25-under-25: Desmond Bane of the Grizzlies will keep proving you wrong

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

Desmond Bane may not get the headlines that Ja Morant receives. All he does is make the Grizzlies’ offense more dangerous, and continue to prove those that wrote him off wrong. 

In case you didn’t know, Desmond Bane is underrated. Even when he is seemingly appropriately rated, that rating is wrong. It’s not because of spite, or a lack of basketball IQ on behalf of whoever is making the rankings. Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies has been looked over for quite literally his entire life. It’s part of what makes him such a great fit in Memphis — among a bunch of dudes with chips on their shoulders, perhaps Desmond’s is the largest.

The Richmond, Indiana product who only received one scholarship offer coming out of high school, from TCU, has taken advantage of the opportunity the Grizzlies have provided him. The 30th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft has made many of those that passed on him look silly for making that mistake. His offensive capacity is elite among NBA wings already (81st percentile in eFG, 83rd in Points per Shot Attempt) and his trash talk skills are almost as underrated as his scoring tools. Ja Morant is giving him awards, and opposing teams across the National Basketball Association are keenly aware of where the Memphis sharpshooter is at all times.

Desmond Bane is becoming an offensive engine for the Grizzlies

It’s funny what shooting 46 percent on all non-corner 3-pointers (97th percentile!!) will do for your rep. But write off Bane as a one-trick pony at your own risk. Within the development system of the Memphis Grizzlies, he has become a multi-faceted bucket getter with the ability not just stand and shoot, but also create off the dribble. Only 59.6 percent of his shots were assisted on last season, down from 70 percent the season before. He now must be respected as a creator of offense not just for himself, but for others — his assist percentage jumped over 3 points from his rookie to his sophomore season.

He’s a legitimate weapon in his own right against opposing defenses, and you couldn’t ask for a better partner to align with the audaciously talented Ja Morant. Bane is the yin to Morant’s yang, the sniper from beyond the arc who allows Ja to slice and dice a bit more freely in and around the paint. Anyone that is bullish on the prospects of the Memphis Grizzlies in the season ahead almost certainly sees that what Bane brings to the table has him primed to not just take a leap in the season ahead, but jump into the realm of All-Star Reserve or Most Improved Player in the entire NBA.

It’s not hyperbole. Bane is that kind of player. And the truth of the matter is that the main reason this is possible is that the Grizzlies need him to be in order to keep marching forward as NBA contenders.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is likely out for at least the first month or two of the season. The team is due for some offensive restructuring after losing two key regular season contributors in De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson, both of whom were pretty important to the Grizzlies defense that was second in the NBA in transition offense through the “stocks” (steals and rebounds) they generated as well as their own very good-to-great rebounding totals for their positions.

Memphis has earned the right to retool in their unique way — no team in the NBA has grown their own talent through the draft as well as the Grizzlies since 2019 when Morant and Head Coach Taylor Jenkins arrived in Memphis alongside newly promoted at the time Grizzlies GM Zach Kleiman. But the halfcourt scoring production was suspect (22nd in the NBA last season) and must be better in the potential absence of elite defense creating “easy” offense. For a squad with higher aspirations without making a major addition to the roster via trade or free agency, internal development is the only path.

Fortunately for Memphis, Desmond Bane understands this all too well. Being looked over is something he has experienced throughout his basketball life. His arms were too short, his game too “high-floor, low-ceiling” to be worth a higher first-round pick. Perhaps he made the most sense in the early second round, as a player that could be a good NBA rotation piece but not much more.

But from high school to TCU to the Memphis Grizzlies, Bane has shown that his mentality is that of focusing his energy on his own growth. The noise beyond his own control is static — unintelligible and not worth his concern. His own faith in his capabilities has carried him to the point of being the NBA’s best value contract — a player perhaps due a nine-figure contract of his own this coming summer as a key cog in the theorized dynasty the Memphis Grizzlies have built that could run the league the next decade.

That understanding of self, and confidence in what all has made him what he is, will only continue to drive Bane — and the Grizzlies — into the future that is more bright than most anticipated.

Most, that is, except Desmond Bane.

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