After seven years of mediocrity, the Phoenix Suns seem to have built themselves a strong foundation of young, budding stars to launch themselves back into relevancy.
The Suns have historically had great success tracing back to the mid-2000s. Mike D’Antoni’s six-seconds-or-less offense starring legendary point guard, Steve Nash, went onto change the entire landscape of the NBA while leading the Suns to the postseason four out of the five seasons he was coaching. As impressive as it was, the Suns never were able to obtain the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.
In the 2012 offseason, the face of Phoenix, Steve Nash, headed to the Los Angeles Lakers after both teams reached an agreement on a sign-and-trade deal; a move that seems more than justified in hindsight. The following year, the Suns finished with a 48-34 record; a record that was 13th overall in the league, but still managed to leave them on the outside looking in due to the playoff format being based on conference standings rather than league standings.
The Suns weren’t too high on tanking that following year, rather they attempted to revolutionize a new playstyle once again. Phoenix had three above-average point guards on their roster simultaneously; which failed to say the least. Phoenix still managed to finished with a 39-43 record, landing themselves the 13th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and selecting the up-and-coming star, Devin Booker.
Phoenix caught onto Booker’s potential relatively quickly. He has now become the franchise cornerstone for the Suns and has put the league on notice with his recent outburst of 70 points during the 2016-17 season.
We have them on the buddy system. pic.twitter.com/EU1jAyUJud
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) August 11, 2017
Going into the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery, Phoenix were slotted for the second-best odds to land the first overall pick but ultimately slipped down to the fourth pick.
At the time, the Boston Celtics still held rights to the first overall pick, which had the Suns selecting their choice of either Jayson Tatum or De’Aaron Fox in most mock drafts. Luckily, Boston and the Philadelphia 76ers swapped the first overall and third overall picks. The Celtics were clearly high on Tatum as they took him third overall.
When it was time for the Suns to select, they had two realistic options – Josh Jackson or De’Aaron Fox? The Suns made the correct choice and took forward, Jackson. Although De’Aaron Fox is an excellent prospect, he might not have been a good fit in Phoenix due to his lack of shooting and his need of ball dominance in order to be effective, which would take away offensive possessions from Booker.
“A guy that can score…defend…pass…handle..a vocal leader. And he has a presence on the court that’s uncommon for his age.”Watson on JJ pic.twitter.com/pzBGCwPz0A
— Phoenix Suns Insider (@InsiderSuns) August 19, 2017
Josh Jackson has not been receiving the media attention as fellow draftees, Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Jayson Tatum, but he should be. Jackson possesses one of the highest ceilings from the entire draft class and offers skills that many others didn’t. His defense on the wing and ability to become a low-usage offensive player makes him a great fit alongside the Suns’ core.
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Jackson has shown life as a capable scorer in college, averaging just over 16 points a game for his Kansas Jayhawks while being the second option behind Frank Mason III. His scoring is expected to take a dip at the next level because of his inabilities behind the arc mainly surrounding the unorthodox hitch in his shot release. This could create some room for concern because of the new pace and space play style in the NBA, but Jackson will likely grow into a decent shooter over time.
The Suns have absolutely zero expectation for the upcoming season, so much so that many have them projected as the worst team in the Western Conference in the 2017-18 season. Although it’s never good to be a losing team, it might be a blessing in disguise for Josh Jackson. He will have time to grow alongside Booker to become the perfect complementary piece while growing into a great defender and decent scorer of his own.