Have the Grizzlies struck gold in Jaren Jackson Jr.?

Jaren Jackson to the hoop.

Tonight, the Grizzlies try to get back above .500 as they take on the Phoenix Suns at FedExForum. Poor offense and rebounding caught up with them again Wednesday as they blew an early lead to lose to the Sacramento Kings, 92-97.

The season opener was a defenseless blowout loss in Indiana. The next game, they manufactured an offensive explosion blowing out out Atlanta in the home opener at FedExForum. And they stole a road game from the Utah Jazz with tough defense. Then they let go of the rope in Sacramento. Mike Conley’s 27 points was encouraging, but wasted.

Maybe the word that fits, for now, is “erratic.”

But a bright spot for the team has been the play of rookie PF Jaren Jackson Jr.
In his first four games, he’s averaging 14.8 points, 6.5 boards and 1.3 blocks per game. That includes a 24-point outburst in that Atlanta game. He went for 14 points and seven rebounds in the loss to Sacramento.

And while he was projected to eventually land in the starting lineup, that timeline got accelerated when the incumbent JaMychal Green suffered a broken jaw during the Hawks win.

It’s the second year that JMyke has gone down in a home opener. He’s expected to miss several weeks while he heals. Green will never be a NBA star, but he is a lunchpail type of player who came to play every night. Here’s hoping he can recover fast and play well enough to secure a contract next offseason.

But in the meantime, we’re about to see plenty of the 19-year-old goofball from Michigan State. He was drafted with the idea that his length, shot blocking and defensive instincts could be put to immediate use. His offensive game was expected to blossom over time.

But there’s no time like the present.

“(At Michigan State) we had a lot of great scorers, so my mark was more on the defensive end.” Jackson said after the Atlanta win. “But I always work on my game and it shows in spurts where I need to be aggressive. That’s what coach tells me in practice, so I just brought it to the game.”

Grizzlies Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that both the team and Jackson are expecting big things.

“This is who we think we drafted,” Bickerstaff said after the Atlanta win. “In no situation have I ever seen a moment that’s too big for him. He’s never been too hype. He’s never been too low.

“Whatever we put in front of him, he just goes and attacks it,” Bickerstaff continued. “For a guy that’s 19 years old, that says a lot about his character. Give his parents a ton of credit.”

It’s well-documented what a bonafide NBA superstar can do for a team and its city, even in a small market. Ask Oklahoma City about Russell Westbrook or even New Orleans about Anthony Davis.

Do the Grizzlies have that type of player in Jackson? I’m reluctant to say just yet. Young stars can also fade quickly. Wasn’t that long ago that players like Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin were the talk of the league.

But for a team that has NEVER had a true marquee-level player, I must admit: It’s fun to watch and see what Jackson turns into.

Turns out the Grizzlies may have just hit the lottery jackpot.