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Herrington Mailbag from Daily Memphian for an unbiased take on some of our discussions here:

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Herrington Mailbag from Daily Memphian for an unbiased take on some of our discussions here:

https://dailymemphian.com/article/9028/grizzlies-mailbag-jaren-jackson-jrs-early

@HerringtonNBA Are JJJ’s struggles a system problem? Ja seems to thrive in Jenkins’ five out model, but Jaren has struggled. I believe they have been good together one game. Otherwise, it’s Ja or Jaren. Is this a system issue? Something else?

When Mike Conley was in town last week, I lobbed a theory his way: Were his and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s respective slow starts related? Were they both about adjusting to new systems and new teammates after playing such a distinctive style in Memphis?

Conley said he hadn’t watched Jackson enough this season to have an opinion, but that he thought that transition was the main driver of his own struggles. He talked about the muscle memory from playing in Memphis and the difficulty in adjusting to something new.

Jackson’s gone from playing on the slowest team in the league, in halfcourt sets with a point guard used to orchestrating them, in a high-low dynamic with a center used to playing that way, to playing on one of the fastest teams in the league in a more spread system. 

But it’s not just a new system with a new coach — his fourth coach/system in four seasons. It’s also new teammates. Jackson played the majority of his rookie-season minutes alongside Conley and Marc Gasol and roughly half of them alongside Kyle Anderson, three terrific interior passers. 

 

This season, Jackson is in a starting lineup where both wings (Jae Crowder, Dillon Brooks) and the center (Jonas Valanciunas, with whom Jackson played only twice last season and not at all in preseason) are shoot-first players and not particularly strong playmakers. At point guard, Ja Morant has elite passing ability, but his early rookie season heroics have been driven more by his ball-handling and attack-mode scoring. Morant’s more of a highlight passer than Conley, but not yet as adept at elevating the play of his big men, something he didn’t need to do much at the college level. The best interior passers on this team? Probably Anderson and Tyus Jones.

It’s certainly looked like Jackson has struggled to find his role and rhythm in this system and perhaps more so in this lineup, and the numbers seem to back that up. If you compare Jackson’s personal offensive usage and performance this season on the floor alongside Morant, Crowder and Valanciunas with his personal usage and performance alongside reserves Jones, Anderson and Brandon Clarke, respectively, you’ll find that in each case, Jackson’s usage rate and his shooting percentage have been higher alongside the reserves. 

It’s not surprising that Jackson would get more touches alongside lesser scorers, but it’s perhaps telling that he’s also been more efficient in those pairings.  

The differences are particularly notable in the case of Jackson and Valanciunas. Jackson’s 26 minutes per game this season have been evenly divided between time with Valanciunas (12.9 minutes per game) and without him (13.1). Jackson has been much better offensively without Valanciunas (9 points on 51/46 shooting) than with him (5 points on 40/29 shooting).

It bears noting that what’s good for Jackson’s personal offensive performance and what’s best for the team are not necessarily the same right now. Jackson’s struggling in this starting lineup, but that lineup has still played even while the team has been beaten fairly soundly otherwise.

As to the “something else?” part of the question: You could argue that Jackson just isn’t that good, that his rookie season production relative to age was something of a mirage. I don’t believe that. You could argue that Jackson’s struggles so far this season are the mirage, a small sample-size blip. I don’t believe that either, though I would note that Jackson’s production per 100 possessions is pretty similar across the board to what he did last season, minus the defensive impact I wrote about last week. It’s less that Jackson has regressed than that he hasn’t progressed

What I do think is that Jackson’s quick, early rise from preps to the pros has caught up with him a little this season. He needs to get stronger and presumably will as he progresses through his early 20s, but I think that lack of strength has impacted his game in a lot of ways this season. 

 

 

 

Should Jenkins consider starting Clarke-JJJ in the front court and bring JV off the bench dependent of matchups (like Toronto did with JV &Ibaka)

Related questions, but one asking for a prediction and the other a suggestion.

As to the first, barring injury, I doubt Clarke moves into the starting lineup this season unless Valanciunas is traded.

