Jaren Jackson Jr.’s transformation has made the Grizzlies playoff-ready | Ball Don’t Lie
Yahoo Sports NBA writers Jake Fischer and Dan Devine hop on the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast to discuss the vibes around the Memphis Grizzlies after the Ja Morant saga, and explain how Jaren Jackson Jr. has changed the offense as the Grizz head into the playoffs.
Subscribe to Ball Don’t Lie on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
JAKE FISCHER: All right, let's do a quick vibe check on the Memphis Grizzlies. They had won seven straight games before Russell Westbrook went Russell Westbrook all over the entire state of Tennessee. But I mean, the Grizzlies are-- they're dancing out to games. I mean, there's a lot we could fill in, obviously, on the background of Ja Morant. But there's been a ton of ink spilled. Let's keep it on the basketball of it all. And he looks like Ja Morant again on the court, easily.
Dan, I know you're-- been paying close attention to Memphis, with the story you've got coming out soon. What's kind of your sense, what's your take on the vibes coming out of Memphis right now?
DAN DEVINE: Yeah, I think it's surprisingly better than anyone would have imagined, like, this time a few weeks ago, right? You reached that inflection point with the Grizzlies when Ja Morant is going to be going away from the team. And there's that question of, you're-- you're fallen back to the number three seed. Sacramento's closing hard.
How do we score, right? Everything in that offense is geared around Ja Morant high pick and roll, spreading it out so that he can kind of get downhill, and then attacking the offensive glass. And now, Ja Morant's gone. And Steven Adams was out injured. And Brandon Clarke was gone for the year.
And it was like these fundamental identity pieces of what makes the Grizzlies the Grizzlies are gone. So what do you do? And this is what I wrote about. It's up on Yahoo Sports now.
The answer that they kind of went to was, oh, wait, Jaren Jackson, Jr., is really, really freaking good, and can do a lot of different things for an offense. What if we try to make him do more of that? And it's unlocked some things in their halfcourt offense.
Like, Jaren Jackson, Jr., because of his size, 6' 11", 240 or so, and his quickness, his speed, has mismatches in a variety of different kinds of matchups. You have a slower center on him, he'll take him out into deep water, isolate on the perimeter, attack downhill. He's got a pretty nasty spin move too, actually, when he gets going to it. You get a smaller defender on him, he'll back him down in the post and just, like, back his way into a big lefty push shot on his own.
There's a lot of-- and one of the things that he's been doing a lot more of, because their other centers outside of Xavier Tillman are hurt, he's been doing more screen and roll himself. He's not popping to the perimeter, he's rolling to the rim. He's a lob threat.
Defenses have to bring the weak side defender over to tag the roll, leaves a shooter open on the wing. Luke Kennard has been absolutely feasting off of that. But even the kind of lesser shooters on the team-- Dillon Brooks, John Konchar, guys like David Roddy, Santi Aldama, guys are getting open looks out of that action because you don't want to just throw up-- you don't want to give up a lob dunk to Jaren Jackson, Jr.
And so all of which is to say the knock on the Grizzlies has been in a playoff series-- I mean, outside of just them talking to everybody, and the way they can be, like, loud and obnoxious, the knock on the court has been, when you get into a playoff series, all of their, like, we force turnovers, we get out in transition, we run fast break basketball-- when you clean up that stuff and make them play against a set defense, how are they going to score?
And I think they now have more answers to that question than they had three weeks ago. Because if you got Ja back, you have Desmond Bane playing at the highest level he's played at, and you're able to weaponize Jaren Jackson, Jr., in more ways with some more shooting around him, they go from, like, a bottom tier half court offense to average, a little bit better. And that might be enough to just overwhelm some teams that they might wind up facing in the first round.