As Media Days and the start of training camps begin across the NBA landscape, it is the best reminder that the start of a new season is less than a month away. It also means this is a fun time among NBA fanbases when it comes to bold predictions and “hot takes.” For instance, if someone would have said the Memphis Grizzlies would finish with the second-best record in the NBA this time last year, that would have been a hot take. If someone would have suggested Desmond Bane would be one of the biggest breakout stories in the league last season, many may have considered that a bold prediction.
However, both of those things did happen, and the latter occurrence was a big reason why the former occurrence came to fruition. This season, there may not be as many opportunities to present “hot takes” when it comes to the Grizzlies, because they have a very good roster. The same can also be said for Desmond Bane. For instance, entering this season, you could easily make the case Bane is one of the five best shooters in the league and be a valid truth than a “hot take”.
Here is a bit of evidence:
- 9th in three pointers made overall last season
- 2nd in 3P% among qualified shooters last season
- Best 3P% and and eFG% (4th in TS% as well) among 23 players with 500 or more 3PA last season
In other words, it is hard to find many examples, if any at all, who combine volume and value better than Bane does from beyond the arc. He literally had one of the best three-point shooting seasons of any sophomore ever and also one of the most productive three-point shooting seasons on the road of any player in NBA history last year. Even more impressive was that Bane continued to be excellent from three during the playoffs. For a franchise that has desperately needed a legitimate three point threat for years, the Grizzlies now feature one of the NBA’s best pure shooters.
However, using shooting as the only basis to tell the story of Desmond Bane’s development is flawed. Bane’s game evolved in many areas, and on both ends of the court, as last season progressed. These improvements were just as big of a reason why Bane was viewed as a Most Improved candidate for much of the season as his shooting production was.
This will be the biggest story line of Bane’s third season in the league. Bane being able to sustain the improvements he made last year and still find ways to improve his game this year will be his main metric of success. It also will allow for the narrative around Bane to change from “one of the NBA’s best shooters” to “one of the NBA’s most complete perimeter players.
Here are a few ways Bane can accomplish taking his game to the next level:
The idea of last year being a breakout season for Desmond Bane was not a huge surprise to many within the Grizzlies franchise. It was the level to which his production reached during the breakout season that created a pleasant surprise. Coming into last year, one area where many felt Bane would show significant growth was his playmaking. And on the surface, there was a bit of growth, as Bane averaged one more assist per game last year than he did during his rookie season.
However, beyond the volume of assists, Bane actually creating noticeable value with his playmaking took a bit of time to develop. The important factor is that this value eventually did emerge as the season progressed. Last season, in 37 games before 12/31/2021, Bane produced 82 assists compared to 53 turnovers. In 39 games after 01/01/2022, Bane produced 126 compared to 56 turnovers.
After Bane’s amazing sophomore season, the Grizzlies trust in his offensive game is obviously high entering this season. However, this also means other teams will make Bane a major focal point of their defensive schemes. Decision making will be Bane’s primary counter to these defensive strategies, as consistently making the right pass to another teammate who has a good shot will be a great development in Bane’s offensive arsenal.
It also correlates extremely well with the Grizzlies winning, as Memphis was 12-0 when Bane had five or more assists in a game last season. Bane showed he has the ability to consistently create value with his playmaking. If that ability to be sustained throughout this season it will be a big boost to Memphis’s half-court offense
One of the more obvious areas of growth for Bane last season were the strides in his defensive game. Bane became much more consistent with being productive as a wing/perimeter defender in the Grizzlies team defensive concepts. While Bane may be a bit limited due to his lack of length, he made up for it by knowing how to use his body to disrupt the rhythm of offensive players and using his intelligence to make good decisions in guarding other guards.
Bane also showed improved production in terms of defensive playmaking. He more than doubled his overall number of steals and nearly doubled his number of blocks as a sophomore compared to his production during his rookie season. Yes, more playing time is one reason for the uptick in production. However, Bane’s improvements in awareness and intelligence as a defender also played a big role in this improvement.
Bane also finished in the Top 25 among all guards in defensive rebounds. While it is unlikely that Bane becomes one of the better perimeter defensive playmakers in the league, his ability to be more consistent in creating plays defensively could be a big boost to Memphis’s ability to win. Last season, when Bane had at least one steal, one block, and five rebounds in the same game, Memphis was 8-0. With De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson gone, more consistent defensive playmaking from Desmond Bane will be a great development for the Grizzlies.
Stabilizing Home/Away Splits
One of the more interesting aspects of Bane’s breakout season was that his shooting numbers were significantly better on the road than at home. This is especially true from beyond the arc, as Kelsey Wright Johnson astutely pointed out in the video above. Overall, it is pretty eye opening how big of a gap was present in Bane’s shooting production based on where he played last season:
At Home: 44% from the field, 39.1% from three, 88.1% from the line, 55.7% true shooting percentage
On the Road: 48.1% from the field, 47.6% from three, 92.0% from the line, 62.4% true shooting percentage
The significance of Bane’s home/road splits from last season is that present a clear area of offensive improvement for Bane. Imagine if he could produce a true shooting percentage around 60% at home and on the road for a full season, something he is clearly capable of. In the 15 games Bane did produce a true shooting percentage of 60% or higher at home, Memphis was 11-4. That would be a significant boost for the Grizzlies ability overall when it comes to offensive balance and running an effective half court offense.
Without a doubt, Bane’s ability to perform at consistently high levels on the road this early in his career is incredibly valuable. If he were able to maintain that production away from Memphis while improving his production during home games, that would be one of the easier ways for Bane to truly take his game to another level. There is not doubt he is fully capable of doing exactly that; furthermore, the drive that both he and Ja Morant have to be the best backcourt duo in the NBA should offer a good level of confidence he can make it happen.
One thing that has been evident about Desmond Bane since day one is that he has the utmost confident in his ability as a player. The person who likely was least surprised by his success last season was Bane himself. And yet, he consistently is not only looking to improve his game, but knows exactly what areas he must improve in. Bane’s ability to consistently be an effective playmaker on both ends of the court and a three-level scorer will ultimately decide just how of big a star he will become, both this year and beyond.
As as the numbers above show, it will also allow Bane to continue adding advantages to his game that will help the Grizzlies win. Bane’s shooting production is already a tremendous benefit to the Grizzlies. The exciting truth is that Bane can add even more benefits to both his future and the Grizzlies future as his game continues to evolve.