Tyus Jones’ impact is underrated
Its difficult to be under the spotlight when you’re Ja Morant’s backup, so the quiet, fundamentally sound veteran point guard Tyus Jones didn’t get much media converges throughout the season. His influence on the game however, was unveiled through his absence in the bubble games.
Before the shutout, Grizzlies had one of the most devastating bench unit in the entire league, the combination of Jones, Melton and Clarke averages a net rating of +20.1, most in any Grizzlies trio by a wide margin. After a knee injury right after the scrimmage games in Orlando, Jones was reportedly out for a week, but he never saw floor again this season. Without Tyus, Deanthony Melton struggled big time, he couldn’t handle the added responsibility of handling the ball(no pun intended), and without Jones setting up the play, he shot 3 for 23 from deep. The remaining of bench unit underperformed as well.
Ja Morant is no longer people’s favorite but he can still ball
With the Suns winning all their games in Orlando and Damian Lillard’s Blazers catching eye balls, no one other than Grizzlies fans wanted Memphis to be in the playoffs, and Ja Morant, who was once the darling of the league, has now became the leader of the team that no one wants to see.
His performance in the bubble solidified his leadership role in the organization’s future though, dropping 5 20-point-games in 9 seeding games and dishing out around 5 assists per game. If the stats for the rookie weren’t impressive enough, he went into half of the games with a lower back injury, just like all-stars playing through injuries carrying their teams in crunch time. Elliot Perry’s socks on lottery night landed Memphis the rightful heir of GNG era months after the departure of Mike Conley.
Jaren Jackson Jr. might be injury prone
On August 4th in a close loss to New Orlean, Jaren Jackson torn his left meniscus and missed the rest of the season. This was the sixth injury he had in his first 2 NBA seasons, before this, he had a leg injury, two quad injuries and injuries on both his knees. Jackson Playing 58 and 57 games in 2 seasons is alarming to many Grizzlies fans, especially when he is considered to be the number 2 guy in the hopefully successful future.
What was worse was that Memphis simply had no answer on how to replace him. Brandon Clarke proved himself to be the biggest steal of the draft, but the elite rim runner is not compatible with Valanciunas at all, not only do they affect each other’s touches, they crowd the paint and make things hard on Morant. Grizzlies started Anthony Tolliver against the Blazers in the play-in games, not to take things away from the sharpshooter veteran, but he shouldn’t start in a playoff team. A good sign is that Jackson’s body is still growing and he’s getting used to his body, his frequent injuries haven’t hindered his improvement basketball-wise either, he can now easily take bigs off the dribble and dunk on them.
Grayson Allen earned himself a new contract
Allen is certainly one of the players that benefitted from the abrupt stop to the season. He was ruled out for the season due to a knee injury pre-hiatus, but the pandemic gave him enough time to het fully healthy when the play resumes. It was clear that at least one of Melton, Josh Jackson and Grayson Allen will be let go this offseason, all of them are shooting guards and Memphis can’t afford to pay them all.
In the 8 seeding games, Allen shot 23 for 49 from three and became the only bright spot of the bench unit, especially when comparing to Josh Jackson, who was unplayable and way too eager to prove himself by taking ill advised shots. The only job requirement for the backup shooting guard position in Memphis is shooting, and Allen brings just that. Unfortunately this might be the end of Josh’s run in Memphis, the former highly anticipated prospect will need some luck to find a new team.