One of the biggest NBA mysteries has been the career of Josh Jackson. He was once a promising young prospect out of Kansas University, selected 4th overall by the Phoenix Suns. Those expectations quickly diminished as it was a struggle for him to become acclimated with the NBA. His two seasons in Phoenix were not what anyone hoped, so he was traded off to Memphis in the summer of 2019.
This season, Josh Jackson came in fresh to a new situation trying to revive his career in a new city. However, his tenure Memphis still did not start out the way he was expecting. The Grizzlies started Jackson out down in Southaven with the Memphis Hustle. It was there where he played out the rest of the 2019 calendar year.
Even if he was not in the ideal situation, he started growing more as a player putting up consistent numbers for confidence building. In an interview with The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, Jackson’s message was “Don’t feel bad for me.” He was making the best of his career trajectory stressing that “It’s an opportunity. I am just thankful I get to play basketball.”
This is the Josh Jackson who can learn from his bumpy start to his NBA career. He has an opportunity with a fun, young team on the rise that can adapt to Jackson’s style of play. Use the games he did play for the Grizzlies and build on that heading into the 2020-2021 season.
At his best
After getting the call up January 29, 2020, Jackson worked to stay up at the NBA level for the rest of an odd season. He continued consistently with the Grizzlies all the way up until the league shut down for their pandemic break. By the end of the season, Jackson logged 22 games with the Grizzlies averaging 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds a game while shooting 44% from the field. All numbers he can improve on going into next.
His best games, however, came in the month of March. During those five games, Jackson averaged 16.6 points per game shooting 47.5% from the field and 38.2% from three-point range. It was the best games he in a Grizzlies jersey which was a great sight to see for the development of his career. If not for the league shutting down midway through this month, he could have a continued building off this success.
This game against Atlanta was one of his more all-around games he had all season. He understood his role and helped across the board in the final box score. Jackson distributed the ball with success while also shooting his shots when he was open without trying to force anything. He finished this game with 16 points, but more importantly, he had 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. These are the full box scores Josh Jackson will need to replicate to earn solid minutes on this Grizzlies squad.
At his worst
Unfortunately for Josh Jackson, with the good always came the bad trailing close behind holding him back from getting meaningful minutes this season. It is his bad habits that occasionally take over that ends up putting him back on the bench. Jackson gets stuck between taking the pull-up shot or driving to the rim which puts him into no man’s land not being able to hold up on the drive to the rim.
Here is a good example of the game against the Magic right before the shut down where Jackson has a great drive to the rim that is interrupted by indecision that eventually becomes a turnover. Jackson has a great athletic frame that can be used around the rim, however, this part of his game has to be improved for easier drives down the lane. This game he ended up with four turnovers that similar to the one in this clip. Jackson needs to have that confidence to score over any defender in the league and work on his at rim finishing ability going forward.
What Comes Next?
When the Grizzlies traded for Josh Jackson, it was a great risk that had little downside at all. They were bringing in a top four pick only 3 years ago. Now, Josh Jackson can be free of all the stress and expectations that he had in Phoenix. He can now come out and just try to play the game his way without being under the spotlight. This Memphis situation is perfect for Jackson to develop and reach his potential.
On offense, there are two areas of play where Jackson can focus on and develop more as an offensive threat. First, Jackson needs to improve his shot to be more consistent from behind the arc. His career 31.3% will not cut it at the NBA level. He had flashes of a better percentage but needs to expand that out over a full season of work. The second area where Jackson could improve is the shot making around the rim. He needs to work on finishing and using his body to score in the paint. This will add to his arsenal and help mask a bad shooting night.
Next season, Josh Jackson will have the opportunity to get some solid minutes in this Grizzlies lineup if he returns - which is a big if. Regardless of where he plays, his long/athletic frame fits well into the new NBA style of wings who can switch off multiple positions. Jackson has the tools to become a great role player on a NBA playoff team. This is why he had so much success at Kansas, but he needs to now channel that talent for the NBA. Once he finds that rhythm, the sky is the limit. Then, if the Grizzlies (or anyone else if Josh departs in free agency) can tap into that, they will find a player more that worthy of a second chance.