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Is Jackson the Suns' Man?

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Joe Jackson has been on a tear for the Bakersfield Jam as of late. Could he be a diamond in the rough for the Suns next year?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Jackson remains an under the radar basketball prospect. Few people had heard of Jackson prior to the 2014 NBA Draft. The pint-sized point guard (Jackson weighs in at 6 foot flat, 167 pounds) was a four year starter at Memphis who could score with the best college basketball had to offer, averaging 12 points on 46% shooting for his career in one of the country's best mid major conferences. Jackson went undrafted, and was plucked out of the undrafted players pool by Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough prior to the start of the 2014-15 NBA Preseason.

Jackson may not have looked like something special after the preseason: he played in just one game, for 7 minutes, recording 2 points and 2 rebounds. Despite this, McDonough had seen enough to designate Jackson as one of Suns assignment players to the Bakersfield Jam.

It wasn't until midway through the season that Jackson began to emerge as a top-level scoring threat in the D-League. He was a DNP-CD for much of the early part of the season due to injury. He was also stuck in a logjam at the PG position that started with Elijah Millsap, which was added to with the early season addition of Chris Wright and exacerbated by the occasional assignment of Phoenix Suns guards Archie Goodwin and Tyler Ennis.

However, with Millsap being called up to play in the NBA, Wright taking an overseas contract and the clearing of playing time for Goodwin with the Suns' main roster, Jackson has seen his playing time explode.

It started with his play leading up to the D-League Showcase. Prior to the Showcase, Jackson had played primarily off of the bench, playing the proverbial 'spark-plug' role to modest success. In 13 games he had averaged 12 points for game on a 54/46/83 split. At the Showcase, however, Jackson shined, putting up 24 points against the Grand Rapids Drive and leading the team to a Showcase Championship.

Since then, the D-League has been his for the taking. In February, Jackson averaged 15 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. Through the first four games of March, Jackson has upped those numbers considerably, averaging 22 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists per game, with a 56.7% field goal percentage. This number is even more impressive considering that Jackson has been asked to take on a heavier offensive load with the departure of Earl Barron, and that his three point attempt rate has gone up significantly (he's only shooting 28.6% from three in March).

The Phoenix Suns seem to have a likely hole at backup PG for next year's team. Some have pointed out the irony of the fact that, while before the Suns problem was having too many PGs, at the moment it seems like there may be too few.

It stands to reason that this may be related to the continuing emergence of Jackson with the Jam. While D-League success is far from a perfect correlate for NBA success, Jackson has had enough success this season that he will likely warrant a non-guaranteed contract from some team next season. The only question is if that contract is going to come from the Suns.