As to the second, I do think the Toronto example is relevant. If Jackson and Clarke are going to both be core players, the third player in the frontcourt rotation should be a true center who can defend the bigger “bigs.” That role is likely to be a platoon one, and eventually a bench one. The minutes so far this season have been pretty platoonish:

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.: 26.0 minutes
  • Jonas Valanciunas: 23.3
  • Brandon Clarke: 22.2

Jackson and Clarke have been playing about 11 minutes a game together. One thing the Grizzlies need to determine is whether they think that can be the frontcourt pairing of the future. I’m somewhat skeptical of starting them together right now and putting Jackson in defensive matchups against the biggest centers, but I do think shifting more minutes towards that pairing, however it’s done, would probably be a good idea.

 

 

 

1. Can we stop pretending Guduric can play in the NBA and bring up Jackson already?

2. Should Clarke start over JJJ at the moment so that JJJ can gain confidence against bench units?

3. Time to start Kyle over Jae?

4. Why no Ja-Tyus lineups?

Ol’ Stumpy (Walter Brennan forever) is cheating the process here with the four-parter, but at the risk of encouraging similar misdemeanors from future Mailbag contributors, I’ll answer all four, lighting-round style:

1. Guduric went through a terrible shooting stretch, then a great one and now back again: 0-8 from 3-point range over these past three games. I do think his value will be heavily dependent on his 3-point shooting and I’m not at all sure where, if anywhere, that will settle. I wouldn’t give up on him, but I’m on the record as thinking De’Anthony Melton should get more of a chance at off-ball rotation minutes. As for Jackson, I’ll answer that next.

2. Despite what I wrote earlier about Jackson playing better alongside those current bench players, my answer is no. The Grizzlies should be getting Jackson and Morant as many reps together as they can to build chemistry and fine-tune a style that can maximize them both. I think separating them in the starting lineup would be counterproductive.

3. This is a tougher question. One wrinkle to the Anderson/Crowder point I made in regard to Jackson in the first answer is a minutes disparity. Jackson has averaged 22.7 minutes per game on the floor with Crowder and 4.7 minutes on the floor with Anderson. Jackson and Anderson averaged more than 17 minutes a game together last season, and not only was Jackson better in those minutes, so was the team. Anderson is younger than Crowder, is under contract longer and would add some badly needed passing ability to the starting lineup, so my instinct here is yes. On the other hand, Crowder is a kind of avatar for the spacing and let-it-fly aggression that head coach Taylor Jenkins wants to instill. (Related: Unless I’m missing it, and I’ve checked twice, a Ja Morant-Dillon Brooks-Kyle Anderson-Brandon Clarke-Jaren Jackson Jr. lineup has not played a second this season.)

4. I’m pretty skeptical of that combo based on size and relative lack of shooting. Since the regular season is a laboratory and even more so on a rebuilding team, I do think the team should spend some time testing that look, but it’s been pretty far down by own interest

 

 

 

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I've seen little evidence for JJJ play at the 5 spot to move him there.  He has not shown the aptitude or capabilities to mess it up with the BIGS or match them in the paint....he should be a 4.....Brandon is a unique talent, and he is overachieving with that 6.7 frame....he is not a 5 if we ever hope to progress to a top 8 team.  Is he a 3?  Or is he a valuable 6th man of the year role, every year... on this team? I wish he were 3 or 4 inches taller, and 40 lbs heavier...but he ain't.

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I would bet that Jaren is averaging more fouls with JV on the court.  

Jonas should probably be our 6th man unless we can get away with a Clarke/Jaren/Jonas monster front line.

I don’t think that it’s an aberration that Jaren plays better with Kyle/Clarke. Those two guys are really really good.  So let’s see those three guys more with Ja.  Our “fifth” guy can be Dillon or Jonas or Josh or Konchar.  

Ja/Josh/Kyle/Clarke/Jaren sounds good on paper.  

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4 minutes ago, Lugan Village said:

I've seen little evidence for JJJ play at the 5 spot to move him there.  He has not shown the aptitude or capabilities to mess it up with the BIGS or match them in the paint....he should be a 4.....Brandon is a unique talent, and he is overachieving with that 6.7 frame....he is not a 5 if we ever hope to progress to a top 8 team.  Is he a 3?  Or is he a valuable 6th man of the year role, every year... on this team? I wish he were 3 or 4 inches taller, and 40 lbs heavier...but he ain't.

I think he’s a 4. Or at least my idea of a 4.  If not, then he’s a stretch 5 and he needs to fully buy into that role.  

If we played some ridiculous front line of Bruno-Jaren-Jonas I am not sure which forward spots that Bruno and Jaren play but I bet Jaren would take more 3’s and jumpers and you would rather see him in mid-range ISO’s.  

