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NBA Daily: Josh Jackson At Home In Detroit

From the high of going fourth overall to playing in the G League, Josh Jackson has had an unusual career. After a hot start to the season in Detroit, is he ready to breakout?

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Remember when Josh Jackson was a highly touted prospect out of the University of Kansas, and some people had him going ahead of Jayson Tatum in the 2017 NBA Draft? Yeah, he has not yet lived up to the potential that the Phoenix Suns saw in him when they took him to complement Devin Booker. Since getting picked fourth overall, he has played for Phoenix, the Memphis Grizzlies and their G League Affiliate, the Hustle, and now he’s lacing up his shoes for the Detroit Pistons. Jackson, a Detroit native, signed a two-year deal with the Pistons on Nov. 20, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

Detroit has taken on Jackson as a redemption project – he is only 23 years old, but he has yet to earn a stable role in the NBA. For starters, his three-point percentage (29.7 percent for his career) has taken a big hit since college (37.8 percent). There’s also the fact that he fell out of favor in the rotation due to Mikal Bridges and the trade for Kelly Oubre Jr. Plus, of course, the documented off-court incident at a Rolling Loud concert where Jackson got in trouble with law enforcement, on top of various other minor infractions that he had already committed in Phoenix. If this was not enough, he was suspended by the Hustle for violating team rules following a missed meeting. 

Going from No. 4 overall to the G League by his third season, Jackson had to persevere to get himself back into the NBA and. in the face of adversity, he did just that. He played well enough in the G League to earn a Midseason All-NBA G League nomination and a call up to the NBA. He posted numbers of 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game in 26 outings, per Basketball-Reference

His time in Memphis was largely forgettable, but he was a big factor for the team off the bench right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Jackson dropped 16, 19, 16, 17, and 15 points, respectively, in his last five games off the bench for Memphis before the bubble, often putting his strong all-around skillset on display. After the move to Orlando, Jackson was a non-factor for the Grizzlies 𑁋 only playing in four out of the team’s eight regular season games, and not seeing any playing time in the No. 8 seed play-in game. 

As the 2020-21 season begins to get underway, Jackson has looked like a major steal for the Pistons. In their first game of the season against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he came off the bench in a sixth-man role, dropping 19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in nearly 30 minutes. 

Through the Pistons’ first five games, Jackson has averaged 16.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists, per Basketball-Reference. Jackson’s offensive game looks to be much improved this season, as he has found success in driving to the basket for contested lay-ups, and his defense remains above average.  If he is to improve his long-range shot over the course of the season, he should take an even larger step forward as a player. But Jackson has shown promise this year though with three games shooting over 42 percent from three thus far. 

 In his postgame interview following the season opener, Jackson called himself “the jack of all trades” and “a guy who’s pretty adaptable,” per the Detroit Free Press. He then went on to say that he is always trying to find things he can do to improve the team however he can. Naturally, this is encouraging talk from a player whose morale and reputation have taken a big hit since entering the league. 

During the game against the Celtics on Jan. 3, Jackson suffered what looked to be a pretty bad ankle injury. According to Pistons beat writer Rod Beard, he only sustained a right ankle sprain in the loss, so that is good news. But prior to the injury, he was again putting on a show for the Pistons, tallying 13 points, 2 assists, and 1 steal in only 14 minutes. His presence was big for Detroit as they were only trailing by one point at the time of his departure. 

Jackson had been written off by many people as a bust, but his perseverance and solid play on the floor has suddenly led him to a starting role. His skillset and ability to impact a game when he is on the hardwood is undeniable – so, hopefully, he is able to return in a timely fashion from the right-ankle sprain.

Luckily, his career trajectory looks like it is trending upwards – and maybe he has finally found a home with the Pistons. 

Dylan Thayer is a Contributing Writer for Basketball Insiders, and a Sport Management student in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

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