The game is becoming easier for Josh Jackson to breakdown.
Ever since interim head coach Jay Triano sat down with him about 10 weeks ago to discuss how they were actually doing better with him off the floor, which resulted in a wake-up call type of DNP, Jackson has begun to flourish.
“Basically, you’re trying to score, you’ve got to break it down,” Jackson told me in our 1-on-1 sit-down after practice Friday. “You’ve got to maybe get to the line probably two to three times, so let’s say you get four points from the line. You get an offensive rebound and a putback, you’re up to 6 points now. You get maybe two points in transition, you’re up to 8. You hit a three, you’re up to 11. Like, it’s so easy to break down and the more of that you do, like say I get another offensive rebound, I’m just adding on now. You’re just adding on the points.”
What stands out is what Jackson says next, though. Like he mentioned as well, it’s not all about points. It’s about giving it your all in other areas such as defense, rebounding, hustle plays, and getting others involved.
“The game is so easy. It’s even easier when you learn it.”
Jackson is quickly turning into the jack of all trades label he’s thoroughly displayed throughout his basketball career staying near the top of recruiting rankings and his one year at Kansas.
It took an adjustment period of getting to know NBA athletes and finding how to balance his on-court speed better, but over the past month, his production has been rather consistent outside of a few off shooting nights.
The No. 4 pick in 2017’s top-heavy draft is starting to realize with his unique blend of speed and underrated ability to put his shoulder down and finish through contact, he could quickly become the critical second weapon on offense alongside Devin Booker long-term in their starting lineup.
Since the All-Star Break, Jackson has averaged 16.6 points while also attempting 5.5 free throws per game. Booker leads the team in that category over that span with 6.1, which is his season-long clip as well, but Jackson isn’t far behind at all.
Before Triano sat him down, Jackson only went to the line once or maybe twice per game. Nowadays, he’s usually doubling or tripling that number.
What’s flipped for the Suns’ latest lottery selection since he was sat down against Atlanta on January 2?
Well, as Triano points out, a lot of was in his speed of play. He had no idea how to control his advantage on wings, but now that he’s realizing how to use it regularly it could open up a lot of his offense.
For many players in the league, it takes awhile to find their role and or niche on how to be successful early on. Jackson has done it in 10 weeks time.
“A lot of it is communication. Us understanding him and him understanding what we’re looking for. I think he’s a fast player and he came in and was accelerating and tried to play super fast. And then he slowed down and got pace,” Triano said. “He’s continued to work on his shot. He stays after practice. And I think, I don’t even know the date, somewhere in January, he’s just kind of taken off. And I’m glad, I’m happy because it takes some guys a long time to figure this league out and what they can excel at and he did it very fast. And night in and night out, he’s been pretty solid for us.”
One player who benefited off of Jackson’s best night as a Phoenix Sun thus far — 36 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block on 60% shooting — is Marquese Chriss.
In only 18 minutes of playing time, Chriss tallied up 10 points and 8 rebounds. However, three of those looks came off of sweet feeds from Jackson in transition, an area we don’t see often enough in Phoenix’s system.
Chriss, much like what Booker and others have said earlier in the season, knew what they had with Jackson. Now that he’s putting it all together in an efficient manner, he’s showing people glimpses of the future early on.
“I am happy for him. When he first got here, I think we all knew what he was capable of doing. The way he scores is pretty efficient, so he’s not jacking up a bunch of crazy shots,” Chriss said. “He’s getting to the cup, he’s getting fouled, he’s shooting free throws. He’s doing what he wants to do. I’m happy for him to be able to come out here and just show people what he is capable of doing.”
Draymond Green has been a longtime friend and mentor of his, as he let us know earlier this week on Locked On Suns. Green helped Jackson get exposure to other NBA players while he was still at Prolific Prep in California, living with him sometimes.
Unfortunately, the last time Phoenix and Golden State squared off, Jackson’s mentor who many people compare his game to, wasn’t able to suit up with an injury.
This time around at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Green led a ragtag group of Warriors as the only star and his pupil showed out in front of him. He even had some moments where he got the best of Green on both ends.
For Jackson to finally get this one out of the way was a fun experience, and Draymond was even helping him out during the game pointing out when to shoot or pass the ball.
“It was great. I had a lot of fun out there. Talked to him a little bit. He actually knows me pretty well. He was actually calling out a couple of my moves before I did them and he got really excited one time,” Jackson said. “I think Zaza knocked the ball off my foot and it went out of bounds. Yeah, it was real fun out there playing against him.”
Longtime friends and Michigan natives Josh Jackson and Draymond Green battled for the first time tonight.— Evan Sidery (@esidery) March 18, 2018
Jackson said Draymond knows him so well that he was calling out a few of his moves during his 36-point outburst. pic.twitter.com/YsPheriwTw
What should be asked now, though, is whether Jackson should begin his ascent into the starting lineup permanently over this final month.
Jackson has shown no signs of slowing down while T.J. Warren is starting to revert back to his form from two seasons ago where he was marred by inconsistency. Last night showed the proof in the pudding as Jackson scored 36 on 23 shots while Warren needed 11 to get 9 points.
Already, Jackson has proven to be the better two-way player, playmaker, energy spark, defender, and multi-level scorer. If he’s able to consistently hit and improve his jump shot? At that point, Jackson would immediately become a force to be reckoned with in transition, especially once he adds more lean muscle mass over the next few offseasons.
As I have talked about all throughout this season, Warren is best suited to be their 6th man so why not pull the trigger now that he’s likely out for a game or longer with a knee sprain he suffered late against Golden State?
That time could be arriving if Jackson continues to build off of his career night on Tuesday when Phoenix plays at home against the Detroit Pistons.
We have continued to see more consistent flashes of his two-way brilliance in 2018, but Jackson’s latest outburst left an emphatic stamp on where he sits with the Suns.
In NBA history, only 10 rookies have collected a 36-6-4-2-1 line. And the names mentioned with the Suns’ latest top five pick — Michael Jordan (8x!), Ron Harper, Willie Anderson, David Robinson, Derrick Coleman, Chris Webber, Allen Iverson, Stephen Curry, and Blake Griffin — show you what trajectory this new and improved version of Jackson seems to be heading towards.
Booker now has company as Jackson continues to leave an imprint and prove he is the official second pillar of #TheTimeline alongside what they hope is the third and most critical one on June 21.