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Letting it fly with Desmond Bane

The Grizzlies continue to empower Desmond Bane, and these actions are leading to more breakout results

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Memphis Grizzlies v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Desmond Bane’s leap this season has been an awesome development for this team’s trajectory this season and going forward. Serving as a spot-up shooter in his rookie season, Bane has expanded his offensive bag, and he’s taken off because of it. He’s finding ways to attack inside the arc more often this season, and he’s continuing to grow as a playmaker — increasing his assist average each month since December.

Bane is also firing 3’s in a variety of ways now. He’s pulling up in transition, off handoffs, and as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Since the All-Star break, I’ve started to notice the Grizzlies run more sets and actions to get Bane going from downtown.

He’s responded with probably his best stretch of play of the season. Since the break in action, Bane has averaged 19.4 points on 46.1/46.7/87.2 shooting splits. If you just narrow it down to March, he’s been a flamethrower. In 14 games, Bane averaged 21.1 points on the sizzling shooting splits of 50.0/52.0/87.5 — while firing 7.3 three-point attempts per game. That combination of volume and accuracy from downtown is ridiculous.

With these actions designed for him, he’s finding even more opportunities to get clean looks from three. That trust can stimulate the level of confidence needed to play at the level at which Bane’s playing with right now.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s a great feeling. You know, regardless of what happens in the first half of the beginning of the game, I know there’s going to be more opportunities throughout the rest of the game,” Bane said. “But it’s a good feeling to have the trust from the staff and the coaches and the whole organization.”

Over the course of the season, he’s built trust with his play. And with added responsibility, he’s flourishing even more.

“I always fall back to this, especially in his case, but, the work that he puts in,” Taylor Jenkins about how Bane is getting more looks drawn up for him. “We found new ways, new sets that we’ve added this season to put the ball in his hands a little bit more. We got a lot of confidence because he’s obviously producing the results.”

The results have been there for Desmond Bane and the Memphis Grizzlies, and it’s also a nod to how Taylor Jenkins is adding more plays to his bag. These designs come organically, embodying the Grizzlies smooth, free-flowing style of play.

“Some of it was not intended.” Jenkins said. “We just want to play freely out there to see how the ball moves around and guys get open and see where he’s finding successful opportunities to knock down the three and then just add that to his player development package.”

The Grizzlies run this particular set with their shooters that’s not necessarily a Spain pick-and-roll. The shooter isn’t setting a pick on the original screener, nor is there any sort of ghost screen. When the guard-to-big pick-and-roll is initiated, the shooter flies up from the low block to create a new scoring opportunity from 3.

His man, Evan Fournier, gets caught having to cover in drop on the Ja Morant drive. RJ Barrett was behind with that screen, and Mitchell Robinson had the switch and drop. In the midst of that miscommunication, Bane had a clear look at a 3, with the exception of the late close-out from Julius Randle.

In a similar action, there’s a variation where the big man also sets one for the shooter — in this situation, Bane.

Even more so than the previous “ghost” set, the defenders are left in discombobulation in these multi-screens. These actions are great to run against switch-heavy schemes, because someone is bound to get open with this amount of intentional movement, especially on the perimeter.

The Grizzlies also have actions similar to these to get Bane open through staggered screens as he’s darting towards the 3-point line.

The Bucks really put Grayson Allen in a rough position here. There’s the screen from Jaren Jackson Jr. first, and no switch. Steven Adams sets the screen, and Brook Lopez is sagging off to cut off the driving lane for Tyus Jones — and to pay no respect to Adams’ shooting abilities that far out from the basket. Khris Middleton, meanwhile, is just watching the movement since his man is on the weak-side corner. Through all that, Bane can catch a clean look from the perimeter.

