Back in late September, the Memphis Grizzlies confused basketball fans when they announced that forward Josh Jackson wouldn’t be joining the big league club in training camp. Instead, he’d make the trek to Southaven, Mississippi, to join the Memphis Hustle, their G League affiliate. According to Grind City Media’s Michael Wallace, this move was meant to “allow the forward to restore his reputation on and off the court through an undisclosed set of guidelines.”
While that decision was surprising considering how Jackson was just 28 months removed from being the 4th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, it makes sense when you consider the off-court issues that he’s faced over the past few years. Back in May, when he was still a member of the Phoenix Suns, he was arrested at the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Those off-court issues aren’t the only problems that he’s faced during his short career. Before his current stint with the Grizzlies, he spent two years with the Phoenix Suns, who selected him in the aforementioned draft. During that time, the forward struggled with efficiency. That fact was evident by how he averaged 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1 steal per game on 41% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc on 2.8 attempts per game. That inefficiency combined with him shooting only 65% from the free-throw line. That inefficiency allowed him to maintain a lackluster 48% True Shooting Percentage while with the Phoenix Suns.
So while it was strange to see a forward get assigned to the G League just two years after going 4th in the NBA Draft, his on-court struggles and issues away from basketball made that decision make sense at that particular moment. However, we’re now more than two months removed from that initial move, which gets the question; how is Josh Jackson doing with the Memphis Hustle?
From a strictly on-court perspective, the Kansas alum is probably playing the best basketball since he stood as a five-star prospect with Prolific Prep. In 10 games with the Hustle, he’s averaging 23.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks on 50% from the field and 46% from 3 on 7.1 attempts per game. Those efficient numbers have allowed him to maintain a career-best 63% True Shooting Percentage. In addition to that, it has allowed him to currently be the leading scorer for the lone undefeated team in the G League.
As evident from those numbers, Jackson has made tremendous strides as a perimeter threat. His current 46% three-point percentage stands as the best average of his career by an eight percent margin over him shooting 38% on 2.6 attempts during his lone season with the University of Kansas.
That great three-point shooting percentage becomes more impressive when you realize that a lot of his attempts have come from contested off-the-dribble jumpers. Although those shots are usually looked down upon, especially an inefficient shooter like our subject, the Grizzlies assignee has been fantastic with the Hustle.
During that run, he’s been able to hit those on-ball jumpers no matter if he’s working around screens, nailing step-backs, or just pulling up at a single spot. An example of that is seen in the clip below as the forward utilizes a Nino Johnson screen to move to the left before quickly hitting a jumper before Luguentz Dort can contest the shot.
Jackson making gigantic strides as a perimeter shooter has unsurprisingly helped out in other facets of his game. The most prominent example of that is how it’s pushed him to become a better on-ball driver. Although he’s been capable of getting to the rim due to be an athletic 6’8 forward, most of his work with the Suns came as a cutter.
However, that approach has slowly started to change with the Hustle as he’s working more as an on-ball driver. With defenders playing tighter on him to prevent him from catching fire from deep, the Kansas alum can use a quick first step to move to the paint. His progression as an on-ball driver, combined with his continued solid off-ball work, has allowed him to hit 69% from within the restricted area on 48 total shots. That great percentage is a significant improvement over his averages during his first two NBA seasons, where he shot 57% and 51% in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively.
The last area where the Grizzlies forward has developed with the Hustle has been as a facilitator. As of the time of this piece, he’s averaging a career-high 3.8 assists per game, nearly one assist per game more than his previous high (3.0) when he was with the JayHawks.
His statistical progression probably has a lot to do with his role as the Hustle’s primary offensive weapon as he’s leading the team with a 25.6% Usage Percentage (USG%). While working with the ball, Jackson has done a solid job of being able to move the ball to teammates, whether working in the pick-and-roll or finding an open shooter.
After a month of playing with the Memphis Hustle, Josh Jackson has stood as one of the most well-rounded players in the G League. Although his prior status as a top 5 NBA Draft pick might make that claim sound obvious, it’s impressive to see the growth that he’s shown since coming down to the G League. In just four weeks, the 6’8 forward has shown progression as a perimeter shooter, on-ball driver, and facilitator, which were all traits that led to him being an inefficient weapon during his run with Phoenix.
His tremendous play has been one of the biggest reasons behind the Memphis Hustle starting the year with an incredible ten-game winning streak. From a G League perspective, you’d hope that the forward can remain with the team and help lead them to further success during the regular season and into the playoffs. While he may be a current member of a G League roster, Jackson is an NBA player on the last year of a 3 year/$18 million dollar contract.
As an impending free agent that wants to get another massive payday during the upcoming summer, our subject has his eyes set on making it back to the NBA and proving himself with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Has the 22-year-old forward proven himself to be a positive member of the organization both off and on-the-court? That first part is tough for me to say due to not being embedded within the Hustle organization and seeing how the Kansas alum’s attitude is towards coaches or teammates. From an on-court perspective, that question is easy to answer as he’s been an offensive leader of an undefeated Hustle team and has improved a lot in different aspects of his game.
Those facts would make one believe that a call-up might be coming. Although that future is uncertain, his status as one of the more complete players in the G League is clear. If you’re located near the Southaven or want to see a player shine against competition that he’s a step better than, make sure to do what you can to watch Josh Jackson play while he’s with the Memphis Hustle because it’s a tremendous experience.