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Hard work is paying off for Josh Jackson’s overhauled jump shot

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The Suns’ No. 4 pick from the 2017 Draft is tackling the biggest weakness in his game head-on.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2017 pre-draft process, Josh Jackson was rightfully labeled as a jack-of-all-trades type of prospect. He could defend, pass, and rebound at a high level but the swing skill with him was always consistency with shooting.

Even though Jackson made his three-pointers at a 37.8 percent clip with the Jayhawks, his mechanics were wonky. Sometimes, it came out nice, and other times it seemed to be releasing at different angles.

Upon being drafted by the Phoenix Suns almost two years ago, Jackson and the coaching staff worked to improve his jump shot. Within six months, there was progress, but the hitch and inconsistent mechanics still showed through on some sequences during games.

Within Jackson’s first season in Phoenix, though, he was shown how the NBA world truly works. His first head coach, Earl Watson, was fired after the third game of his career. Immediately thereafter, Jackson had to adjust to interim Jay Triano which had some mixed results.

There’s no denying that Triano was able to tap into Jackson best after his benching in January last season, which led to less erratic play and more trust from both sides. However, seven months later, Jackson had to once more adjust to a new voice teaching him the ways of basketball on the professional level: Igor Kokoskov.

The former Utah Jazz assistant, who was second in command behind Quin Snyder, was lauded for his player development ability. Kokoskov focused on teaching the guards in Utah, which led to Ricky Rubio’s best season ever shooting from three-point range plus Donovan Mitchell blossoming fast under his guidance.

When Kokoskov was hired last May, former Suns GM Ryan McDonough brought up that exact point on his weekly spot with 98.7 FM.

“We think Igor is the perfect guy for our team and our situation,” McDonough said. “He’s a great tactician, he’s great at player development. He has an understated way about him that players really respect and like. He has a track record of winning and helping players get better wherever he goes.”

That last sentences McDonough said were key here. He has a track record of producing wins, while players also get better within that environment. Even though McDonough never even saw this team up-close in the regular season before he was fired nine days prior, he seemed right on the money with his thoughts on Kokoskov.

And if you look around the Suns’ roster six months later, improvement from plenty of players has been made across the board. One of the biggest and more recent developments is Jackson not only shooting a career-best mark on three-pointers, but gaining confidence as a catch-and-shoot threat altogether.

Last season under Watson and Triano, Jackson shot 26.3 percent overall from deep with an equally porous 28.2 percent mark on catch-and-shoot opportunities. The script has flipped now, though, as Jackson checks in with a career-high 32.9 three-point percentage on the same number of attempts per game, which includes a near-8 percent jump on effectiveness for catch-and-shoots (35.9 = 2018-19, 28.2 = 2017-18).

“Actually been putting a lot of work on it,” Jackson said postgame of his improved shooting from beyond the arc. “Just trying to keep the same shooting motion every time, miss or make, and just having confidence. I think a lot of the time some guys struggle with their shooting because they’re not confident in it. They think about it a little too much, but, if you get an open shot, you just gotta step up and shoot it. Just don’t worry about the outcome.”

If you check out the pre and post-All-Star break splits for Jackson, you can tell his confidence isn’t wavering and not overthinking from the outside. That’s a huge development long-term for the Suns’ athletic wing.

3PT% pre-ASB: 29.9% / 32.7% C&S on 1.8 attempts

3PT% post-ASB: 40.7% / 42.9% C&S on 2.7 attempts

“I’ve always heard some of the best shooters say just to keep shooting like you’ve been making them all,” Jackson said. “You can’t worry about any misses, just because it’s going to affect your next shot. You never know you’ll get a wide-open three after you just missed three in a row and still thinking about the last three, but you’ve just gotta have a short memory. Keep shooting, that’s all.”

If these improvements from three maintain for Jackson throughout the rest of his tenure in Phoenix, it definitely changes the calculus of how the roster moves could shake out this upcoming offseason.