SMILE! The Grizzlies Draft Is Over! We Can Breathe Now!

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Months of anticipation, speculation, Twitter wars, and “IMO”s culminated into nothing short of relief, hope, and a few broken hearts among Grizz Nation Thursday  night as the 2018 NBA Draft unfolded. You probably know by now that the Memphis Grizzlies selected Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. at number 4 and at number 32 they selected Jevon Carter from West Virginia. IT’S OVER! WE CAN BREATHE NOW! SMILE! We can get out of bed in the morning worry and pain free now. The conversation is no longer “Who should we pick and why” or “Why we shouldn’t pick this person,” but now it is “How can we make this amazing.”

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Jaren Jackson Jr. is a 6’11” Forward-Center from the Tom Izzo big man factory  who averaged 10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 3 blocks in 21.8 minutes per game with a field goal percentage of 51.3%, 3 point percentage of 39.6%, and a 2 point percentage of 59.6%. You may have noticed one eye popping and possibly alarming stat in particular from above - minutes per game. Why did he only play 22 minutes? How did such a highly heralded prospect only manage to play 22 minutes per game?

When asked about Tom Izzo’s rotation and a reasoning for his lack of minutes, Jackson spoke candidly.

"Most of our rotation is based on my foul trouble,” Jackson said in an interview with Chris Solari. “If you look at our games, we haven’t had a consistent rotation because we have so many guys who do so many things. There really wasn’t anything to it. And I think that’s how it is with every team in the tournament.”

Jackson’s 3rd seeded favorite Michigan State team lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to the 11th seeded Syracuse 55-53. A game in which Jaren Jackson Jr only scored 2 points, both free throws, in 15 minutes after missing 4 field goals. The bright side in this situation is the fact that he knows his mistakes and admits to his weaknesses. He hears all the chatter about what he’s doing wrong, and he wants to correct it. If foul trouble is the major problem, then it isn’t a big deal. He’s still growing into his massive body. But if there’s more that needs to be addressed, then we’ll found out soon, I’m sure.

There’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful, 3 blocks a game in 20 minutes is plenty of reasoning. The Michigan State Spartans gave up .11 more points per possession when he was off the floor. This is while being on the 7th best defensive team in the country. Also, you can’t help but love the quotes from him. He’s young and goofy, but still impressive. As I said, plenty of reason to be hopeful putting him beside Marc Gasol.

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As the night went along we saw a plethora of good solid prospects around the Grizzlies’ 32 pick, such as, Devonte Graham, Melvin Frazier, Jalen Brunson, and Hamidou Diallo. But, much to my and many others’ delight, we came away with West Virginia’s Jevon Carter. This guy isn’t a normal prospect; he’s wired differently. He plays with more intensity than a junkyard dog, and gets results.

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His accolades include 4-time BIG 12 All Defensive Team selections, 2-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and 2-time Lefty Driesell Award Winner (Best Defensive Player in D1). The National Association of Basketball Coaches awarded him their Defensive Player of the Year award twice. Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, and Academic All-American of the Year. There’s so many, and I didn’t put even type all of them. Go back and check Anthony Sain’s piece from his work out here just to see how impressive this guy is.

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So what do we have? We have the best on-ball defender in the draft, according to the world’s leading expert, Jonathon Givony, and arguably a guy who has shown tremendous potential defending down low. Kinda seems like a perfect fit, no? Not to mention these two guys can shoot. In 5.3 attempts from three, Carter connected on 2.1 of them at 39.3% in 37 games in his senior season. Jackson has a significantly less sample size from three with 39.6 percent, but with 1.1 makes on 2.7 attempts per game in 35 games.

In case the message didn’t get through, we now have two guys who play great defense, go hard, and have a decent shot. Isn’t that the kind of players we’ve been looking for forever? Jaren Jackson,  Jr. was not necessarily as high on my draft board as other guys like Luka, Bagley, or Wendell Carter Jr, but, being the Grizz-optimist that I am, I think we came away from last night with a win. After last season, we all said, “Grizzlies aren’t grit and grind anymore,” all the while it was continuously shoved down our throats as a “mindset” while losing by 61 points. But with this, our beloved team culture gets a reinvigorating second chance to do what we love to see - Win.

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