better career TS% than to start his career (.591) is Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. And while the other three players listed may have had better quality production from three, a big reason for their success is because they were mainly shooting specialists.

Labeling Bane as an effective shooting specialist this early in his career should be a compliment. However, I do not feel it does his overall level of impact as a shooter and scorer justice. Of the 36 players in NBA history with 900 or more field goal attempts and 450 or more three point attempts in the first 100 games of their careers, Bane has the best TS% of the group. He also is one of only two players in this group shooting 45% or better from the field, 42% or better from three, and 85% or better from the free throw line.

The other player is Steph Curry.

While Bane’s specialty may be shooting, his improved ability as a scorer and consistent ability to show effective shot selection creates a rare skill set very few players have shown to have at Bane’s level this early in their careers.

However, Bane’s shooting prowess through the first 100 games of his career is not unprecedented. Yet that is the exact reason that Bane arguably has become one of the most valuable players in the league in terms of his contract. Duncan Robinson made 326 threes on a 67.5% TS% through the first 100 games of his career, an immediate shooting impact no one has come close to matching in NBA history. Robinson turned that production into a 5-year, $90M this offseason.

Since the start of last year, Bane and Robinson have had some pretty similar production numbers on a nightly basis:

Bane: 4.3 FG/9.2 FGA 46.7 FG%/42.1 3P%/59.3 TS%

Robinson: 4.2 FG/10.0 FGA 41.8 FG%/38.6 3p%/ 59.6 TS%

NBA: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

While it should be noted that Robinson has averaged over 8 3PA attempts per game, Bane is averaging over 6.5 per game this year with his shooting and production rates continuing to rise despite nearly doubling his volume of shots from last year while Robinson’s numbers have fallen off. The eye-opening detail of these two players is that while Robinson is owed around $18M per season over the next two and a half seasons, Bane is owed a total of nearly $7M over that time frame. This shows that Bane truly has one of the most valuable contracts in the NBA over the next few seasons.

The compliments and praise Desmond Bane has received this season have certainly been deserved. However, the numbers he has produced this season, and through the first 100 games of his career certainly validate some pretty bold statements:

Desmond Bane is one of the best shooters in the NBA.

Desmond Bane is one of the most impressive shooters in NBA history through his first career 100 games.

In terms of contracts, Desmond Bane is one of the most valuable talents in the league.

The sample size has now reached a level where Bane’s success is not a fluke. For his shooting and scoring rates to have either remained consistent or improved this year with the increase in usage he has experienced, there is plenty of proof that he will be able to sustain this success moving forward.

For two decades, Grizzlies fans badly and logically wanted one the NBA’s best shooters to reside in Memphis. While Mike Miller certainly played like that at times, Desmond Bane truly seems to be on his way to another level as a shooting star. His continued development could be one of the most significant reasons why this version of the Grizzlies reaches a new peak of team success in franchise history.

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