 

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26 minutes ago, ALT GRIND said:

I think he’s a 4. Or at least my idea of a 4.  If not, then he’s a stretch 5 and he needs to fully buy into that role.  

If we played some ridiculous front line of Bruno-Jaren-Jonas I am not sure which forward spots that Bruno and Jaren play but I bet Jaren would take more 3’s and jumpers and you would rather see him in mid-range ISO’s.  

 

I think Jaren is a 5 in Taylor's system.   Remember the Bucks system doesn't really have traditional 5s and the 4s play more like wings.  Jaren needs the offensive option to be able to score in a variety of ways.   Putting him at the 5 (in this system) gives him that. 

Regardless the lineups and rotations need to be more geared toward developing Jaren and Ja together.   If that means swapping out Jae and Jonas for better fitting guys like Kyle and Brandon than so be it.  

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Herrington alludes to what many like myself have been saying pretty much all season so far.

Brevin says this every pre game and at least half a dozen times during a game.

Y'all can blame Jaren calling him soft, more interested in media appearances etc etc

The fact of the matter is the exact point that Herrington made here:

Jackson played the majority of his rookie-season minutes alongside Conley and Marc Gasol and roughly half of them alongside Kyle Anderson, three terrific interior passers. 

While Ja has been a godsend, and will be a star, what kind of star do we want him to be? Like Harden? Like Westbrook? Solo men who do it all themselves and when it doesn't work, the team loses, because they got nothing else.

At this point in time Conley and Gasol were much better facilitators of offense than Morant and JV currently are. This may be unpopular but IMO is accurate as of right now. And Crowder doesn't facilitate anywhere near like Kyle, he just launches bombs.

Solutions that may help:

1. Start Kyle at the SF in place of Crowder.

2. Focus on running PNR/PNP drills with Ja/JV and Ja/Jaren over and over and over. Start incorporating this into the sets, look for Jaren as a lob target.

3. Stagger the mins of Jaren and JV even more so that these 2 only play together at the start and end of games

This is all on Jenkins to get the best out of everyone. This is the true test to how good a coach he will be. Despite the view of some, coaching actually does matter, and does directly impact a team's ability to win (or lose) games.

 

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2 hours ago, toocoolkellz said:

With JV and Ja so bad in the p n r, I wouldn't mind the 2 not playing together 

Their pick and roll defense is non-viable for a team that wants to be a playoff contender. It's fine now, because we're tanking and developing, but either (a) they have to improve on this or (b) we have to trade JV eventually. That duo would get exploited in a 7-game series to the point of rendering them unplayable at the same time.

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8 minutes ago, BigHunkALove said:

While Ja has been a godsend, and will be a star, what kind of star do we want him to be? Like Harden? Like Westbrook? Solo men who do it all themselves and when it doesn't work, the team loses, because they got nothing else.

This is something that worries me. Can a team with its lead guy being a ball-dominant point guard ever win a championship? I can't think of any that have in the modern era (I'm not old enough to have seen Isaiah Thomas lead the Pistons).

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7 minutes ago, ACGrizz said:

This is something that worries me. Can a team with its lead guy being a ball-dominant point guard ever win a championship? I can't think of any that have in the modern era (I'm not old enough to have seen Isaiah Thomas lead the Pistons).

I think I know what you mean.  Yeah, the Pistons did it.  I remember those guys but vaguely remember watching more than a handful of their games.

Being the resident basketball expert on eras that happened before my time, I am gonna go "What is the Dennis Johnson led 1979 Seattle Supersonics."

The other archetype (ball dominant but not overly athletic small forward passer/scorer/streaky shooter type who isn't all-word on defense) the short list (if you are projecting PRIME LUKA) is Larry Bird and before that Rick Barry.  

If EITHER win a title then you have a non-typical prototype title team that hasn't happened in at least 30 years.

On the flip side, the other other guy in the past two drafts (Trae Young) is a circus act on offense and a clown show on defense.  Hawks fans are hoping this era's Bob Cousy finds this generation's Bill Russell.

Zion's NBA title archetypes: Elgin Baylor didn't win.  Did Gus Johnson?  Don't think so.  Darryl Dawkins didn't win either.  Charles Barkley? Nope. Not even Karl Malone.  Not even sure that his archetype won an ABA title.  

