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Desmond Bane was regarded as an NBA-ready prospect without high-level upside. Weeks into his career, his ceiling is looking much, much higher.
In the months leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft, Desmond Bane out of TCU quickly became one of the more thoroughly discussed prospects.
Bane was widely regarded as a second-round prospect through the majority of his fourth college basketball season. Yet when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, delaying the draft and giving everyone extra time to watch more film, Bane began to rise on big boards.
In his four seasons at TCU, Bane showed promise as an NBA player mainly with his ability to shoot. Through his 141 collegiate games, Bane was 249-of-575 (43.3 percent) on 3-point shot attempts.
His shooting form is slightly unconventional, with his elbow pointing outwards and appearing to use lots of arm strength to shoot the ball. The uncommon look didn’t slow down Bane — who had 110 games with at least one 3-point field goal made, the 12th most from 2016-17 to 2019-20, according to Sports-Reference.
Heading into the night of the draft, Bane was facing two main criticisms by those more skeptical of his upside. The first was his age — 22 years old. This meant his potential might be lesser than that of, say, a one-and-done 19-year-old. His wingspan, which is two inches shorter than his height, was also a cause of concern.
On draft night, he nearly slipped out of the first round before the Memphis Grizzlies executed a three-team trade to acquire his draft rights. With the Grizzlies’ recent success in the draft and with player development, it looked like a perfect match.
Beginning in the preseason, it was clear Bane would have a large role on this team. His age and experience made him immediately ready to play in an NBA rotation and played 20.8 minutes per game in four preseason games.
Bane was very productive in those four games, averaging 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He also impacted the game defensively, generating five steals over the preseason. The Grizzlies allowed only 94.0 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, according to NBA.com/Stats.
In the preseason, it was obvious that his shooting would not require an adjustment period to the pushed-back line in the NBA. He made 2.6 of his 6.9 3point attempts per 36 minutes, giving him a 37.5 3-point percentage. He showcased his ability to make a variety of shots – catch-and-shoot, off-the-dribble and even some step-backs.
Through his first 10 regular-season games, it does not appear his preseason success was a mirage.
What has Desmond Bane shown so far in his rookie season?
Bane is still playing a significant 22.8 minutes per game, seventh-most on the Grizzlies. Head coach Taylor Jenkins has even hinted that Bane could make an appearance in the starting lineup, something Grizzlies fans have been calling for.
As for his shooting, Bane got off to a historically good start. Bane made at least two 3-pointers in his first six career games. Those six games with multiple 3-pointers made is the second-longest streak to start an NBA career, according to Grizzlies PR. Bane had also made at least one 3-pointer in nine of his first ten career games. His 19 3-pointers made are the third-most among rookies as of Jan. 12, according to NBA.com/Stats.
Not only is Bane making the shots, but he is doing it efficiently. He’s currently shooting 47.5 percent, the second-highest among rookies who have attempted at least 20 3-pointers.
Like many shooters, Bane’s greatest strength is with catch and shoot jumpers. He’s 16-of-33 (48.5 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3s this season. When he is off the ball, Bane can read the defense and get himself in a position for a shot. He also smartly positions himself to get open when the defense helps on the ball handler. His quick release allows him to get shots off without getting blocked.
Despite the high frequency on catch-and-shoot jumpers, there is plenty of reason to buy Bane’s shooting ability off the bounce. First of which is the track record he had shooting that type of shot in college. During his senior season at TCU, Bane shot 43-of-103 (41.7 percent) on shots off the dribble, placing him in the 92nd percentile, according to Synergy Stats.
The number of pull-up jumpers Bane has shot his rookie season is still pretty low — just 18, making up just over a quarter of his total shot attempts. The pull-up shots Bane has taken this season have looked very, very good.
Bane looks comfortable putting the ball on the court and creating space for himself off the dribble. He can attack closeouts or come off screens to get himself a better shot. He also has shown how many tools he has in his bag, using crossovers and step-backs to create an open shot.
The finishing continues to be an area of weakness for Bane, as it was in college. Bane is shooting just 6-of-12 in the restricted area. Bane isn’t a great athlete, he lacks a quick first step and struggles to get off the floor quickly. That predominantly shows in his shooting in the non-restricted area of the paint, where he is 1-of-9.
There is still plenty of reason to buy Bane’s finishing ability. The most evident reason is his build. With a body like a tank, Bane has already shown the ability to finish strong through contact. Even if the touch and finesse around the rim never improves to a reliable level, Bane is still going to have contact finishing in his bag.
Bane’s defense was an area of concern for some during the pre-draft process. With the short wingspan and lack of quickness, the idea of him staying in front of NBA athletes was a concern. That will be something to monitor as his career continues to develop, but Bane is still managing to make an impact defensively. So far this season, Bane has utilized his instincts and motor to create turnovers and disrupt teams in transition. He is shooting passing lanes and reading the ball to force teams into making mistakes. Having good anticipation in addition to consistent effort are two things that make great defenders.
Bane already performing at this high of a level is a huge bonus for this Grizzlies team. Memphis now adds another piece to their collection of young talent in Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and, of course, Ja Morant that’s proved good enough to be a fringe playoff team. Adding a jumper as efficient as Bane’s is a tremendous addition for a Grizzlies team that was not good at shooting.
Last season, Memphis was 24th in 3-point attempts per game and 23rd in 3-point percentage. Bane fills a hole in the Grizzlies’ guard depth chart. With a low-volume scorer in Grayson Allen and an inconsistent but extremely high usage Dillion Brooks, Memphis now has a reliable and efficient guard to back-up Morant. His scoring, developing playmaking and effort on defense makes Bane a great asset not just for the Grizzlies’ future, but to help them win now.