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Scotty Pippen Jr. has made the most of his time in Memphis

It is hard to believe that there is only one game left for the Memphis Grizzlies this season. But once the final horn sounds in the Grizzlies and Nuggets matchup tomorrow, the 2023-2024 season will officially be over for Memphis. And while it’s never fun to know that the next time the Grizzlies will play meaningful basketball again is October,
By Shawn Coleman - April 13, 2024, 7:30 am - 1 comments

It is hard to believe that there is only one game left for the Memphis Grizzlies this season. But once the final horn sounds in the Grizzlies and Nuggets matchup tomorrow, the 2023-2024 season will officially be over for Memphis. And while it’s never fun to know that the next time the Grizzlies will play meaningful basketball again is October, there are many who are ready to get to work in the offseason after enduring many difficulties this year.

The writing has been on the wall for Memphis for months that the playoffs were simply not a realistic outcome this season. As a result, the focus has shifted toward the future, but with the priority of continuing to develop players in the present who could have a role in the future for Memphis. GG Jackson and Vince Williams Jr. have established themselves as significant parts of the Grizzlies’ future. Jake Laravia, especially over the past few weeks, has shown multiple examples of why he has the skillset to contribute in the NBA. And while others may not have as clear of an opportunity in the future with the Grizzlies, players such as Lamar Stevens have been productive in expanded roles.

Another player who has been highly impressive and showed good, consistent production when on the court is Scotty Pippen Jr. He was added as a two-way player for the Grizzlies all the way back on January 17th, following the losses of Ja Morant, Marcus Smart, and Desmond Bane for either the rest of the season or extended periods of time. Pippen Jr. showed intriguing flashes as soon as he stepped on on the court of Memphis, but only played a handful of games before missing nearly a month with a back injury.

Fortunately, Pippen Jr. was able to fully return nearly three weeks ago. And in that time, he has made a tremendous impression as a lead guard for the Grizzlies. Since returning on March 22nd, Pippen Jr. has averaged 14.8 points, 4.1 assists, 3 rebounds, 2.4 steals, and 1.5 threes per game in eleven games. He is shooting 48.8% from the field, 38.6% from three, and 77.4% from the line over this stretch. His 58.8% true shooting mark over this time span highlights a level of scoring efficiency not many Grizzlies have reached this season. And for an offense that has been among the worst in the league this year, Pippen Jr., like Jackson and Williams Jr., has been a bright spot for the Grizzlies this season.

When the Grizzlies added Pippen Jr., he was known as an offensive talent that enjoyed going downhill and attacking the paint. He could create his own looks and use his body to draw contact and get to the free throw line, but was not overly impressive in terms of his scoring at the rim. His numbers in Memphis support this description of Pippen Jr., as his ability to create nearly 60% of his overall two point attempts and take nearly 40% of his overall shots at the rim is impressive for a guard. However, he is fairly average when it comes to converting shots at the rim and overall inside the arc.

But what has been most impressive about Pippen Jr. is how he has added a reliable three point shot to his offensive game. He has made 43.5% of his 3.3 three point attempts per game this season, most of which has come from attempts above the break, where he has shot 42%. This production was somewhat unexpected, as Pippen Jr. struggled from beyond the arc over the past two years in the G-league.

However, his form certainly seems to be one that can that could support above-average accuracy from three. Furthermore, Taylor Jenkins and his staff have successfully improved the shots of many guards before, such as Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton, once they arrived in Memphis. If Pippen Jr. can truly maintain a 3P% at or above 37-38%, he then has resourcefulness and balance to his offensive approach that can add good value. And if he can be a reliable option to make non-corner threes, that is needed shooting depth for a roster that can never have too much shooting.

The other part of Pippen Jr.’s game that has really impressed this season is his ability to be an event creator/defensive playmaker on defense. Per Cleaning the Glass, Pippen Jr.’s 3.3% steal rate (100th percentile) and 1% block rate (86th percentile) are both elite marks among his peers. Furthermore, when Pippen Jr. is in the lineup for Memphis, their offensive production via transition possessions is in the 78th percentile. These numbers show that not only can Pippen Jr. create havoc on defense in multiple ways, he has a good ability to turn those defensive events into offensive points. This makes Pippen Jr. a great fit at the point guard position in Taylor Jenkins scheme, as points off turnovers has been a clear strength for Memphis under Jenkins.

Of course, as a point guard, Pippin Jr. has also shown the ability to add value as a playmaker. However, while he can produce assists at an above average rate, he also can commit turnovers pretty frequently. This an area of growth for Pippen Jr., but an aspect of his game that has clearly continued to improve, as his assist-to-turnover ratio has continued to improve as the season has progressed.

So as can be seen, Pippen Jr. has opened some eyes as a member of the Grizzlies this season, especially over the past few weeks. Of course, with Memphis not being in playoff contention and it being the last 20% of the season in which he has thrived, Pippen Jr.’s production could be looked at with a bit of skepticism. While there is some logic to that perspective, the way in which Pippen Jr.’s game has grown in such a short time makes it hard to deny he has improved.

Even more importantly than improvement, Pippen Jr.’s production has also made him an intriguing option to follow for the Grizzlies next season. He signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Grizzlies, so Pippen Jr. is already in place to be in the Grizzlies organization as guard depth next season. And while Morant, Bane, and Smart will likely be running the point for Memphis on most occasions, this year clearly proves the need for quality depth in case of injury.

Pippen Jr. has shown on many occasions he can be just that.

And that is mainly because Pippen Jr. clearly has the skill set to thrive as a backup point guard in this league. He can score and shoot, is a decent playmaker, and gives effort and can create chaos on the defensive end of the court. When bench lineups are in the game, less overall talent and structure is a great environment for a player like Pippen Jr. to thrive. If his ability to create turnovers, produce in transition, and score beyond the arc all remain at similar levels next season, Pippen Jr. can be a really productive option for Memphis when needed next year.

Another impressive aspect of Pippen Jr.’s game is that he consistently plays hard on both ends of the court. He clearly saw his arrival in Memphis as an opportunity to show he belongs in the NBA, and he has done just that. As a result, the Grizzlies have to be thrilled they have found another young perimeter talent that can contribute in multiple ways when needed. Pippen Jr. may not be a regular part of the rotation next season, but as more roster moves are made this summer, he could clearly be in the Grizzlies plans both next year and beyond.

And while Pippen Jr.’s role may be significantly smaller next year, the fact that he has made the most if his initial opportunity in Memphis will be an experience that could continue to pay off as he continues to grow as a player. While is long-term future is yet to be determined, Pippen Jr.’s outlook in the present and near future for the Grizzlies will be highly intriguing to watch.


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