Desmond Bane did not start the season off on the right foot, shooting 26.5% (13-49) from the field and 28.6% (8-28) from 3 through the first 3 games. Despite the struggles, no one saw any reason to worry.
“I’m loving the looks that Des is getting,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said before Monday’s game. “He’s getting the looks that he’s historically gotten knocked down at a really high rate before. They’re just not falling right now.”
It’s hard to argue against him either. Prior to Monday’s game, Bane connected on 28.6% of his “open” 3’s (closest defender within 4-6 feet), while shooting the same percentage on pullup 3’s. For reference, he shot 46.4% and 43.1% on these kinds of 3-pointers last night.
And small sample size fun — those numbers are now up to 38.9 and 52.4(!) percent. How season averages swing around early in the season just humors me.
So, yeah. Any reason to be concerned?
“Never. No. Never a doubt,” said Jenkins.
“Never worried. I know the work he put in,” said All-Star backcourt mate Ja Morant. “I know once he gets his legs under him and gets in rhythm … he’s one of the top players in this league, and before the game, he told me he was locked in.”
Bane was locked in for sure, making an emphatic exit from his early-season slump by notching career-high’s in points (38) and 3’s and field goals made (8, 14) — while also tying his career-best mark in assists (7).
When asked about his early-season struggles, Bane said he wasn’t too worried, because even “the greatest shooters of all time don’t have their night.”
It’s incredibly ironic he sheds that truth on a night where Bane out-dueled two of the greatest shooters, scorers of all-time in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to seal the win and to regain his elite shooting touch.
The Memphis Grizzlies made it a concerted effort to get Desmond Bane into a flow offensively. He struggled with foul troubles in the first half, only getting up 4 shot attempts.
At the start of the second half, Taylor Jenkins made it an immediate mission to make Bane a focal point of the offense — in order for him to find his groove scoring the basketball.
The Grizzlies unleash this play design here to give Bane a clean look from the outside.
Bane triggers the action with a ghost screen — causing a miscommunication from Royce O’Neale and Ben Simmons. A minor detail leading to the desired outcome, Santi Aldama runs the baseline to the opposite side of the floor to free up space for Bane in an “empty corner” set.
Once Simmons realizes he has to switch onto Bane, Steven Adams is at the elbow setting a flare screen on him. As the screen is set, Bane darts to that empty corner. When he retrieves the pass, he takes advantage of Claxton’s momentum to generate extra space with the pump fake.
Bane hit his patented stepback move, a combination we’ve seen him go to over the past year. His footwork in these spots has been so impressive — creating separation with the pull-back dribble, then stepping back to create more space and to raise the shot value. From that moment, he seemed to find his swagger offensively.
Not to totally pick on Nic Claxton, but his defense really exposed the Nets’ coverage in screen actions. The Grizzlies kept freeing Bane in these screen actions, using a big man in the high post to initiate them. His defender — usually Joe Harris or Royce O’Neale — would try to go over the screen and fight it. However, they forget that elite screener Steven Adams is setting the pick. In the process, Claxton gives Bane way too much space to operate.
SERIOUSLY, WHY ARE YOU GIVING DESMOND BANE THAT MUCH ROOM TO SHOOT?
That answer lies within the work Bane has put in to become a more well-rounded scorer.
“Just the balance, the way they do it. Both of them scored in the paint, free throw line, finishes at the rim, three-point shooting.” Jenkins said of Bane and Morant’s scoring barrage last game. “To see that Bane is continuing to add that to his package, going right and going left, obviously with his elite shooting ability ... when you’ve got that balance individually, but then it just adds more to our team to be able to attack inside and out.”
As Bane is diversifying his shot portfolio, Jenkins brought up a question now a key part in the shooting guard’s attack: “Are you going to settle for a 3, or are you going to attack downhill?”
Bane’s “finishing package” has been a key component of his development, and Monday night he demonstrated great control and touch on shots with a high level of difficulty.
Outstretched defenders, in traffic, right hand or left hand — it simply didn’t matter for Bane. He was going to attack.
Side note: It was nice to see the Adams-Bane connection on that give-and-go. Last season, those two players were the team’s best assist combination — 85 total, per PBP stats. That give-and-go sequence was the first Adams assist for a Bane bucket this season.
Another priority in Bane’s evolution is growing as a playmaker. He tied his career-high in assists last game (7), and he has averaged 6 dimes a game through the first 4 games of the season. He’s not just racking them up in “within the flow” scenarios — swings, handoffs, fast-break outlets. He’s making legitimate reads that are illuminating his growth in this area.
The Grizzlies, once again, run Bane in this high handoff action. Clarke doesn’t necessarily set a screen here, but because of Bane’s eruption from beyond this arc in the 2nd half, O’Neale and Claxton blitz off the DHO.
In the incoming double, Bane identifies a window to hit Clarke — one of the NBA’s best slippers (yes, I’m now calling slip rollers, “slippers”) — off the short roll. Now, Clarke has a wide-open launchpad to the hoop with a 6’2” Kyrie Irving serving as the lone help defender in the paint.
Now Bane is rolling in these actions with the threat of the 3-ball, the drive, and the pass. It’s made him a tougher player to guard, and unlocks a new combination of outcomes at the Grizzlies’ disposal.
“They were having a real tough time going at Des in those actions, because the guard and the big have to be on the same page,” Brandon Clarke said of these high-post sets with Bane. “Des also worked on passing a lot this summer, and he’s made very good passes out of the roll to me. It’s really fun to play with a guy that can shoot like that, drive like that, and also pass the ball.”
It’d be remiss of me to not mention the 3-point haymakers that signaled Bane’s emergence from this slump.
Can we talk about the audacity — the stones — on this shot attempt?
Bane let it fly from 36 feet with time to spare on the shot clock. This jumper was the epitome of a heat check, validating his hot shooting display he put on in the 3rd quarter.
Taylor Jenkins called this play the most pivotal one of the game. The offensive rebound is the foundation of the entire play. What will stand out to most Grizzly faithful is how Dillon Brooks — often (usually justly) criticized for his decision-making — made the final swing to Desmond Bane for the clean jumper to extend the Grizzlies’ lead.
All in all, this game encompasses the growth Desmond Bane has made as an offensive weapon, while dismissing the idea his early-season slump was an incoming sign of regression. It was simply a little slump, and Bane erupted to put any concern anyone had to rest.
On Monday night, Desmond Bane’s offensive clinic translated to a career night. Against two of the NBA’s best scorers, and alongside his superstar backcourt partner, Bane reintroduced himself as one of the best shooters in the world, a marksman that’s more than a shooter, and another young Grizzlies guard primed to take his game to the next level.