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Josh Jackson’s play is bringing deserved questions about his long-term future in Phoenix

Will Jackson revive his tantalizing potential before it’s too late?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Slow starts have become a familiar theme for Josh Jackson. Following an abysmal beginning to his rookie campaign, the same is happening again in his sophomore season.

In the NBA, though, time goes by fast in terms of patience. And with an owner who supposedly favored De’Aaron Fox, the clock is definitely starting to tick a little louder when it comes to the Suns’ No. 4 overall pick in 2017.

Jackson has been off to a disastrous start, almost like deja vu hit him. And it’s arguable that the former Kansas Jayhawk has been even worse than he was at this point even amidst coaching turmoil.

Jackson continues to get going with scoring instead of energy plays on the defensive end, an area that was hyped up for good reason before he was selected. Unfortunately, sometimes some skills don’t translate. Jackson’s lack of physical strength, paired with worse situational awareness than he showed at Kansas, has resulted in him becoming a liability on that end on top of being a pure zero on the other.

Another area that’s been head-stratching through Jackson’s career thus far has been his shot selection. Far too often are you saying to yourself “no, no, no, yes” whenever he’s attempting another step-back midrange jumper.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Jackson is chucking up midrange shots at an alarming rate, even more than last season. Astonishingly enough, Jackson checks in at 40 percent of his total attempts (38% in 2017-18) being from the midrange which places him in the 92nd percentile for all wings. Jackson is only in the 55th percentile for midrange accuracy, though, which puts into question why he does it so often.

For reference, Mikal Bridges sits at only 11 percent while midrange wizard T.J. Warren is actually taking less than the Suns’ former top-five pick as well with 25 percent.

Poor shot selection paired with an up tempo style has been disastrous for Jackson. And that’s not all for him either.

Jackson, a bouncy wing with above-average speed, was supposed to be a great finisher at the rim on the next level. Per The Stepien’s shot charts, Jackson converted on 67 percent of his opportunities in that area at Kansas, but it slipped to 56% during his rookie season, and now it’s fallen off a cliff to only 50 percent (7th percentile) through 15 games of his sophomore campaign.

For a former lottery pick to struggle this mightily in an area where he was supposed to thrive is concerning to say the least. Jackson’s wiry frame has hindered him when venturing into the paint, because he can’t absorb and finish through contact at any consistent rate.

Also, in order for Jackson to reach his draft value in the first place, he had to overhaul his shot mechanics and become at least an average threat from the perimeter. So far, it’s been hit-and-miss with way more clanks than swishes.

In today’s league, jacking up three-pointers at high rates is welcomed, especially in catch-and-shoot situations off drive-and-kicks or pick-and-roll outlets to the corners. The Suns have three above-average wings in this area, but Jackson has been the outlier for all the wrong reasons. During the 2017-18 season, Jackson hit on 28.3 percent of these opportunities, while it’s only risen to 29.2 percent on a very small sample size of 24 three-pointers attempted thus far.

If those numbers maintain over the final 67 games and he’s unable to buy-in as a defensive spark plug, that’s a grim sign for Jackson’s future in Phoenix. And we haven’t even gotten to the worse part of his possible regression, which is committing turnovers at a wild, reckless clip.

Taking out garbage time, which CTG does and luckily allows us to zoom out of plenty of meaningless minutes already played by the Suns, Jackson ranks last in turnover percentage at 22.8 percent. Last season, that was only at 12.5 percent. Somehow, Jackson has nearly doubled his mistakes when the ball is in his hands.

In 11/15 games, Jackson has committed multiple turnovers, with six of those being in less than 20 minutes of playing time. Whether it’s freezing up when the first read isn’t there, or still trying to do to much with the basketball, more experimentation with Jackson as a secondary ball handler has led to awful results.

Even though we are only 92 games into Jackson’s career, the panic lights are already starting to flash. How can one of the best prospect-team matches on paper from the 2017 Draft turn into one of the more frustrating development curves from any lottery selection? Well, with the way Jackson has been pushed down the depth chart in short order, it’s going to have to click here soon for him.

It’s crazy enough to type this as one of the local media members who was over the moon about Jackson’s fit in Phoenix, but his play has him teetering more towards having his fourth-year option declined than it is talking early about an extension.

Back in 2012, the Charlotte Bobcats selected Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist right after Anthony Davis was selected at No. 1. That decision by Charlotte had a long-lasting butterfly effect on their organization, because Kidd-Gilchrist proved he was more of an inconsistent role player than a star-quality prospect. Instead of selecting MKG, the Bobcats could have built around Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal, who was selected one pick later by the Washington Wizards.

Disappointingly enough, Jackson and Kidd-Gilchrist’s numbers through two seasons are right in line with one another.

Could we be having the same discussion this time next year when it comes to Jackson and Fox? It’s quite possible, but Jackson’s pure talent has the chance to reverse course on this talk with becoming a more steady two-way player.

Phoenix was lucky their disastrous 2016 draft class featuring Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss didn’t have more long-term ramifications on their organization, because their lack of talent led them to Deandre Ayton two years later with their first No. 1 pick in franchise history.

The same can’t be said about Jackson, though. He has to somehow hit, or this leads to Phoenix replacing him in the upcoming draft that features wing prospects like Zion Williamson, Nassir Little, and Cam Reddish that have flashed star upside.

The hourglass is starting to run low on Jackson. It’s up to him to realize his talent, fit into the ideal role on the team, and succeed within those boundaries before it’s too late.

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