Physical length and height seem to be what NBA draft darlings
are made of these days. Coming into the league as a part of the
2020 class, Desmond Bane didn’t have either. At 6-foot-6 and 215
pounds, the former TCU standout was more chiseled and built than
lanky and wide.
Heck, that still rings true today... but here’s the catch: It
hasn’t mattered one damn bit, and those old concerns are being put
to bed with each lights-out performance and accompanying Memphis
“It was obviously a question mark coming in. But you can't
measure somebody's heart,” Bane told BasketballNews.com over the
phone. “You can measure wingspan, you can measure hand-width,
vertical, all that stuff. But you can't measure how bad somebody
wants to accomplish something. So for all the people out there that
said I wouldn't make it because of whatever reason, that's just
[adding] more fuel to the fire.
Taken with the No. 30 overall pick and traded away by the Boston
Celtics in the 2020 NBA Draft, Bane recently told the Athletic that he will not
forget those that passed on him. Following up on that,
Basketball News asked him when he began counting.
“Realistically, I didn't think that I'd be a top-10 pick,” Bane
said. “We had a little bit of interest with Phoenix at 10; they had
10 or were going to trade back from 10 or whatever. But we had a
little bit of interest there. So really once we started getting to
10 and a little bit beyond is when I started really taking
Well, fast forward to now, and Bane isn’t just on the verge of a
breakout; he’s already broken out. In one year’s time, the
bulky swingman has gone from a rookie figuring things out to an
everyday starter, nearly doubling both his shot attempts (14.3) and
scoring (17.7) averages. Somehow, someway, he’s maintained an
almost-identical 46.8% field-goal percentage despite a
significantly increased usage rate (23.0).
"I learned a lot [from my first season]. I learned just how to
be a pro first and foremost,” Bane said. “The schedule last year
was grueling due to all the games being canceled and so forth, so I
had to learn how to just continue my habits more than anything.
Stack good habits on top of each other and let the good days stack
up, and learn how to be a pro essentially.
“I mean, last year I knew that I'd have a chance to play in the
league for a while. I knew that I had a role that I could play in
the NBA. But you know, after this year and how we've won and how
I've played, I have different goals and a new mindset on how I can
really impact not only our team, but the league."
Competing in his first game in nine days following a stint on
the COVID health and safety protocol list on Wednesday, Bane scored
11 first-quarter points on 7 attempts and finished with 20 points
total in a Grizzlies victory in San Antonio. However, despite that
production, he noticed that his opponents were defending him a
little differently than usual — a sign that he’s gaining respect as
a real nightly threat.
“The Spurs were running a box-and-one on me. That's a testament
to my hard work and how far I've come as a player,” Bane said.
“Last year, I was a guy who was probably on the bottom of the
scouting report, and [Wednesday night] teams are game-planning to
take me out of the mix. So it's a good feeling, but also, new
The city of Memphis is fully embracing GRZ NXT GEN, and for good
reason. The Grizzlies have built on their coming-out party a season
ago with a 34-17 record, standing tall and in pursuit of the Golden
State Warriors and Phoenix Suns for top playoff positioning.
Recognizing that he’s contributing to that success on both ends,
along with developing as an individual in the process, is “hard to
put into words” for Bane.
“I'm a kid from a small town in Richmond, Indiana with 30,000
people, and now I'm playing on one of the best teams in the Western
Conference, and playing a big part in that. So it's definitely
something to be proud of,” Bane said.
"I think [why it clicks] has to do with our culture, with our
locker room. We don't have any egos. I mean, I think it starts at
the top with Ja Morant, Jaren [Jackson Jr.], Dillon Brooks, myself
— we're all on one agenda, and that's winning basketball games.
Nothing really gets in the way of that mentality and that mindset.
It's always about winning."
That includes when Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant went down with
a significant knee sprain in late November. While many on the
outside were expecting Memphis to drop down without the face of its
franchise, the team responded by going 10-2 in his absence.
“It was on all of us. Obviously my role changed a bit with Ja
going down, but it was on all of us,” Bane said. “That's what stays
true with us. That's the reason why we're in the position that
we're in is because it's been a next-man-up mentality all year
“We've had guys who were on two-way contracts previous to the
year beginning step up and even play big minutes and earn
themselves a full contract. So it's been great to see. But
honestly, it hasn't been too big of a surprise given the culture
and the guys that we have here in this program."
At first glance, the first thing you notice about Bane is his
willingness to let the three-ball fly. Dating back to his high
school days and his run in college with the Horned Frogs, he’s
always tickled the twine from downtown as a high-volume sniper
(career 43.3% perimeter clip over four years at TCU).
Nothing has changed on the big stage, as Bane is drilling 41.9%
of his 6.8 triple tries per contest. He can spot up on either elbow
(“definitely one of my favorite spots”) or pull up with a quick
side-step when he’s in rhythm — in transition or in halfcourt. As
to why he’s been able to nail down his jumper so consistently, it
just comes down to reps in his eyes.
“I just put the time in. There’s no other way to explain it,”
Bane said bluntly.
