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Josh Jackson plays first NBA minutes since being traded by Suns to Memphis

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

When Josh Jackson was traded by the Phoenix Suns to the Memphis Grizzlies in early July, there was a consensus opinion on that landing spot for Jackson:

“A solid organization and a bad team where Jackson can get a second chance to reset with real playing time.”

But it has not quite played out like that.

The Grizzlies sent a message to Jackson on how he was going to be a part of their team, if they even decided he would become one.

They put Jackson in the G League to start the year and kept him there until late January, and that stay included Jackson being suspended one game for a violation of team rules.

That call up for Jackson was to help Memphis survive some injuries to key perimeter players off the bench like De’Anthony Melton and Grayson Allen. Jackson didn’t play on Tuesday in his first game with the Grizzlies but he did wind up making his debut on Wednesday against the New York Knicks.

Jackson played four minutes of non-garbage time, missing his only shot and grabbing one rebound. There’s not much to judge from that time, but there were a few (bad) signature Jackson plays, such as nearly throwing a pass away when he had no real plan handling the ball and falling asleep on a backdoor cut. Jackson scored in garbage time and got his first points with the Grizzlies off technical free throws.

The former first-round pick hasn’t had time to practice with Memphis yet, so his role is expected to stay rather limited as he gets assimilated.

Jackson was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. After a rookie year that had more lows than highs, the Suns’ lack of faith in Jackson was clear when they traded for the draft rights to Mikal Bridges and signed Trevor Ariza in free agency.

With those two plus T.J. Warren on the wing, that shifted Jackson back in his second year to a role off the bench where he would have to earn minutes. In that spot, Jackson tried to be more of a playmaker offensively, and it went horribly. He was one of the least efficient and overall worst players in the league in his second season.

Jackson also had a handful of off-the-court issues that season, including missing a team event, being accused of exposing a child to marijuana and being arrested at a music festival.

The formula of his poor play on the court, issues flaring up off the court and the success that Kelly Oubre Jr. had after being acquired in a trade involving Ariza added up to there being little to no logic in keeping Jackson. That’s especially with how expensive Jackson’s top five pick contract was going to make him and the play of Bridges as a rookie too.

The assumption is there wasn’t much of a market for him, because general manager James Jones had to include Melton and two second-round picks in exchange for the waived Kyle Korver and Jevon Carter.

It turns out that Memphis is a strong fit for Jackson.

Their top wings are all veterans who are not top-level athletes: Jae Crowder, Kyle Anderson and Solomon Hill. Deeper in the rotation are guys like Allen and Marko Guduric, who both separate themselves with skill and basketball IQ as opposed to explosiveness.

On the other end of that spectrum, Memphis can afford that because of the hyper athleticism that the likes of Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr. offer.

The Grizzlies will want to figure out if Jackson actually is a viable piece or not because he’s an unrestricted free agent this upcoming offseason.

There’s a place there for Jackson on a decent 24-24 team as their premier energy player on the perimeter, playing alongside Clarke and Melton off the bench while focusing on defense, rebounding and scoring in transition. First-year head coach Taylor Jenkins has the young team playing the right way and that’s the type of environment that can get the most out of Jackson.

Of course, that’s easier said than done for Jackson given his failures in Phoenix, but the recipe for success is much clearer in Memphis than it ever was with the Suns.

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