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Finding the Best Fit for Desmond Bane

Is Desmond Bane a starter, or a future 6th Man of the Year candidate?

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Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

In a season of known “data accumulation”, the Memphis Grizzlies look like geniuses, ripping off Danny Ainge for the 30th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft to select Desmond Bane out of TCU. All Bane has gone on to do in his rookie campaign is be one of the best rookie snipers the league has seen in terms of efficiency.

Bane is currently on pace to have the third best 3p% for a rookie all time with 44.8%, trailing only Anthony Morrow (46.7%) and Drazen Petrovic (45.9%). Those are not elite names by any means, but for a rookie to do something the Grizzlies franchise has longed for since Mike Miller, its a massive win. As a rookie, Bane is 7th in the entire NBA in 3-point percentage — trailing Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Marcus Morris Sr., Bobby Portis, Joe Ingles and Luke Kennard.

Desmond possesses a skill that is highly sought after and valued in today’s game which, in theory would make him a near perfect fit on the court with the drive-and-kick style of Ja Morant. Oddly enough, Morant and Bane in 633 minutes played together are a -0.9 in +/-.

This leads to the question, “What is Bane’s best fit on this team?” Is it a floor spacer next to Morant as the starting 2 guard, or should it be as a super-sub off the bench?

Bane As A Starter

Memphis Grizzlies v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Bane has started 15 games this season while amassing 177 minutes total played with the current starting lineup sans Grayson Allen. The Grizzlies are 5-10 in those 15 games, while that starting unit is only a +3 in their minutes together. The numbers get even worse for Bane in his starts:

  • 35 % from 3 (-13 from his bench %)
  • 107 Offensive Rating (-9)
  • -0.4 +/- (-1.5)

On top of those three standing out, his usage rate (understandably) decreases as well. But if Bane is 7th in the NBA in 3p%, you would think his usage would increase. He is 105th in the NBA in three-point attempts per game (3.8) and sixth on his own team.

SIXTH MOST ATTEMPTS ON A TEAM THAT HE LEADS IN PERCENTAGE. Call me crazy, but that does not seem like the best use of a weapon.

There does not seem to be a tangible explanation on film for why Bane struggles in the lineup. He “fits” in terms of basketball schematics. He relocates on the perimeter extremely well based on the location of the ball and is capable of knocking down shots at a high rate. But, for whatever reason, playing with that starting group is the 8th best 5-man lineup for Bane.

Bane Off The Bench

Memphis Grizzlies v Milwaukee Bucks

I am not advocating a Sixth Man of the Year campaign for the rookie, BUT I am a believer that he will be a candidate for this award in the future. Looking at his build (a miniature version of The Hulk), he seemed primed to be a 3 and D star one day. However, his negative wingspan may limit that aspect of his game. The good news is, 6MOY winners are guys who just get buckets — Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford types.

Take a look at Bane’s numbers off the bench:

  • 48% from 3
  • 117 Offensive Rating
  • +1.1 overall +/-

He also has a 16.7% usage rate, which is up by 1.5% from his time as a starter. It is expected for him to have less usage with starters, but the massive uptick in his efficiency and effect on the game should not go unnoticed. Perhaps it’s the spacing that allows him to put the ball on the floor and create for himself and others off the dribble.

Memphis Grizzlies v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Fit

Numbers rarely lie and it is obvious that Desmond Bane is more comfortable coming off the bench. With Jaren Jackson Jr. presumably returning to the starting lineup soon, either Grayson Allen or Kyle Anderson will be permanently shifted to the bench. Both would warrant some shots away from Bane, but not enough to have a negative impact. Grayson and Bane together is actually Bane’s second best 2-man combination, and Grayson is the likely candidate to return to the bench full time.

The Memphis Grizzlies need to maximize the talent they have on their roster as they will never be a free agent destination. To maximize Desmond Bane, bringing him off the bench — while he’s shooting 6-8 threes per game and 12-15 shots total — is the best for all parties involved. He’s the sharpshooter the Grizzlies need and he fits the role of bucket getter off the bench.

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