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47 minutes ago, ACGrizz said:

This is something that worries me. Can a team with its lead guy being a ball-dominant point guard ever win a championship? I can't think of any that have in the modern era (I'm not old enough to have seen Isaiah Thomas lead the Pistons).

Even as great as Michael Jordan was they could never win a championship if he was scoring 50+ ppg. It was only when others started elevating their play (Pippen, Paxson, Grant, Hodges; then Kukoc, Longley in the 2nd three-peat) with Michael FACILITATING these guys as well as getting his own were they champs.

I dont want Morant to be a Harden hog

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The Pustons had the toughest D in the NBA at that time. They also had a great guard in Dumars who could create off the dribble, and great rebounding and foward play in Rodman and Salley. It wasnt only Thomas and he wasnt a Harden hog.

I think KBM used to say that Harden will never win a championship with his play. I tend to agree.

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Just now, BigHunkALove said:

The Pustons had the toughest D in the NBA at that time. They also had a great guard in Dumars who could create off the dribble, and great rebounding and foward play in Rodman and Salley. It wasnt only Thomas and he wasnt a Harden hog.

I think KBM used to say that Harden will never win a championship with his play. I tend to agree.

We could use a Dumars type.  A Tier 1 or Tier 2 wing that complements Ja would be great (if we can’t get Wiseman).

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14 minutes ago, BigHunkALove said:

Even as great as Michael Jordan was they could never win a championship if he was scoring 50+ ppg. It was only when others started elevating their play (Pippen, Paxson, Grant, Hodges; then Kukoc, Longley in the 2nd three-peat) with Michael FACILITATING these guys as well as getting his own were they champs.

I dont want Morant to be a Harden hog

Don't worry he's not going to be Harden...he's 100% Westbrook.

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1 hour ago, ACGrizz said:

Their pick and roll defense is non-viable for a team that wants to be a playoff contender. It's fine now, because we're tanking and developing, but either (a) they have to improve on this or (b) we have to trade JV eventually. That duo would get exploited in a 7-game series to the point of rendering them unplayable at the same time.

It's something that isn't talked about but they're both really bad on defense.  It's also why I'm thinking JV could come off the bench.  Like you said, if we plan to win down the line, their defense has to improve.  

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4 hours ago, ALT GRIND said:

I think I know what you mean.  Yeah, the Pistons did it.  I remember those guys but vaguely remember watching more than a handful of their games.

Being the resident basketball expert on eras that happened before my time, I am gonna go "What is the Dennis Johnson led 1979 Seattle Supersonics."

The other archetype (ball dominant but not overly athletic small forward passer/scorer/streaky shooter type who isn't all-word on defense) the short list (if you are projecting PRIME LUKA) is Larry Bird and before that Rick Barry.  

If EITHER win a title then you have a non-typical prototype title team that hasn't happened in at least 30 years.

On the flip side, the other other guy in the past two drafts (Trae Young) is a circus act on offense and a clown show on defense.  Hawks fans are hoping this era's Bob Cousy finds this generation's Bill Russell.

Zion's NBA title archetypes: Elgin Baylor didn't win.  Did Gus Johnson?  Don't think so.  Darryl Dawkins didn't win either.  Charles Barkley? Nope. Not even Karl Malone.  Not even sure that his archetype won an ABA title.  

I'm sorry, friend, I'm not sure why you think are an expert on basketball before your time, but it seems to me that you only know some names of famous players, not how they played.  I grew up with the Baltimore Bullets starting lineups of Kevin Loughery, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe, Jack Marin, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld, so I got to see Russell, Chamberlain, West, Alcindor, Lanier, Cowens, Reed, Frazier, and a lot of the other old time greats play.  I don't claim to be an "expert" at all, as baseball and football were more my favorites back then, but I liked basketball and did watch, so I know a little.

Your characterization of DJ's play is all wrong.  Dennis Johnson was never, ever a ball dominant guard.  His career usage rate was around 20%, which means he carried his fair share of the load (20% x 5 players =100%).  At his highest rate of usage it was less than 25%, which in turn was less than Isiah Thomas' career rate of 25.3%.  By contrast, Steph Curry (who has won a championship, so I've heard) has a career usage rate of nearly 28% with some seasons as high as 33%  (around Michael Jordan territory).  James Harden has a career rate at 30% despite having been off the bench in OKC.  Since he left the Thunder he has never been below 29% (1st HOU season) and has increased up to 40% the last two seasons.

