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Breaking Down the X’s and O’s of Josh Jackson in the Phoenix Suns Offense

Watch how Josh Jackson gets his offense, and then how the Suns could use him in their own.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The majority of Suns fans are hoping the Kansas Jayhawk is on the board with the number four pick.

Editor’s Note: Local sports radio host John Gambadoro reported Monday that he was told Josh Jackson had already received a “promise” from a high-picking team and was shutting down workouts. Gambo doesn’t know which team made the promise but the following facts were shared.

Of the top four teams, Jackson has only actually worked out for the Lakers (pick #2 overall). He has cancelled a Boston (1) workout, and has delayed workouts with the Suns and Sixers. But Gambo also said he doesn’t know the team that made the promise, that it COULD be the Suns, and that the Suns were still expected to conduct a workout with Jackson on Wednesday of this week in Sacramento.

Let’s see how that plays out. Meantime, we get a look at how he could fit in Phoenix.

The Detroit native is a versatile wing who would fit nicely with the Suns young core. Jackson brings an old-school mentality with a toughness on both ends of the floor. Although other prospects such as Jayson Tatum have more advanced footwork and scoring ability, I think Josh Jackson can help end the Suns playoff drought as early as next season.

Kansas coach Bill Self chose to use Jackson as a 3 or a 4 in his High Low Motion Offense. Jackson found more success as a 4 feeding the 5 from the top of key or using his quickness to attack the rim. In short, the Kansas High Low Motion Offense is a cross screen of the two bigs in the paint a 4/5 cross screen. The next action is usually the 4 coming over to the top of the key, what Bill Self calls the "Sweet Spot", the ball then either swings from the lead guard to the corner for a corner post entry or to the 4 or a high post entry from the "Sweet Spot". Jackson showed he has the feel to make the post entry pass from the both the "Sweet Spot" and as the Corner Wing.

High Low Motion Offense: Wing Actions

This is the early-offense where they feed the big from the wing without the initial cross screen.

Jackson also displayed his ability to put the ball down on the floor from the wing while attacking a closeout. This is a key shot he would need to hit consistently at the NBA level. His ability to shoot off the dribble is a major red flag in the eyes of NBA scouts.

Teams also forced Jackson to make the wing 3 when they took away the low post entry. Jackson shot the wing 3 at a 31% clip for the year. Good one-dribble rhythm pull-up here.

High Low Motion Offense: “SweetSpot”

Coach Self loved having Jackson as the 4 so he could attack from the "Sweet Spot". Jackson likes driving left but has also shown the ability to shoot the three from the top of the key. He shot the 3 from the top of key at 38.5%. Is that going to translate at the next level?

Straight line drive attack from the top of the key going to his left.

A pattern you will see is most wings have success driving to the left after using the between the legs rhythm dribble. Devin Booker mastered this in his first couple years in the league. Once Jackson gets you on his shoulder it’s over, according to Jackson shot 69% on field goal attempts at the rim.

Poor closeout by Bridges here but it shows you the kind of athleticism Jackson possess.

Kansas also ran basic Single High PnR action with Jackson popping out at the top of the key. Gets you thinking about the possibility of Booker - Jackson PnR.

High Low Post Entry from the SweetSpot

So I am ready to watch Alan Williams creating space with Josh Jackson feeding him with a low post entry. The Suns will have two gifted passers in Jackson and Bender. This is a good clip of some of the action that the Suns run which is similar to Coach Self’s offense.

Phoenix Suns Offensive Sets:

1. Double High PnR - Suns run the Double High PicknRoll with TJ Warren and Dragan Bender. Based on Jackson's college film the Suns could use his elite quickness going left to pair with Bender in this set. As you can see, T.J. is not as quick as Jackson. This set would be tough to defend against if Bender is shooting the 3 consistently.

2. Princeton - Double Stagger - Suns run Princeton sets with a low post entry to the big, in this set it is Chriss. I assume Watson would look to use Bender's passing ability more next season and involve him in High Post Splits similar to how the Warriors use Draymond Green. If a team overplays on Booker after Jackson sets the first stagger screen it opens the backdoor lane for Jackson to attack. This option is not as easy to run right now with Jared Dudley in the action.

3. Fist Motion Sets - Flare Screen - This is a staple in the Watson offense. This is an action he brought with him from his days under Terry Stotts and the Portland Trail Blazers. The flare screen up top rarely works if the big helps high with no strong side action. You need strong side action to take the big's eyes away from the guard in motion. It is critical for Jackson to be able to score in isolation from the wings much like we saw in the previous clips. Suns could also use him as the lead guard with the option to attack from the top of the key, something he did well in Bill Self's offensive "Sweet Spot".

95% of the time the Suns run Booker in this set with the flare screen to get him isolated in the corner. Portland runs the same action with C.J. Mccollum.

Since the Suns run this set at least a couple times a game it is necessary to break it down in more detail.

