The Former NBA Draft Bust Reviving His Career In The Motor City
Josh Jackson is turning heads in the Motor City with his strong play so far.
Almost every NBA fan would love to see all 60 prospects live up to their hype in the NBA and succeed while reaching their full potential. Unfortunately, the NBA is a harsh business, and its not one that everybody can survive in. Thus, there are multiple overachievers and underachievers every year.
Enter Josh Jackson.
He was the 4th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, and there was plenty of buzz going around that Jackson could possibly be the steal of the draft. Expectations for the 6'8 combo guard-forward were high heading into the draft, and his draft day comparison was a hybrid of Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler. When your draft day comparison is a mash-up of two of the best two-way players in the league, it’s clear that scouts saw Jackson’s ceiling as the moon and figured that both his offense and his defense would translate smoothly to the NBA.
So far, there has been nothing smooth about Jackson’s relatively short tenure in the NBA.
Most draft “busts” never have the skill level to play in the NBA and that lack of skill is eventually what leads to their downfall. With Jackson, skill was never an issue. It was never a question of whether or not Jackson would be able to put up 4th-overall pick quality numbers on the court, it was always a matter of whether or not he could stay out off trouble off the court and could put in the extra work that it took to be great. His maturity in particular was a glaring issue that Phoenix never seemed willing to put up with.
Before Jackson even stepped foot on an NBA court, the writing may have already been on the wall about his off-court issues.
Endless List Of Off-Court Issues
In 2016 while with the Kansas, he was charged with criminal property damage after Jackson did over 3,000 dollars worth of damage to a women’s basketball player who also went to Kansas and he reportedly yelled at her during the confrontation as well.
Later in 2017 during the same collegiate season, he was suspended for one game in the 2017 Big 12 Tournament for more car issues, this time for reckless driving. He backed into an unattended vehicle while on campus.
During his time in Phoenix, he also had multiple issues that resulted in bans, fines, legal battles, and his eventual departure from Phoenix.
In October of 2017 after he was drafted to the Suns, he was fined 35,000 dollars for making a “menacing gesture” in which he pretended to pull out a gun and pull the fake trigger on a fan.
The rest of his rookie season went mostly without any other major issues, but his sophomore season with Phoenix is when the trouble really began.
In January of 2019, he welcomed a baby with 41-year old Lorena Villela, who had already served jail-time before and she completed 3 years of probation after a child-abuse conviction in 2008.
The birth of Jackson’s five-month old girl led to a series of legal issues between him and the mother, and everything from Jackson using marijuana in front of the baby to the baby inhaling drugs to Villela “using” Jackson and her true intentions about ruining his NBA career were disputed and the legal battle still has not been settled yet.
In May of 2019 Jackson was arrested at a Miami music festival after he tried to enter a VIP area without having the proper credentials and refused to leave.
While with the Memphis Grizzlies after being traded there prior to the 2019–20 NBA season, he was suspended from the Memphis Grizzlies G-League team for violating the team’s rules.
To make a long story short, Jackson just can’t stay out of trouble while he’s not hooping on an NBA court.
After a 22-game stint with the Memphis Grizzlies in which Jackson averaged a career low 9 points per game, he signed a 2-year, 10 million dollar contract with the Detroit Pistons. Jackson started off the season on the bench but after two strong performances in the first two games of the season this year, he was inserted into the starting lineup and immediately rewarded the town he’s come to love with a strong 27-point performance that no one saw coming. Except perhaps JJ himself.
All of Jackson’s off-court issues clouded and made everyone forget about his strong rookie season, in which he averaged 13 points per game to go along with 4.6 rebounds a game, 1 and a half assists, a block, and half a steal while shooting an efficient 42 percent from the field in only 25 minutes a game.
There have been many draft busts who have come and gone in the NBA’s lengthy history, but Jackson may end up being one of those rare cases where he can play NBA-level basketball at a high level but no one wants to take a chance on him because of his inability to stay clean. Jackson is only 23, and there’s no telling what kind of ceiling he possesses and how long he’ll be able to stick around in the league.
Phoenix obviously wasn’t the right fit for him, and neither was Memphis, but the small-market Pistons just might be the dose of incognito he’s needed to develop all along. We’re only 5 games in to a very young season, but if Jackson continues the type of production he’s been able to produce so far and shows that he’s now mature and willing to put in the work during the off-season, he may receive a large bag of money in free agency once his contract ends. Jackson just might be Detroit basketball’s next big thing, so watch out.