MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Josh Jackson was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and it seemed he has unlimited potential. But now just two years into his professional career, Jackson has been banished by the Memphis Grizzlies to the developmental NBA G-League.
Jackson is an outlier for the Memphis Hustle for good reason — he is by far the most gifted player on the team.
He's struggled as a pro and has had off-the-court issues. Now he's hoping for a new start to turn his basketball career around before it's too late.
Jackson is officially on the Grizzlies' roster, but the team asked him to begin the season with the Memphis Hustle. When asked about this unprecedented decision, an NBA team asking a top pick to essentially stay away from its main roster, Jackson came up empty.
"I don't know," Jackson said. "I don't really have an answer for you."
"We've laid out a clear plan of what the expectations are for Josh, and that entails both on the court and off the court," Grizzlies Vice President of Basketball Operations Zach Kleiman said. "That was a good, constructive initial meeting with Josh and we`re looking forward to diving in with him.'
Jackson was acquired by the Grizzlies this summer from the Phoenix Suns as salary-filler after a series of moves, starting with the Mike Conley trade to the Utah Jazz. The Suns had the worst record in the NBA during the two years Jackson played in Phoenix, and Jackson struggled, measuring as one of the least valuable players and worst shooters in the league.
He also had issues off the court.
WREG investigated Jackson's legal background and found an incident at Kansas during his one year in college where he was accused of underage drinking and doing thousands of dollars in damage to a woman's car.
He then had an arrest this May where he's accused of trying to enter a VIP lounge in Miami multiple times without permission.
Now, Jackson has a chance at redemption in a new city.
"We're putting a plan in place where Josh is going to have an opportunity to prove himself with the G-League, with the Hustle," Kleiman said. "We're excited to see where that goes."
As a team looking to develop young talent, it's understandable why the Grizz would roll the dice with Jackson. He's 6-foot-8 and has shown scoring and passing ability.
Jackson is currently the highest-drafted, best-paid player in the G-League, as his $7 million salary is more than the rest of his teammates combined.
"I'm just more seasoned, more experienced," Jackson said. "Coming into the year with a different mindset. Trying to be a leader."
"I've really enjoyed practicing with him," Hustle guard Dusty Hannahs said. "He obviously stands out. He's got elite athleticism. He's a great player."
For Jackson, the most crucial path to salvaging his career would seem to be staying out of trouble, but he wants to make strides on the court as well. That starts with his long-range shooting.
"Just being able to shoot the three,"Jackson said. "I think that's the way that the game is going nowadays, pretty much, 1-5, no matter who you are, what you play, you have to be able to shoot the ball."
The Grizzlies are trying their best to provide Jackson with a path to success.
"I don't think there's an expectation just on him individually," Hustle head coach Jason March said. "We have set standards for our team. We want to work hard, we want to compete, and we want to get better every day."
"It's an opportunity that's going to have to be earned," Kleiman said. "It's not going to be given, but he has an opportunity to earn that."
The Grizzlies have already declined Jackson's fourth-year option for next season, meaning he'll be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Both Jackson and the team have expressed willingness to revisit their relationship after this season is over.
Jackson's first game with the Hustle is Friday night at the Landers Center.
The Grizzlies said if Jackson plays well enough and avoids trouble, they'll promote him to the NBA team.