Too many times this season the Suns would have poor strong side action which would allow the 5 man to help high on Booker. In early offense the Suns were able to use a second flare on the overplay and the action flowed backdoor as you can see in this case with Nikola Mirotic.

If the Suns use Jackson at the 4 he would need to set the screen and pop out for the 3, much like Dudley in this action.

As outlined earlier Coach Self did not run these types of actions with Kansas this past season. I do think that Jackson is a capable isolation scorer as his footwork and shooting mechanics improve. This is a good clip of he could attack off flare screens.

Footwork has to get 10x better but he shows flashes of isolation scoring turning drives into post-ups against smaller guards. Elite first step allows him to get away with sloppy footwork. Jayson Tatum and Dillon Brooks both have 5x better footwork heading into the draft.

Fundamentally sound footwork is key if the Suns plan to use him as a SG posting up smaller guards. He could take a page out Devin Booker’s book, who I think has the best footwork in the NBA.

A wrinkle the Suns could add with Jackson’s tendency to go left and passing ability is the “Flare Screen Hammer”. This is a good clip showing how the Suns could theoretically run this action with great success. Booker as the lead guard making the pass to Jackson coming of a Chriss/Bender flare going to his left. Booker rotates over to the weakside where someone sets a weakside pindown for him to hit the 59% right corner three. (Side Note: Booker shoots the left corner three at 23% so it is better for it flow like it does in the clip)

4. SLOB Series - Zipper Sets with Weakside Curl - I would love to see Jackson in this set next year. Jackson also has the ability to take a one dribble pull up jumper off the curl. Suns usually do not use a flare screen coming off the zipper cut like the Portland Trailblazers “One” set but Watson could look to make adjustments with Jackson next season.

5. Zipper Sets with Single High or Double Stagger Screen - Suns lover getting Booker in motion going to his right. Booker comes on the Zipper cut and Len sets the screen on Thompson. They could run the same action for Jackson going to his left.

6. Horns PnR- The PnR out of Horns is a set the Suns use to get T.J. isolated from the center of the court. Jackson with his versatility can be used in the same way as he develops his mid-range game.

At this point I think Jackson is most comfortable attacking from the top of the key. Coach Self realized this and allowed him to attack from the “SweetSpot”.

You can tell Jackson is comfortable with the step back rhythm dribble. A move you’ll see Devin Booker also use when attacking to his right.

7. Spain PnR- "BackScreen PnR" - This variation of the PnR named after the Spanish national team is a common set the Suns run out of timeouts in the second half of games. Jackson as the ball handler with Chriss setting the initial high screen and Booker setting the backscreen is a lethal combination.

Watch how Booker sets the backscreen on Capela. This is a set that would also allow Jackson to get to his spots from the top of the key if he sets the backscreen.

8. Princeton - Grenade DHO

The Grenade DHO is more common in the NBA today. The Suns use this action a handful of times each game, again trying to get Booker in motion to his right. Most other NBA teams use the original Princeton action where the 5 HO the ball to the guard which flows into a screen to allow the guard to attack the rim.

In this case the Suns like getting Booker off the curl allowing him to make the correct read. 80% of the time the 5 helps high on Booker allowing him hit the lob target in Tyson Chandler or the 4 who spaces the floor to the 3 point line. Willie Reed stays home allowing Booker to finish the easy layup.

Jackson would have to be able to knock down the open 3 as similar to how Chriss runs off to the 3 point line.

Chin Series

This is the same type of action but you will see Tyler Ulis rubbing his chin to signal the set. Grenade DHO with Chriss to Booker but the Suns do a poor job of spacing the floor this time leading to the blocked shot. Should be interesting how Jackson would fit, at first I would expect Watson to use him to space out the floor.

9. SLOB Series - Elevator Set

I would be shocked to see Earl Watson use Josh Jackson coming through the elevators. But this is still an important set to look at as the Suns bring it out every now and then.

(And I also enjoy watching Devin Booker shoot threes, so why not)

10. BLOB Series - “One Up”

Coach Watson uses this set usually for Booker but has also used it for Dragan Bender. I think Jackson is more than capable to knock down the baseline jumper in a catch and shoot situation.

As Earl Watson says, “It all depends on the creativity of the program”. It should be interesting too see how the Suns would use Jackson on the offensive end. I think the most important adjustment for him will be scoring in isolation from the wing. He showed he can attack from the top of the key but the Suns will need him to consistently score coming off flare screens and zipper cuts. His passing ability and elite first step should allow him to get away with sloppy footwork.

The Suns have a tough decision to make between Jackson, Tatum, and Isaac. The number one thing you look for in a prospect is footwork and I would give Tatum the slight edge over Jackson. I think defensively Jackson would fit better next to Booker giving him the edge among the decision makers in the Suns front office.

If you are interested in more film on prospects and their fits. You can follow my quick hitter breakdowns at "Suns Film Room" twitter handle is @SunsFilm.

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