I'm not sure what level of usage constitutes "ball dominant", but I'm pretty sure Dennis Johnson ain't it.

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Dennis Johnson was the starting SG on the Sonic's.  Gus Williams was the starting PG.

The backup PG, Downtown Freddie Brown...he probably had a high usage rate.

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Allen Iverson was ball dominant - and he dragged a sizers team where the only guys name I remember is Eric Snow.

They didn’t win a championship but AI got them their shot. 

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2 hours ago, 10SC-2-TOKYO said:

Allen Iverson was ball dominant - and he dragged a sizers team where the only guys name I remember is Eric Snow.

They didn’t win a championship but AI got them their shot. 

They had Dikembe too, Toke! That team was basically tailor made to work around AI. Good example. Hope that’s not the model we follow thou. 

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Morant loves to pass and at his heart is a pass first PG.   He will adapt to whatever system Jenkins puts in place but  unfortunately right now that system is run fast and jack up shots.     Keep in mind he has NEVER played alongside bigs like Jonas and Jaren so it will take time to develop chemistry with them.    And Conley played with Oden before playing with Gasol and wasn't a great interior passer initially either.    Let's not rewrite history Conley had to develop over the years.   

Don't worry about Morant if Taylor crafted a heavy PnR system he would be able to thrive in it.   He is Westbrook-lite in they way he attacks but he is more Trae Young like with his playmaking.   Remember how he first played in preseason when he barely attempted any shots???    Taylor told him to go out and be aggressive scoring - he is only following the coaches plan. 

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7 hours ago, CarloJ63 said:

Dennis Johnson was the starting SG on the Sonic's.  Gus Williams was the starting PG.

The backup PG, Downtown Freddie Brown...he probably had a high usage rate.

Forgot about Gus Williams also in the back court.

DJ's stats went up in that year's playoffs.  And he won the Finals MVP award.  Not a ton of DJ highlights out there but he was more athletic earlier on.  One of his nicknames was 'Airplane' -- that I did not know.

I am betting that USAGE RATES are higher now for ALL the bigger names.  It is a "star's league" which sometimes just means that the STARS hog the ball.

What was DJ? 6'4? 6'3? 

Not that many point guards have won Finals MVP.  Especially if you don't count the 6'9 Magic Johnson.  Billups won it, not too ball dominant just hit big shots, but that team was built on DEFENSE.  

Jerry West won a Finals MVP.  Also 6'3.  Also the second pick in his respective draft.  But, his team LOST that year.  Probably played more shooting guard in his career.

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7 hours ago, 10SC-2-TOKYO said:

Allen Iverson was ball dominant - and he dragged a sizers team where the only guys name I remember is Eric Snow.

They didn’t win a championship but AI got them their shot. 

Tony Kukoc, Tyrone Hill, defensive guys like George Lynch, and "former Grizzlies player" Aaron McKie (he was signed by LAL from retirement or some nonsense and thrown into the Pau Gasol trade, but he never played for the Grizzlies).  They had a lot of defensive guys around AI.  I thought it was funny that they traded a much younger Theo Ratliff, who was having a good season leading the league in blocks, for Dikembe.  But Dikembe still had a lot left in the tank and was a much better rebounder.

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2 hours ago, ALT GRIND said:

Forgot about Gus Williams also in the back court.

DJ's stats went up in that year's playoffs.  And he won the Finals MVP award.  Not a ton of DJ highlights out there but he was more athletic earlier on.  One of his nicknames was 'Airplane' -- that I did not know.

I am betting that USAGE RATES are higher now for ALL the bigger names.  It is a "star's league" which sometimes just means that the STARS hog the ball.

What was DJ? 6'4? 6'3? 

Not that many point guards have won Finals MVP.  Especially if you don't count the 6'9 Magic Johnson.  Billups won it, not too ball dominant just hit big shots, but that team was built on DEFENSE.  

Jerry West won a Finals MVP.  Also 6'3.  Also the second pick in his respective draft.  But, his team LOST that year.  Probably played more shooting guard in his career.

When DJ retired, I remember reading that he was in the top ten in blocks for three different franchises.  Of course he has been passed long since, but he finished his career with more blocks than games played - not too shabby for a 6'4" guard.  Excellent defender and clutch player.

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