Well, it’s finally happened.
After many weeks of clamoring for the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies to start Desmond Bane, the rookie made his first-career NBA start. He described the moment as a happy one, and he was thankful for the opportunity that lied ahead for him.
Bane overcame some jitters (2 turnovers within the first few minutes) to ultimately flash his upside and show why many on the rookie’s island wanted him to start immediately. He finished with 13 points and 3 assists, while connecting on a career-high 3 three-pointers.
In terms of last night’s game, there are areas where Bane could’ve been better, despite the mostly-positive starting debut.
“I thought Desmond was okay,” Coach Jenkins said. “I thought offensively he gave us a boost. Defensively, I felt like he could’ve been a little more engaged.” Bane pointed to his carefulness with the ball and his defense as areas of improvement as well.
Despite those concerns, you saw how Desmond Bane fits alongside Ja Morant and how it bodes for the Memphis Grizzlies going forward.
“[Desmond] brings a lot to the table defensively,” Morant said. “Being able to be physical. He guards some of the top players. In the offense, being able to spread the floor and knock down the shot.”
Bane fits a 3-and-D model with a few dashes of playmaking. He provides extra spacing next to Ja Morant, and he also serves as an outlet for the guard to kick out to when the defense collapses on the drive. He also did a good job attacking close-outs and making plays off the dribble — either for himself or for his teammates.
Because of his shooting and playmaking, he’s an easy player to play off of, and Bane recognizes that for himself and for his teammates.
“We have a lot of great players,” the rookie said. “We can all play to our strengths.”
When it comes to Desmond Bane’s future role, that last component — “we can all play to our strengths” is going to be a major key for both the immediate future and for the Grizzlies’ long-term outlook. He’s a shooter that spaces the floor out for Ja Morant to get driving lanes, while his outside shot also allows Ja to play to his strengths as a passer. It should also do the same for Justise Winslow upon his return. He adds more floor-spacing and playmaking could open cleaner looks for Dillon Brooks, who’s often tasked with having to do (or just doing) too much offensively.
And imagine teams having to pick their poison defending Morant or Winslow drives, when they have Bane or Jaren Jackson to kick out to from 3.
Bane’s secondary playmaking will also become a vital component of his offense, as teams start factoring his shooting more in the scouting reports. He’ll be able to attack closeouts and find his teammates out on the perimeter, on cuts, or in the paint. We’re already seeing it a bit over the past week, as he’s tallied 3+ assists in 3 of the past 4 games. Though this losing streak is less than ideal, Bane’s steady improvements should be seen as a positive, especially since this is technically year 2 of the rebuild. This is a crucial development time for him, as he gets more reps and a larger role — while also impressing.
“Overall, I was really impressed with him being thrust into that lineup,” Coach Jenkins continued. “And to get that game experience I think is really big for that development.”
Desmond Bane is already a key rotation player going forward with his elite 3-point shot and his budding two-way game. He’s also one of the only players (not named Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson Jr.) on this team that you can see starting on a Western Conference Finals Grizzlies team. These tough times could be what helps mold Desmond Bane to become the player they need him to be: a tough 3-and-D player that makes winning plays for the next great Grizzlies team.