The Whiteboard: GG Jackson blossoming, dark side of NBA gambling

Today on The Whiteboard, GG Jackson is blossoming for the Grizzlies, the negative effects of sports gambling and more.

Brooklyn Nets v Memphis Grizzlies
Brooklyn Nets v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/GettyImages

This has been a lost season to an absurd degree for the Grizzlies. Marcus Smart, Ja Morant, Steven Adams, Brandon Clarke and Desmond Bane were all expected to be core rotation players and each has missed all or most of the season with injuries. There have been precious few bright spots but the developmental opportunities for GG Jackson have been one of them.

Jackson, who the Grizzlies took with the No. 45 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft is by far the youngest player in the league. If things had gone according to plan, he would have barely played this season. He saw the court for just 17 minutes total across the first three months of the season but, as the injuries mounted, he was forced into action.

GG Jackson is making the most of his opportunity

Since Jan. 13, he's averaged 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game, shooting 37.6 percent from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-9 forward has the skills and physical tools to eventually bridge multiple positions at both ends of the floor and because of the injury woes he's getting a chance to develop much more quickly than he otherwise would have.

Last night, Jackson scored a new career-high 35 points, on 11-of-19 from the field and 7-of-14 from beyond the arc. He's been a consistent spot-up threat since the beginning of the year but more and more he's flashing the ability to attack closeouts and create opportunities off the bounce.

This play came late in the first quarter after Jackson had already hit two corner 3s from very similar spots on very similar actions. Since Jan. 13, Jackson is averaging 5.8 drives per game, shooting 48.1 percent on those drives. He is still very rough as a passer off those drives, attempting a shot on an overwhelming majority of them but he's getting more comfortable making plays with the ball in his hands against NBA defenders. We're seeing that both with some very high-level passes...

... and moves that show off his increasingly advanced ball-handling and touch.

These are extremely impressive plays, but especially so for a second-round pick who didn't turn 19 until December, who played primarily as a power forward in his one year at college and was viewed as a long-term project.

The Grizzlies would obviously rather be healthy and competing for a title this year. But Jackson's development is a silver lining. For the past few years, they've been looking for the ideal wing to slot in between Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane. Jackson may not be that player yet but, with his shooting, defensive versatility and burgeoning complementary playmaking he's a candidate to start next season and, all of a sudden, another key piece of this Grizzlies' young core.

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J. B. Bickerstaff
Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

J.B. Bickerstaff says he's been threatened by sports gamblers

Before a game against the Miami Heat, Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff was asked a question about the impact of legalized sports gambling on the game and shared some scary anecdotes (h/t ESPN):

"They got my telephone number and were sending me crazy messages about where I live and my kids and all that stuff. So it is a dangerous game and a fine line that we're walking for sure."

Bickerstaff did add that team security located the person who had been contacting him but that no charges were filed. He went on to add more details about how coaches, players and others are feeling the impact:

"It brings added pressure. It brings a distraction to the game that can be difficult for players, coaches, referees, everybody that's involved in it. And I think that we really have to be careful with how close we let it get to the game and the security of the people who are involved in it.

"Because again, it does carry a weight. A lot of times the people who are gambling like this money pays their light bill or pay their rent, and then the emotions that come from that. So I do think we're walking a very fine line and we have to be extremely careful in protecting everybody who's involved."

It was unrelated but telling to hear this story on the same day that news broke that Shohei Ohtani's long-time interpreter had been fired over allegations he still more than $4 million to pay for sports bets.


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