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The miseducation of Josh Jackson

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Finding growth in a second chance

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Jackson is disappointing.

Whether it’s on the court or in his personal life, he is doing things he shouldn’t be doing. Word is if he isn’t missing an assignment in-game, or missing an opportunity to grow his game while off the clock, he is making multiple mistakes in his personal life. He most certainly has not lived up to the expectations that come with being selected 4th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft...but perhaps most importantly he has not lived up to what it means to be a good person, or a good father.

So why would he be a good acquisition for the Memphis Grizzlies?

Surely a player with such a pedigree - McDonald’s All-American, University of Kansas star, Big 12 Rookie of the Year, a top lottery selection - that has fallen so far from grace that the lowly Phoenix Suns have given up on him and dumped him in a trade to Memphis should be setting off every alarm and bell in the minds of Grizzlies fans everywhere. In a trade involving De’Anthony Melton, Jevon Carter, and two 2nd round picks, Jackson is seen as probably the worst player in the deal when combining skill with fit. That’s how big of a knuckle head and failure Jackson has been through two years in the National Baskeball Association - a guy who just finished arguably the worst offensive rookie season in 50 years (Carter) and a player drafter after that player (Melton) are viewed as more favorable assets at the moment than he is.

More important than that - he’s let down his family. The mother of his child...and his daughter.

That’s elite levels of disappointment.

Why even take the chance on him?


Josh Jackson is broken.

You can see it in his inability to control his emotions on the floor. He is a fractured person, battling multiple sides of a conflict within himself. The expectations must have been suffocating for him - when you are “the person” for so many people, it falls upon you to pick up the burdens of folks that you shouldn’t have to carry. It doesn’t have to be financial, either - it can be emotional baggage, pieces of relationships with family and friends that are entirely dependent on things you cannot always control.

Josh couldn’t control the dumpster fire he was sent to in Phoenix.

He couldn’t control the numerous coaches, the overturn he experienced, the hole that was dug for him before he ever picked up the proverbial shovel.

But what he did control was taking the shovel, tossing it aside, and bringing in much heavier machinery to make the hole a pit.

Multiple fines from both the NBA and the Suns themselves, for things ranging from talking trash (putting it mildly) at fans to being late for team events.

Arrested for multiple issues, from trying to get in to a party he wasn’t invited to to possible marijuana use around his 7 month old daughter and accused of getting her high.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Before you even get to his actual basketball ability, you see multiple layers of failure as a general human. Making mistakes, and not learning from them. That is concerning...then the skill as a basketball player comes in to question. He has a presence and potential that simply has not materialized to this point. A career 29.4% three point shooter, and career 41.5% shooter from the floor. A career negative win shares per 48 minutes, meaning he has contributed more to his team losing than his team winning.

He is simply not a good basketball player, or person, at the moment. He is very much a shell of the image he was supposed to be.

And yet, now he’s a Memphis Grizzly.

He may not be one for long - perhaps a trade down the line makes sense. Maybe another team thinks they can take and mold his potential in to something close to what it was meant for in terms of basketball greatness. Or maybe he is too far gone and he is simply waived.

That all should play out in Memphis first, however. As long as he isn’t too broken to give it a go.


Josh Jackson is worth trying to save.

The Memphis Grizzlies are currently in the business of acquiring assets. The #4 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft just fell in to their laps as a salary dump.

He is 22 years old.

He was the #1 recruit in the entire nation in 2016.

He scored more than 20 points in a game 16 times in his rookie season, and while that number went down in his sophomore season (only six such games) he has shown the ability in a bad situation where he was asked to be much more than he is capable of that he can have flashes of the game Phoenix thought they were getting when they drafted him.

He has the size the Grizzlies clearly covet in terms of positional versatility - he played both shooting guard and small forward in Phoenix and has the frame to switch defensively and create mismatches offensively. He only played about 4% of the time at power forward according to basketball-reference.com, but in certain matchups he could fit in that position as well.

He shot almost a whole 6% better from beyond the arc this past season than last, showing the capacity to improve in that facet of his game - and in theory, that could translate to other areas.

He is athletic, and young, and intense. He’s a competitor...and this front office of the Grizzlies is on record saying they value those types of guys.

But beyond all that - in Memphis, he doesn’t have to be “the man”.

The Grizzlies already have their guys...hopefully for the next decade or so.

2019 NBA Draft Photo by Elizabeth Shrier/NBAE via Getty Images

It is on Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant to lead the Memphis Grizzlies in to the next decade of this century. Josh Jackson won’t be asked to do any such leading. He won’t need to have a 25% usage rate with Memphis, as he was asked to do with Phoenix. He won’t have to carry the load as a scorer, or a rebounder, or both on any given night. He will not have to think about his role on the roster as being the star of the show.

Josh can just worry about Josh...and making sure he rises up in terms of quality as a player and person next to the young cornerstones next to him. Because Jaren and Ja don’t just provide upside as players - all reports are they are high class people as well. And Josh needs as many of those folks around him as possible...regardless of age. Without the pressure of being one of the top guys, he can emphasize personal, as well as professional, growth.

Josh Jackson is not likely to ever become what he was to be when he was drafted. In fact, it’s far more likely that he is out of the league in two years than in it at this stage. But Memphis is the land of second chances. Zach Randolph leads the charge in that regard, and while he was considerably older and in his prime when he brought his Z-Bo brand of baggage to the Grizzlies years ago he still had a jaded past that followed him to Memphis. And he went on to become arguably the greatest legend in Memphis sports history.

Zach is the exception, not the rule. And Josh would be fortunate to become half the player and person Randolph became. But Jackson, around the right people and in the right situation, could also grow. Day by day, decision by decision, he could rediscover his game and in a way, himself.

Or learn who he is in the first place.

Memphis is no longer wading in the proverbial rebuild pool. They have dived in, head first. When they have a chance to get talent, especially young talent, on the cheap, they need to take advantage of it. Josh Jackson - the failed lottery pick whose poor decision making and slow NBA start have him as a throw-in trade involving four future and former second round picks - could be a missing piece that the Grizzlies stumbled upon and took advantage of acquiring as they build a championship roster. If he works? That is a possible long-term ceiling.

If he fails? He’s gone in a year or so, and you’re no worse for the wear. Jaren and Ja won’t be inspired to do wrong him. The front office is betting on their young stars to be the influences on Josh, as well as their young head coach Taylor Jenkins, and their young front office executives like Tayshaun Prince. Everyone will be growing in to roles together, free of the expectations (for now) to win. Instead, the expectation will be to compete and grow, learn and move forward day by day, pushing each other to be better.

If Josh Jackson can’t do it? Then he’s not worth being on the roster...and not worth the spot he would be taking.

But he is worth trying to save...if he decides he wants to be saved.

But the first step starts with Josh.

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