The big question mark finally had a big night. In a playoff-like atmosphere on the road against the red-hot Utah Jazz, the Memphis Grizzlies stepped up late and stole a huge November win (is that a thing?) in Utah. We’ve come to expect Ja Morant’s highlights and 28 points. We ride the Desmond Bane train up and down passing his 28 points and adding him back to the 2020-21 rookie “go get” list. But it’s the Big Fella who seized the spotlight when it mattered most.
In case you missed it, Jaren Jackson Jr won the tip and then nailed the game-winning three with five seconds left. His clutch bomb capped off a 26-point, 8 rebound, 2 block, 2 steal night against defensive-minded Jazz Gobert and O’Neale. Watch it for yourself!
As a Basketball fan, Jaren’s energy, passion, and personality are thrilling to watch – a young player on a star-studded team with a pension for making big shots. My 15 year-old son convinced me – an Ohio State fan – that Jackson, a Michigan State product – had all the skills and dead-eye shooting ability – to become a star in the NBA one day. During the pandemic season of 2019-20, Jaren started to put together a string of 10-15 games where he was unstoppable and unguardable, averaging more than 25points per game and nailing big moments like these, before injuries sidelined him for most of the following season.
As a Basketball card investor, Jaren’s a guy I started building with more than a year ago and watched and held on through what seemed like endless injury reports and changing rehab timelines. Most of my Jaren cards are low-end buys of base rookies – Prizm, Optic, Donruss, even Hoops! I’ve gathered a few graded Jaren’s like the 2018 Silver Prizm #66, the Green Parallel, and some raw rookies that would be worth grading if JJJ starts to realize anything near his full potential.
As a Basketball card “podcaster,” I’ve made sport of mentioning Jaren in nearly every episode of HoopsandCards since last March – our very first shows!
So, is last night the “moment” that Jackson and the Grizzlies needed to claim that next step as a playoff contender and Jaren as an emerging star? Who knows. But it does mean that he’s starting to feel more comfortable on the court with this team and whatever his role will be moving forward.
While everyone notices a game-winner, it’s Jaren’s defense that could make or break his career. When Jackson gets in foul trouble – and he often does – it sidelines him and his team and his offensive contributions – in a frustrating way. In games this season where he picks up quick fouls, his offense and contributions have been wildly disappointing. Then we have nights like last night, where his defense and energy isn’t out of control and he causes turnovers and energy that fuels the Grizzlies offense and keeps Jaren on the court till the end.
In perspective, Jaren’s big night against Utah was just that – a big night. Here’s hoping it’s a building block that leads to many more nights like these because Jaren is so fun to watch. And yes, I do believe there will be many more nights like these for the Big Fella, and there’s still time to buy in on those cheap-for-now Jaren rookies.
WHO’S HOT – LaMelo Ball, JAYSON TATUM, Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Tyrese Maxey, DeAndre Ayton, Darius Garland, TRAE YOUNG, Montrezl Harrell, Dejounte Murray, Cade Cunningham, Karl Towns, Jordan Poole.
WHO’S NOT – Michael Porter Jr, Collin Sexton, Caris Levert, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (for now), Keldon Johnson, Devin Booker, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Pelicans, Bradley Beal, Chronicles Draft Picks, DeAndre Hunter.