The Memphis Grizzlies entered this season as a contender in the Western Conference; but so far, they’ve had to battle through a number of early injuries. Fortunately, it’s a long season, as the team have a superstar in Ja Morant, and a deep team, but perhaps the surprise of the NBA season thus far has been the play of Desmond Bane.
Bane has been nothing short of spectacular and is a big reason why the Grizzlies have been able to weather the early storm and are 7-4 and fourth in the West. While it was previously assumed that Jaren Jackson Jr. would emerge as the team’s second star to complement Morant, Jackson has struggled to stay healthy since being taken fourth in the 2018 NBA draft.
Now, it seems clear that Bane is the Robin to Morant’s Batman, and that’s huge for the Grizzlies, who are widely seen as the future of the NBA but didn’t necessarily have a clear-cut second option behind Morant.
Let’s take a closer look at how Bane has made the leap into stardom.
How Bane Upped His Game
Now in his third season, Bane is averaging an impressive 24.6 points per game, which would be more than a six-point jump in scoring if it holds over the previous season. That could put him in strong contention for Most Improved and make him a shoo-in to make his first All-Star team. Some of that improvement can be attributed to him getting to take more shots with so many injuries, specifically from three where he’s shot lights out.
Bane is launching a staggering 8.8 threes per game and drilling an outrageous 46.8% of those shots. Obviously, that percentage will come down some, but likely not much since he’s shot above 40% in each of his first two seasons. Moreover, nearly nine 3-point attempts per game is a sustainable rate for Bane given his shot selection.
He is developing a deadly step-back jumper that allows him to create space to get off threes without the use of a screen. Moreover, he’s shooting an astounding 54.8% on off-the-dribble threes. Few players are truly good at shooting off the dribble, and the ones that are tend to be superstars such as Steph Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic.
How his Breakout Helps the Grizzlies
Before Bane took this massive leap, there was talk about the need for the Grizzlies to cash in their chips and for key pieces to help them win. One option was Kevin Durant, back in the summer, but that never seemed too likely. However, now that Bane is on the rise, there doesn’t appear to be a need for such a win-now trade.
In fact, a core of Morant, Bane, and Jackson Jr. is a terrific one and could make the Grizzlies contenders for the next decade considering Bane is the oldest of the trio but is just 24 years old. It also makes it easier for the Grizzlies’ front office to make moves going forward, knowing that they have a Big 3 and that all three players should be around for years to come.
The Future is NOW for the Grizzlies
Overall, Bane is enjoying a breakout season and will likely be in the mix to win Most Improved and be a first-time All-Star. However, beyond that, Bane’s emergence has given Morant a co-star and the Grizzlies potentially the missing piece needed for them to build a championship team.
Once fully healthy, the Memphis Grizzlies could establish themselves as the team to beat in the Western Conference this season, with other contenders such as the Golden State Warriors and L.A. Clippers stumbling out of the gates, and going forward.