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The maturation of Desmond Bane

Though Desmond Bane had a historic shooting season as a rookie, the maturation of his overall game this season is highly encouraging.

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NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

A few days before the 2020 draft, Grizzlies fans finally got a bit of interesting news about what the Grizzlies could be looking to do when it was revealed they had completed a prospect workout with Tyrell Terry. Not only did this indicate that they were clearly looking to add shooting, but they also were showing interest in players who were highly unlikely to be available when the Grizzlies’ 40th pick was on the clock. This meant that the Grizzlies, just as they had done the year before to snag Brandon Clarke, seemed to have interest in trading up for a player they liked.

On draft night, a few of these assumptions proved to be true. Memphis did trade up, and they moved up to get a very good shooting talent this roster desperately needed. However, their selection was not Tyrell Terry. It was TCU sharpshooter Desmond Bane, a player many felt was the best shooter in the 2020 draft. This selection was immediately viewed as a “steal” and one of “great value” for the Grizzlies, similar to how their pick of Clarke was viewed in 2019.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The wonderful thing is that Bane immediately validated all of these reactions with his outstanding shooting. The Memphis Marksman made an impact from the start through the finish of this crazy season and on many nights in between. However, another encouraging development is that Bane also proved he could add value in many other ways beyond his prowess beyond the arc.

While the improvement in Bane’s overall game should be acknowledged, its truly hard to put into words how much of a revelation Bane’s shooting was for the Grizzlies this season. Even in January, myself and others felt Bane arguably was one of the five best natural shooting talents that had ever played a game for the Memphis Grizzlies. While that may have been superfluous at the time, Bane’s production was historic in terms of the Grizzlies franchise as well as rookie seasons in NBA history.

In 68 games this season, Desmond Bane averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in just over 22 minutes per game. From a counting stats perspective, that may not seem that impressive. However, Bane also shot 46.9% from the field and 43.2% from beyond the arc. His true shooting mark was 60.0% and his effective field goal percentage was 58.6%. Though those percentages may not seem that impressive with Bane averaging 7.3 FGA per game, the figures actually are eye-opening when you consider 54.3% of Bane’s total shots were threes.

As was evident from the beginning, Bane produced one of the best three point shooting campaigns in the history of the Grizzlies franchise in his debut season. The key point to acknowledge is this is not compared to just rookies, but to any player who has ever played a season in a Grizzlies uniform. A Grizzlies player has attempted at least 271 threes (Bane’s 3PA this year) in a single season on 37 different occasions in the history of the franchise. Only Mike Miller (four times), Mike Conley, Michael Dickerson, and Bane produced a 3P% at 40% or better. Miller and Bane are the only two players among those 37 occurrences to have a TS% at or above 60%.

Without a doubt, Mike Miller is the best shooter in the history of the Grizzlies franchise. After Bane’s performance this season, it seems fair to suggest he may be the Grizzlies best pure shooter since Miller’s prime in Memphis in the mid-2000’s.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The historical significance of Bane’s season continues to grow when compared to other rookies in NBA history. Only 10 rookies in NBA history have shot 40% or better on at least 271 3PA during their rookie season. Both Tyrese Haliburton and Bane accomplished that feat this season (Miller also did it his rookie year.) Among this group, only Steph Curry (43.7%) had a higher 3P% than Bane (43.2%). Bane also produced the highest eFG% and third highest TS% in this group. While it may be a bit of a stretch to say Bane just had one of the best three point shooting seasons by a rookie in NBA history, it is not far-fetched to say he certainly has been one of the most accurate rookies in the history of the league.

The quality of Bane’s shooting continues to impress when you compare it to the rest of his rookie class. Though Bane was fifth in 3PM among rookies, he produced the highest 3P% among the nine rookies that attempted 200 or more threes this season. Among rookies who played at least 50 games and averaged at least 15 minutes per game this season, Bane was second in eFG% and TS%. The only player ahead of him in both categories was fellow rookie and Grizzlies teammate Xavier Tillman. However, Bane attempted 499 shots compared to Tillman’s 299 attempts. Bane clearly was the best shooter in this rookie class.

Without a doubt, the main source of Bane’s value as a player is his incredible ability as a shooter. But Bane also proved that labeling him as “just a shooter” is certainly a flawed perspective.

As with any rookie, Bane needed time to make adjustments so he could add value across the board when it came to his non-shooting offensive and defensive production. However, as he continued to gain experience, the quality of his game across the board continued to improve.

For instance, on a Per-36 minute basis between the first and second of the season, the maturation of Bane’s overall game is clearly evident:

Pre All-Star Per-36 Numbers: 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 turnovers, 1.1 steals

Post All-Star Per-36 Numbers: 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 0.9 threes.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Though he may not be considered a significant contributor in any of these areas, he certainly increased the number of ways in which he could impact the game as the season progressed. Furthermore, though he logically offers more value offensively due to his shot, Bane’s defense became more impactful later in the season. Of all four-man lineups that played at least 100 minutes together for the Grizzlies after the All-Star break this season, Bane was a part of three of the top five lineups that produced each of the best Defensive Ratings and Net Ratings. Bane was also apart of the best five-man lineup (by a significant margin) that the Grizzlies featured against the Jazz in the postseason, along with Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and Jonas Valanciunas.

By the time May arrived and the Grizzlies where playing their most important basketball games in over four years, Bane was playing 20 to 25 minutes a night while offering significant value even when he was hot shooting the three. For him to do that as a rookie shows the signification progress his game made this year as he was featured in an important role from the beginning.

The thing with Desmond Bane is that it is very easy to forget he is just a rookie. Beyond his game on the court, Bane’s maturity level is far beyond his actual age. He has a great personality that is based in positivity and an unwavering level of confidence. This is important because Bane fits perfectly with the amazing culture that supports this Grizzlies team.

Without a doubt, Bane’s addition to the Grizzlies roster back in November was an absolute dream come true. For a franchise that has been among the league’s worst shooting the three since it arrived in Memphis, Bane was a perfect match. However, to make things even better, he was another of Memphis drafting a player who offered immediate value across the board at levels few expected.

Like the Grizzlies as a whole, the future for Desmond Bane is quite bright. Along with Morant, Brooks, Anderson, Valanciunas, and Jaren Jackson Jr., Bane was one of only six Grizzlies to do end of the season interviews. That shows how much the Grizzlies value Bane for the future in the present. As his game continues to grow, Bane’s impact will continue to improve. Though it is easy to identify his best trait as a player, it should be even more clear that Desmond Bane is going to be a significant part of the Grizzlies success on both ends of the court moving forward.

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