The Memphis Grizzlies have just had one Defensive Player of the Year winner — Marc Gasol (2013) — but that might change this year. Now, forward Jaren Jackson Jr. is the favorite to win the DPOY award in 2023 despite playing just 33 games this year. He is actually a big favorite. His outlook he is currently -110 on FanDuel, while the next best prospect is the Brooklyn center Nic Claxton at +350. There is no doubt that Jackson is having a phenomenal defensive season. He deserves a lot of praise, but his stats aren’t as great as they seem. According to a a viral thread on reddit — which at the time of writing this story had more than 56,000 votes for — Jackson’s numbers are inflated when he plays at home.
A view of Jackson’s home/path is divided
JJJ’s house/road part is eye-popping to say the least. In 16 home games this year, Jackson has 22 steals and 66 blocked shots. In 17 road games, Jackson has just 12 steals and 37 blocked shots. That’s a 1.95-to-1 steal ratio at home and on the road and a 1.9-to-1 block ratio when playing at FedExForum. It is logical that players play better at home. However, deviations of this magnitude are questionable at best.
Previous Defensive Player of the Year winners
Let’s look at the last 30 Defensive Player of the Year winners. That’s quite a data set, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter how many total steals or blocks they had. The only thing we look at is the ratio in which those players collected blocks and steals at home compared to away games. Here’s every former DPOY who posted even a 1.5-to-1 home-to-away ratio for steals or assists:
2022. Marcus Smart – 1.62 block ratio
2005. Ben Wallace – 1.83 block ratio
2003. Ben Wallace – 1.51 block ratio
1999. Alonzo Mourning – Theft ratio 2.09
That’s everyone. Only one of these guys actually had a steal ratio higher than Jackson’s, and that happened 24 years ago during a shortened season only 50 games. With those few games played, it’s not hard to assume that ratio would come back down to earth throughout the season. Meanwhile, without a DPOY winner in the last 30 years exceeded Jackson’s 1.9 house-to-road block ratio. Only three men came close, and one of them was a guard who recorded only 18 blocks all season. Basically, the stats we’re seeing from Jackson this season are unprecedented. Even if you don’t think foul play is going on, these numbers warrant further investigation.
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A closer look
Jackson is currently on pace to play 55 games this season, but let’s assume he plays 60 by the end of the year. After all, since returning to action on new. 15 Jackson only missed two games. Sixty of played matches is a safe assumption. At his current pace, Jackson should finish the season with approximately 62 steals and 187 blocks, or 1.03 steals per game and 3.12 blocks per game. Roughly 41 of those steals (1.37 per game) and 124 of those blocks (4.13 per game) should come at home, meaning 21 steals (0.7 per game) and 63 blocks (2 ,1 per match) should have come on the road. At home, Jackson would be 18th in steals per game and first in blocks with more than 1.4 blocks per game over second-place Claxton (2.7). On the road, Jackson would drop to fourth in blocks and 120th in steals. Those numbers don’t exactly sound like defensive player of the year contenders, do they? So, if Memphis theoretical wanted to create an NBA Defensive Player of the Year, it would make sense why they would want his basic defensive stats to look better than they actually are.
They are the Memphis Grizzlies 29th-most valuable franchise in the NBA, and despite their stellar season — yes, they’d lost five in a row heading into Friday, but they’d won 11 straight before that — they’re outside the league’s top 20 in attendance. They want fans in the venues, and the last two times the Grizzlies finished better than 20th in attendance were in 2015 and 2013. Although the Grizzlies won 55 and 56 games in those seasons, respectively, the Grizzlies didn’t have the same kind of attendance (relative to the rest of the NBA ) when they won 56 games in 2022. The difference? I’m getting there, but maybe Marc Gasol’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award had something to do with it. Do the Grizzlies want to repeat those circumstances of a decade ago to increase attendance in the future?
The next question that comes to your mind is probably “Where are all these thefts and blockages coming from? The scorer cannot manifest steals and blocks from the air. People would notice.” That’s true, but apparently the Grizzlies scorer is a certified genius. Allegedly these additional steals and blocks are added when Jackson does anything defensively that could even be thought of as a block or a steal. Social media has already found numerous examples from games earlier in the season.
For the sake of transparency, there are others who believe that it is not a fake game.
In the tweet above, the ESPN NBA analyst Kirk Goldsberry argues that while 66 blocks is a lot, only two to six of them are actually questionable, meaning that at worst JJJ would still have 60 blocks at home per year (3.75 per game).
Only the scorer incorrectly recorded three of the 66 domestic blocks of the attackers, according to Kevin O’Connor, senior basketball writer The bell ringer.
There’s reason to think the Grizzlies might be interested in padding Jackson’s stats, but there’s also reason to think the NBA would sooner realize this is true. The league is already refuted A Reddit post, with NBA spokesman Tim Frank stating:
“To ensure the integrity of our game statistics, auditors, independent of the on-site statisticians, review all play decisions and statistics in real time during NBA games.
“If changes are needed, they are made at that time or after the post-match review. All of the plays questioned in the Memphis game post were scored consistently within the rules set forth by the NBA stat manual.”
Furthermore, since the post was originally published, Reddit has since flagged it as “misleading.” Does that mean it’s incorrect? Not necessarily, but it does mean that the author of the post was speaking as if his findings were fact, even though that might not be the case. All in all, it looks like nothing will come of these potentially fake Jackson steals and blocks, and if that’s the case, maybe throwing money at Jackson blocking and stealing numbers at home is the best bet you can make for the rest of the season.