As of this writing, the Memphis Grizzlies are among the top five teams in the Western Conference. They currently carry a 9-5 record and are firmly holding on to first place in the Southwest Division. We all know that Ja Morant is the leader of this team, but they have also benefitted from one particular key player stepping up big time. Here we will look at one pleasant surprise for the Memphis Grizzlies early in the 2022-23 NBA season.

The Grizzlies just lost to the Washington Wizards today, 102-92, but prior to that game, they won five of their last six. They have also been among the most dangerous and entertaining teams to watch out there. Again, Morant is the biggest reason for that, but others have stepped up as well.

Morant has led this team in scoring in seven of their 14 games so far. Dillon Brooks has been their leading scorer in two games. The other five? It has been someone else, and we'll discuss his current rise here.

Having said that, let us look at the one pleasant surprise for the Memphis Grizzlies early in the 2022-23 NBA season.

Desmond Bane

Memphis guard Desmond Bane didn't really turn a lot of heads for much of his first two NBA seasons. However, during the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, people took notice of the spike in his production.

Keep in mind that Bane began last season competing for a starting wingman spot with 2021 10th overall selection pick Ziaire Williams and De'Anthony Melton. This was after Bane started 17 of 68 games and averaged 9.2 points per contest as a rookie. Whoever won that spot would play alongside Dillon Brooks at the perimeter. However, with Brooks sidelined to begin last season, Bane started alongside Melton.

Bane actually played so well that he never relinquished that starting spot anymore. By the end of the 2021-22 season, he had averaged 18.2 points per game on 46/44/90 shooting splits. On top of those, Bane also added 4.4 rebounds, 3.0 triples, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest.

As good as that was, he even revved things up in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. Now, while everyone else was justifiably focused on Ja Morant, Bane was the top scorer on the court for the majority of their series against the Minnesota Timberwolves. In fact, he led Memphis in scoring in three of their six games during that series.

Bane basically shut down the Timberwolves by scoring 27.0 points per game on 52/54/85 splits. He also added 5.8 triples per contest. How crazy was that, right? Yes, his production slumped after the first round. However, that was mainly because of a back injury at the conclusion of the series.

The main takeaway from Bane's emergence in the 2022 postseason was that he was one to watch as Morant continued to look for a reliable Robin to his Batman. Well, so far this season, Bane has emerged to be one of the finest marksmen in the league.

In fact, in terms of career 3-point percentage, Bane is currently shooting 43.6 percent. That is one of the best all-time percentages in franchise history. His reputation from behind the arc is so strong that teams have to factor him into their defensive schemes aside from Morant. Too often so far this season, opponents have tried to run Bane out of the three-point line, risking a drive rather than even a contested triple. Bane has actually been so good that he is now at the point where teams routinely send two defenders in his direction. No, he's not Steph Curry, we've been increasingly seeing similar defensive actions being thrown his way.

Over his first 12 games in the 2022-23 season, Bane has averaged 24.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 3.8 triples per game. Those are all noticeably higher than his 2021-22 numbers, especially his scoring. He is also shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 45.1 percent from beyond the arc, and 91.2 percent from the line. Again, those are all improvements over last season.

Now, lest we say this is nothing more than a blip, there are several elements of his game that indicate this star turn is not a fluke. First and foremost, Bane was a terrific, efficient shooter in college. Recall that he joined the NBA as the final pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. The draft report on him was that he would be a reliable 3-and-D wing at the pro level.

He also had good height with an NBA body, so he was pretty strong for a wing. Bane's ability to hit treys at a rate of more than 40 percent was thought to be his ticket to playing time in the NBA. That was a pretty promising trait for a rookie. However, we believe nobody really projected he would be this productive in year three.

The key is that Bane's shooting talent has transferred so well to the NBA. That has allowed him to improve the rest of his game. Take note that he hit 43.2 percent from deep as a rookie on 4.0 tries a game. He upped that to 43.6 percent on 6.9 attempts as a sophomore. Both his shooting accuracy and shooting volume were trending up — that's quite rare for a young guard!

Apart from just being a catch-and-shoot guy, though, Bane also added more weapons to his offensive arsenal. We're now seeing him take dribble pull-ups more confidently and frequently — even from beyond the arc! Whereas he would usually just play off easy looks created by the Ja Morant drive-and-draws, now Bane is creating his own while still finishing at a high clip.

At the very least, Bane and the Grizzlies have re-calibrated his game to the point where he is no longer dependent on Ja Morant drawing the defense. Bane can do that on his own already.

Bane has actually been playing so well that the question now is whether he could be an All-Star in 2023. Yes, it's still very early, but we anticipate his strong start to continue. It may even improve as the season unfolds. There is no question that he is a huge reason the Grizzlies currently have a top-seven win-loss record in the NBA.