Another way to free up shooters is a flare screen. The Grizzlies love operating with their bigs around the high post — using them as passers off cuts or handoffs, as screeners, or even both. When they’re activated in this way, the Grizzlies can initiate actions further away from the basket to free up looks from 3, like higher flare screens

Since Kenyon Martin Jr. is paying attention to the flare action, Jackson and Bane put Josh Christopher in a 2-on-1 predicament. All Clarke has to do is flip it over to Bane for the wide-open 3 in rhythm.

I dig the innovation here. Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke run a screen and short roll action, which triggers a quick handoff after the initial dump-off. Jones immediately flips the pass to Bane, screens his man in the process, and opens up an opportunity from 3. Though the catch and gather was kind of spotty, it was still a good design to generate a look from their go-to shooter.

Bane isn’t going to get a ton of on-ball opportunities in the postseason — those will belong to Ja Morant. However, he’s showing more comfortable in these spots as a lead ball-handler, an ode to his Summer League experience as the main guard. Because of the work he’s put in as a live-dribble creator, he’s being rewarded with actions and opportunities to create offense as the primary handler.

Though he has room to grow here — only generates 0.78 points per pick-and-roll possession, 33rd percentile — seeing Bane create in his magnitude is enticing for his offensive trajectory going forward.

These actions are just a few examples of how the Grizzlies coaching staff is activating Desmond Bane as an offensive player down this stretch. He’s put in the work, it’s translated over into gameplay, and he’s being rewarded with more opportunities.

And it’s going to be important for this team, as they approach the postseason.

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Offensive diversification is good for teams. It gives you more avenues to hurt defenses; if something is not on one game, you can lean on something else to carry you through. In turn, it’s also more difficult to gameplan against an offensive system with multiple weapons and a variety of ways to activate them.

The Grizzlies desire to get out in transition is known. They also love to get going through pick-and-roll and drives. Their main orchestrator of the offense, Ja Morant, is one of the league’s more proficient pick-and-roll players. He ranks 8th in the NBA in pick-and-roll frequency (45.4%), among players that have played 40 or more games this season. The Grizzlies also rank first in field goals (12.2) and field goal attempts (26.0) off drives.

As teams get into the postseason and into series gameplanning, teams will try to stop the drives and pick-and-roll. They’re going to need ways to sprinkle up their offensive repertoire.

“It gives you different looks that you can try to catch the defense off guard with, or try to make them stop honestly,” Tyus Jones said. “We play a lot of pick and rolls, which is kind of our bread and butter.”

With a shooter of Desmond Bane’s profile, those different looks start to open up. His spacing can open up so much for the offense, as defenses have to pay mind to him when trying to collapse on Morant — or whoever’s attacking the rim. When they’re having him as that outlet on drives, while also running sets to free him up from the perimeter, it adds to the ways in which the Grizzlies and Bane can attack the defense.

“He commands so much attention with how he can shoot the ball, how he’s spacing the floor,” Jones said. “He makes my job easy, makes a lot of our jobs easy out there.”

Memphis Grizzlies v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

This next month or so is going to be big for Desmond Bane. Last postseason, he only averaged 19.8 minutes and 3.8 shot attempts in those 5 games against the Jazz. Now, he’s bound to have an increased role as a premier weapon in the Grizzlies’ push for glory.

How all this translates to the playoffs will be fascinating. Will they continue to free up more ways to get him these looks from 3? How will Bane adjust to these defensive adjustments too? He will surely see an uptick based off last season, but sustaining the production he’s put up this year will be important for the Grizzlies’ ultimate destination this spring/summer.

Regardless, this is just another layer in Desmond Bane’s evolution this season. He’s become a more dynamic weapon that can attack in a multitude of ways — not just as a 3-level scorer, but as a creator from downtown. A shooter like that opens up multiple avenues in which they can be used.

His production will help him keep building on his trust.

These opportunities will also help him grow as an offensive weapon, especially when triggered in this high-stakes basketball coming up. And sooner or later, it can help Bane keep doing what he’s been doing this season — unlocking more levels towards becoming an All-Star caliber shooting guard.

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