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Making Sense of GG Jackson’s Performance in March

Ten weeks ago, it became pretty clear that, due to the plethora of injuries the Grizzlies roster had experienced, a postseason run for Memphis was just not in the cards for the 2023-2024 season. As a result, of the past ten weeks, several storylines have peaked the interest of Grizzlies fans in terms of what the play of the team
By Shawn Coleman - April 1, 2024, 12:00 pm - 1 comments

Ten weeks ago, it became pretty clear that, due to the plethora of injuries the Grizzlies roster had experienced, a postseason run for Memphis was just not in the cards for the 2023-2024 season.

As a result, of the past ten weeks, several storylines have peaked the interest of Grizzlies fans in terms of what the play of the team on the court and the roster moves off of it could mean for the future. And while other storylines have had various levels of interest, one has remained at the forefront of the fanbase’s intrigue: the play of rookie GG Jackson.

Jackson arrived on the scene and permanently into the rotation in the middle of January with back-to-back 20 point performances. He was immediately the youngest player in the league, and was producing scoring performances that mostly all-time greats had previously done at his age. What was most impressive about Jackson was his confidence as well as his success from beyond the arc. Jackson shot 46.2% from three in January, a number that was not likely would not be sustained but was highly impressive.

Jackson’s eye-opening production continued into February, as he average 16.9 points per game while shooting 44% from the field and 38% from three leading up to the All-Star Break. While his efforts did not lead to many wins, Jackson’s contributions played a significant role in the Grizzlies playing one of their best stretches of offense this season. This include a historic 27-point performance against the Bucks in the last game of the first half of the season, perhaps the most impressive win by the Grizzlies this year.

After the All-Star Break, natural regression and more attention from opposing defenses sensibly resulted in some up and down performances from Jackson. He went from hitting 46.2% of his 3.7 three point attempts per game in January to hitting 33.8% of his 6.5 three point attempts per game in February. However, as Jackson entered March, he made noticeable improvements in his productivity generating points at the rim. Jackson increased his accuracy at the rim, generated more of his own shots, and produced more free throw attempts in early March. For instance, Jackson attempted 2.7 free throws per game in January, making 74% of his attempts. In March, Jackson attempted 4.4 free throws per game, making 82% his attempts.

In other words, as the league adjusted to Jackson, he expanded his resourcefulness as a scorer. As March progressed, this resulted in some even more impressive performances than before. In a six game stretch from March 10th-20th, Jackson averaged 25.2 PPG while shooting 50% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. His ability to now score both from three and at the rim led to this rare level of production from a teenager, and included the first two 30 points games of his career. Even though he has struggled in the four games since that six game stretch, Jackson has still averaged 20.1 PPG over his last 10 games. He is one of only 5 rookies (Wemby, Chet, Brandon Miller, Keynote George) to score at that level over a ten game stretch this season, with the other four rookies all logical candidates to make the All-Rookie team this season.

Overall for the month of March, Jackson averaged 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game across 14 games in March, nine of which he started. Among his fellow rookies, he was second in total points and second in total made threes for the month. And as mentioned above, he continued to impress in terms of singular scoring performances. The only rookies to have as many or more 25+ point, 30+ point, and 35+ point performances are the four mentioned above, with Wemby and Brandon Miller be the only two to have more since Jackson became a part of the Grizzlies rotation in the middle of January.

In terms of scoring production, there is no denying Jackson has been impressive. However, the scoring totals are more the result of quantity than quality. But for someone as young as Jackson, that is to be expected with the usage rate he has had to take on due to the lack of talent he has played with this year. And March did show an improvement in Jackson’s quality as a scorer. In February, Jackson shot 41.7% from the field and 33.8% from three. in March, Jackson has shot 41.5% from the field and 34.4% from three. However, his true shooting percentage increased from 52.2% to 56.2% as he took on even more scoring responsibility. This improvement is a result of the aforementioned increased productivity at the rim and from the line, and also Jackson making better decisions in terms of shot selection.

When looking at Jackson’s full body of work so far this year, his progression in March in a few other areas is really encouraging. Overall, he has shown marginal improvement in his ability to create his own shot. While his numbers on those specific shots show a lot of work is still needed to make them reliable, the fact he is improving in that area as opposing defenses pay more attention to him is a positive. Furthermore, Jackson Jr. is shooting 38% on catch and shoot three point attempts and 48% on corner three point attempts. Even after regressing from January, Jackson shot 36% and 42% on these specific shots in March, respectively.

Jackson’s improved self creation and impressive efficiency on catch-and-shoot and corner three attempts is important because these are the aspects of his offense that will matter as he plays with the Grizzlies core in the future. When Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and others are all healthy, Jackson will not have as high of a usage rate or as many opportunities to score. However, if Jackson can be a reliable outlet as a spot-up shooter from three, especially from the corner, that will be a great compliment to Morant, Bane, and Jackson Jr. Furthermore, Jackson’s improved self-creation off the dribble will allow for him to counter opposing defenders who step up to defend his shot, allowing for Jackson to drive to the rim. By combining these offensive aspects with his quick and high release point, Jackson could be an ideal addition to Grizzlies lineups that are featured when points are needed in the future.

Outside of scoring, Jackson does not offer a ton of value at the moment, which is absolutely normal for an offensive-minded player at his age. Before he took on a big workload as a scoring option in March, Jackson did show positive production as a rebounder and off-the-ball rim protector through help defense. He also has shown the willingness to take on highly difficult defensive assignments as Vince Williams Jr. as missed time over the past few weeks. It should not be a surprise that much of Jackson’s value as a player will be based on is ability as a scoring option, but he does know how to use his length to cause disruption on defense at times and through rebounding. The impact from these activities should improve over time through experience.

Overall, Jackson’s performance in March should come across as normal but also noteworthy for someone his age. While he was inefficient and inconsistent at times, he also was impressive and showed quick improvement from earlier this year. As a result of several of his singular performances and his overall improvement, Jackson has certainly created a valid case to earn All-Rookie 2nd team honors. The latest NBA Rookie Ladder rankings indicate this as well. This shows not only has Jackson stood out for some his age, but more importantly, has stood out among his peers in what is one of the deepest rookie classes in years. That is an impressive achievement for the 45th pick in the draft. So impressive that he even has multiple all-time greats discussing his performance this season.

And as for what Jackson’s performance means for his future, the simple answer is that remains to be seen. However, his scoring prowess suggests that not only could he thrive as a go-to scoring option off the bench, but also he could provide value as a compliment to the Grizzlies best players. Regardless of his role, he is a front court/wing scoring option with legitimate upside to make a difference offensively when he is on the court. The Grizzlies have been searching for such a player for years, and the fact they found one at likely the lowest point of this current version of the team is awesome.

As he has this year, Jackson will continue to work through growing pains as he matures. But as he as shown on multiple occasions, that will generate more consistent success in a from that should benefit the Grizzlies for years to come. Regardless of how he is utilized moving forward, Jackson has proven to be a needed and significant revelation for the Grizzlies future. The hope is the his emergence will continue to evolve to make the future better than expected for Memphis.


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