Don’t dare put Bane into a specialist category though. He’s been
able to put more tricks of his trade on display this year, as he’s
found a balance between firing away from distance and putting it on
the deck. He points to the experience he had at NBA Summer League,
where he was featured more on the ball, and that carried into
training camp and on.
And off the ball, he’s as cunning as he is dangerous, often
using his Mountain Man teammate Steven Adams as a catalyst for easy
looks. Bane tends to sit back ever-so-patiently... until he burns
his assignment on a curl for a quick mid-ranger or finds a hole in
the defense to zoom-in from the perimeter to create a point-blank
look, to which Adams will feed him.
According to NBA.com, Adams has the most assists to Bane on
the team with 58 helpers, and the second-year wing has made 58.1%
of his shots off his passes.
“We've got a great relationship,” Bane said of Adams. “He seems
like he's always finding me — whether it's backdoor cuts or
handoffs or whatever the case may be. Steve-O's a great teammate to
play with... You obviously gotta use your mind and use your smarts
to your ability. I watch a lot of film and study a lot of different
players and just try to pick up on some of their tendencies that
work [against] them."
There’s also that Morant guy, who is right behind the Grizzlies
big man with 52 assists to Bane. Those connections tend to be more
of the draw-defenders-in-and-kick variety, which has worked like a
gem almost instantly.
“We've got a lot of chemistry,” said Bane, who’s also racked up
a team-high 24 dimes to Morant in return. “Last year, we just
didn't really have those minutes on the floor together as much. We
had Grayson [Allen], who was playing the majority of those minutes
with Ja. But I feel like Ja and I's chemistry and relationship has
Morant’s campaign to his first All-Star starter selection is
well-deserved. He is the unequivocal head of the snake in Memphis,
dancing, and spinning his way into crunch-time buckets like it’s
nothing. There is no taking away the magician-like capabilities of
“12” when the chips are down, or when closing time
Believe it or not, however, it is Bane who leads the Grizzlies
in clutch shooting by the league’s standard metric (ahead or behind
by 5 points with 5 minutes or less left in the game).
Albeit on less volume, the big-time shots from Bane fall 53.6%
of the time. Going by those who have played at least 50 minutes and
attempted at least 20 field goals total (min. 20 games), Bane
ranks fourth in clutch-time percentage behind Patty
Mills, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and, unsurprisingly, Chris
Self-described as “hungry,” delivering when the team needs it
most has become second nature.
“It's just basketball,” Bane said. “I've played in so many games
throughout my career, been in so many different situations. I think
I would credit my four years in college and just all the basketball
experience that I had coming into the NBA is what kinda made me
ready for these moments."
Bane should be adding another moment to his list in a few weeks
at All-Star Weekend. He’s already expressed his desire to be
in the Three-Point Contest (and to win Most Improved Player),
but participating in the Rising Stars game would “mean the world to
me and my city.” His ambitions don’t just end there.
"I'm not a guy that really has like concrete goals. But I mean
obviously, I'm a team-first guy and I want to be a champion before
anything… Maybe becoming an All-Star at some point in my career —
those are all things that I think are possible,” Bane said.
If (or when) Bane ends up in Cleveland on the weekend of Feb.
18, he’ll have the chance to link up with his former TCU teammate
R.J. Nembhard, who is currently on a two-way contract with the
Cavaliers trying to carve his own path.
Both Bane and Nembhard were teammates of Kenrich Williams, and
the former recently tweeted about him: Without this dude, ain’t
no way I’m in the league.
"Just seeing somebody accomplish what I wanted to accomplish,”
Bane said of what Williams means to him. “When you think about the
NBA, you think about as being something that is almost unattainable
just because so few people get to do it and get to attain that
goal. Him doing it at a high level now, seeing that [he's] kinda
making a name for himself, making a career for himself is huge for
me and my confidence."
Perhaps it’s the fact that all three of these guys played four
years of college ball in Fort Worth. Williams was the first of the
trio to get to the NBA despite being undrafted, and now, teams are
coveting him at the trade deadline. Nembhard is the most recent to
make it to the next level, but he too was not selected in the draft
and has had to earn his keep on a two-way contract.
Bane is the lone member of that group to have made it as a draft
pick. For whatever reason, upperclassmen tend to take a backseat to
blue-chip prospects with potential and one-and-dones when it comes
to the current landscape.
He thinks that his immediate impact on a winning team should
help those more experienced at the collegiate level with NBA
aspirations earn some more love with organizations when it comes to
the draft process.
“Everybody's situation is a little bit different, but I don't
see why not. It all depends on where the organization's going.
Everybody has a different timeline. Some people want younger guys
to develop them, and some people want guys who are more ready that
they can kind of plug-and-play. I wouldn't necessarily say there's
a bias, but it's all about preference.
“Usually guys are looking to hit home runs in the draft rather
than singles or doubles."
Looking at what Bane has done on a consistent basis as quickly
as he has, it’s time front offices start going for those base hits
in addition to knocking one out of the park.
Zach Kleiman and the Grizzlies have found that happy medium, and
judging by this trajectory, Bane is about to cross home plate
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