Can something be as blunt as a hammer yet precise as a scalpel?
Such a conundrum can describe Desmond Bane, who in his third year in the NBA, has continued from where he left off last season. The Memphis Grizzlies’ rise to the second-best record in the league has coincided with Bane’s evolution from a fringe first-round draft prospect to a member of one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA.
Now, Bane is on the path to being one of the league’s best shooting guards.
In fact, shooting might as well be SHOOTING given how Bane is in the top-five in 3-pointers made (39) and has attempted more 3-pointers than any of his peers in the top-30 in terms of 3-point shooting percentage.
The shooting has, of course, opened up the other facets of Bane’s game that many observers never really got to see. Built like a tank, the former TCU Horned Frog has learned to utilize the pick-and-roll to get his own shot from behind the 3-point line, but more importantly, it has presented matchups that have allowed Bane to muscle his way to the basket. Quicker guards can stay in stride with him, but when Bane drives into them, it can bring a lot of hurt.
Defenders have had to expect this kind of physicality when defending Bane, but he too has developed the ability to score from the midrange just to keep the defense guessing.
Bane’s growth with regard to his individual offense has been all the more remarkable when numbers are added to the equation, as he is currently averaging career-highs in points (23.5 per game) and 3-point shooting percentage (46.3 percent). That he is doing all of these on more attempts from the field, from behind the 3-point line, and at the free throw line without sacrificing much efficiency certainly helps in a team that’s pretty stacked with Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, and is still awaiting the return of Jaren Jackson Jr.
His scoring is obviously well and good, but Bane has also had an impact in making plays for his teammates. Averaging a career-best 4.5 assists per game, the Indiana native has been able to balance finding his shot and that of his teammates through the pick-and-roll and in extending the defense and creating more space on the court. Assists are always welcome, but numbers don’t tell the whole picture; Bane has shown the willingness to trust in the offense and anyway, the ball will always find him when it’s the best shot for that possession.
Much of this was on display in the Grizzlies’ 103-97 win over the Washington Wizards The Wizards went on a 9-0 to begin the game, but Bane got Memphis on the board by assisting on a Steven Adams dunk. Bane found his teammates early on, and in turn, this helped him get his own offense going. Finishing with a game-high 28 points, Bane eventually put the finishing touches on the comeback victory, knocking down a 3-pointer and a couple of free throws to extend the Grizzlies’ winning streak to three.
The following night against the Boston Celtics, Bane scored the first points of the game off a 3-pointer but struggled early on in what was a game of runs. Memphis would rally and even take the lead into the fourth quarter after being down by as many as 14 points. Bane nearly got the Grizzlies back to within a single score, but Morant slipped and with it the victory as well.
Injuries have thankfully not been an issue with Bane, but Memphis has nonetheless exercised caution when it comes to the 24-year old. Last year, the Grizzlies pulled Bane out of summer league after two stellar performances, both as a health precaution and in part to get a longer look at other players on Memphis’ summer league roster. That being said, the Grizzlies won’t hesitate to do the same when the situation calls for it. Besides, Bane and Memphis have bigger aspirations and a long-term approach in mind.
Desmond Bane has always been on the attack, but he has taken on a more nuanced approach as time went by. Ja Morant is still the franchise player for the Memphis Grizzlies, but Bane’s meteoric rise gives the Grizzlies the kind of backcourt that could keep Memphis in the upper echelon of the Western Conference for the next decade.