Entering the league after having possibly the most storied freshman resume of all time, Anthony Davis had thrilling comparisons to the likes of Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and a multifarious collection of NBA greats. Though he started off his career raw, losing the rookie of the year award to Damian Lillard- who may I add was exceptional his rookie season even though he was drafted at a later age- Anthony Davis has built quite the resume to contend with the other great young big man to date, such as Giannis Antetokoumpo and NIkola Jokic.
But what does this have to do with Memphis?
See, in 2018, Memphis followed up a relatively mediocre year following the tail-end of the grit-and-grind era by attaining the 4th pick in the NBA Draft.
They then took their chances on a prospect oozing with potential from all angles: Jaren Jackson Jr. The youngest player in the draft, the Michigan State product awed the likes of NBA scouts all around with 11 points per game, 6 rebounds game, and 3 blocks per game. Though his offense was underdeveloped, his defense was regarded as the best trait of his game, much to the likes of Anthony Davis.
So he was picked by Memphis and the gamble seems to be paying off. The comparison arises to Anthony Davis from their rookie and sophomore seasons (in the NBA). Here are the two stat lines, you can guess which stat line is which.
17.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.3 bpg. 52% FG, 13% 3-PT, 78% FT
15.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 apg, 1.5 bpg. 49% FG, 38% 3-PT, 75% FT
If you guessed the first one, you would be most likely correct, and the answer to the question of who it is: Anthony Davis.
Of course, the better recruit had the better start to his career, but the similarities are there. Both are uber-athletic big men who can shoot the ball. unlike many other players their size Especially Jackson Jr. who is shooting a scorching 59% true shooting, while taking 4.4 3PA! That's an insane skill to have for a player his size, and Anthony Davis only later in his career would attain a shooting stroke to the likes of which Jackson Jr. already boasts (though its a rather alien looking stroke).
Then going back to what I call the biggest comparison between the two: their defense. Though Anthony Davis claims the better raw stats to start off their career, he blazed the path for JJJ's defense which is very comparable to his own.
Defensive box plus minus, block rate, and defensive rating point to the fact that AD holds a very minuscule lead (held?), and all of this is while JJJ continues to play limited minutes and share the court with 3-4 other solid big men each and every game. Both are also mobile big men. Nikola Jokic, Brook Lopez, Steven Adams, all are guys who struggle with smaller players. However JJJ has impeccable lateral quickness and length that allow him to be a force out on the perimeter as well as at the rim.
Fouling is a problem for JJJ, as he has been very careless and averages a whopping 5.2 fouls per game per 36 minutes, which indicates that if he were to average more than his current 27 mpg, he would be on the verge of fouling out every game!
This is a rather disheartening stat, but to match Davis in his limited fouling is a relatively impossible task, as almost no big man in the history of the NBA can match Davis's foul:block ratio.
Rebounding is another issue, as for his size, merely 4.6 rebounds will not suffice. However, he is lucky to be playing in an era where rebounders are less specialized as three-pointers consequentially lead to long rebounds, and there is a certain bypass within the Memphis organization as he plays with a big man who gobbles up rebounds at an elite rate in Jonas Valanciunas. It is a area of improvement that worries many NBA fans and general managers alike, along with his foul rate.
Yet performances such as the ones below where he had 7 blocks and 9 threes open up a realm of possibilities, and with stunted development, the Memphis Grizzlies look to make a promising playoff run once he returns from injury (did I forget to mention he's quite injury prone? The similarities to Anthony Davis are endless!).
In the case where his development carries over the the next level (which is very is very likely given his current trajectory), he can be an elite two-way big man with maybe not a sweet stroke, but very much and elite one.