NBA

Grizzlies outlier Jaren Jackson Jr wins Defensive Player of the Year

By Sports Desk April 17, 2023

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr has been rewarded for his spectacular shot-blocking season by being named the 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year.

The first of the NBA's annual regular season awards was announced on Monday prior to Game 2 between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets, with more to follow in coming days.

Jackson, 23, was drafted fourth overall by the Grizzlies in the 2018 NBA Draft as an 18-year-old, showing a rare skill-set during his time at Michigan State.

Standing at six-foot-10 with a seven-foot-five wingspan, Jackson was the only player in all of college basketball during his draft year to average at least three blocks per game and a made three-pointer per game.

He struggled mightily with foul trouble early in his professional career – leading the league in fouls per game in each of his first two seasons – but after injuries derailed his third campaign, he returned in his fourth season as a new player.

In the 2021-22 season he began to fulfil the potential he promised on the defensive end, playing a career-high 78 regular season fixtures while leading the league in blocks per game (2.3) for the first time. 

Entering this campaign as the reigning blocks king, Jackson took things a step further, posting a career-high 3.0 blocks per game while boasting one of the gaudiest block rates of all time.

While Jackson was on the floor, he blocked 9.58 per cent of all opponent shots – the seventh-highest rate of all-time – and an even higher figure than Myles Turner's 8.85 per cent when he averaged 3.4 blocks per game in the 2020-21 season.

Among full-time starters, no player in the NBA this season boasted a better individual defensive rating than Jackson's 106.6, turning the Grizzlies into the league's best defense during his minutes on the court.

Meanwhile, during the 19 games Jackson has missed this season, the Grizzlies' defensive rating of 114.8 would rank them 21st, between the Charlotte Hornets and the Washington Wizards.

While it does not go into consideration for his Defensive Player of the Year award, Jackson also had a career-best season on the offensive end, scoring a career-high 18.6 points per game while averaging career highs in field-goal makes (6.6), field-goal percentage (50.6) and free-throw makes (3.8).

He is currently in the first year of a four-year, $105million extension – which has turned into a bargain deal due to his rapid ascension into fringe All-NBA status.

Also receiving votes were Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez, Cleveland Cavaliers second-year star Evan Mobley and Golden State Warriors future Hall-of-Famer Draymond Green.

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