5. Can Josh Jackson Keep it Up?
One of the season’s best underdog stories was the re-birth of Josh Jackson. As you may recall, the Phoenix Suns took Jackson fourth overall just three years ago, but his NBA career slowly drifted into the abyss.
Mired in offcourt issues and lackadaisical basketball, Phoenix dumped Jackson on Memphis last summer, believing him to be a lost cause. But like they’d done so many times before, the Grizzlies found some untapped potential left in Jackson.
After a highly successful stint with the G-League’s Memphis Hustle, Jackson was called up in January, and not a moment too soon. Within two weeks, waves of trades and injuries left Memphis’ frontcourt totally emaciated, and Jackson began contributing immediately.
Jackson came out of the gate hungry. From his first game, you could see him playing with a purpose that escaped him (and basically everyone) in Phoenix. Whether his own maturation, the Grizzlies’ culture, or a bit of both, it was clear something had changed.
Jackson played himself into a consistent rotation role, and kept building. By March, he was posting a 101 D-rating (which would rank top-five league-wide over this season) and nearly leading Memphis in scoring.
The question is now obviously if he can keep it up. Memphis’ frontcourt will be a lot more crowded when the season resumes; Jackson will surely get fewer minutes and touches. But if he doesn’t let the demotion discourage him, and still brings dangerous two-way play to Memphis’ bench, it will be an immense asset, and essentially found money.
Remember: Phoenix gave Memphis two draft picks and DeAnthony Melton, mostly to rid themselves of Jackson. If his production is for real, and the Grizzlies can figure out a way to re-sign him, it will add yet another layer to what already looks like a fleecing.