Trail Blazers

How Jaren Jackson Jr.'s potential return from injury impacts the Blazers

Trail Blazers
USA Today Sports

It looks like one of the more promising young big men in the NBA will be back soon.

Ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies' Wednesday night game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Jared Jackson Jr. (knee) was upgraded to questionable on their injury report. Jackson had been listed as doubtful for the Grizzlies' game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday, so this represented good news for him.

Even if he doesn't play on Wednesday night, Jackson should return to the Grizzlies in the near future. That may end up making life a little bit more difficult for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Trail Blazers currently have a 32-25 record and are sitting at the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. However, they've hit a slump of late and have posted just a 3-7 record in their last 10 games. Granted, they've been without Damian Lillard (hamstring) for part of that stretch, but to be sure, they were cooling off at the wrong time.

The Blazers are trying to avoid the NBA's play-in tournament for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds, so every win down the stretch is important. They have just 15 games remaining and a few teams are within striking distance of them. That could be a problem if their cold stretch continues.

Seed Team Record Games Back
6 Trail Blazers 32-25 --
7 Mavericks 30-26 1.5
8 Grizzlies 29-27 2.5
9 Warriors 29-29 3
10 Spurs 28-28 3

As you can see, one of those teams is the Grizzlies. Currently, the Grizzlies are the No. 8 seed in the West, but they are just 2.5 games back of the Trail Blazers' No. 6 seed. And they could make up ground quickly.

 

Three of the next five games for the Blazers will be against the Grizzlies. That will give Memphis a good chance to make up some ground against them in the standings.

If Jackson is back, that will make things a bit tougher on Portland. Jackson, 21, is an up-and-coming star at the forward/center position. During his second season, he averaged 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and a whopping 1.6 blocks per game for the Grizzlies. And in the bubble, he only got better.

In three games in the bubble, Jackson averaged 25.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals. That included a 33-point outing against the Trail Blazers. He's simply hard to deal with near the rim and given that Portland's frontcourt defense hasn't been very good this year, Jackson could have similar success against them -- if he's able to get on the court.

Even if Jackson is on a minutes limit or is still working his way back into game shape, his presence will be another element the Trail Blazers have to look out for in their three games against the Grizzlies. And if Jackson is at full strength, or close to it, he could quickly become a problem for Portland.

While the Blazers will be focused on beating the Nuggets Wednesday night, fans and front office staff alike will have one eye on the Grizzlies to see if Jackson plays for Memphis.

If he doesn't, then all eyes will be on the Grizzlies injury report ahead of their first Blazers-Grizzlies game of the season.