Josh Jackson may have played himself out of the starting lineup

Phoenix Suns Josh Jackson (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Josh Jackson (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Sure the Phoenix Suns need depth off the bench, but what good is depth if you can’t take the lead? Maybe Josh Jackson shouldn’t be a starter after all.

The prevailing thought has been that Josh Jackson was ready to take the next step in his career becoming the team’s starting small forward while former starter T.J. Warren would move to the bench becoming 6th man extraordinaire giving the Phoenix Suns a level of depth they have not had since the Alvin Gentry days.

However, through only five preseason games, Josh Jackson has not looked like a starter offensively, potentially putting some worry in the mind of new Head Coach Igor Kokoskov, who because of the average offensive preseason play of Jackson, might re-think his plan of starting Jackson and move the still smooth-scoring Warren back into his prior role.

Jackson averaged only 11.4 points as a starter in the five preseason games, on 41.1% shooting from the field (28-68) and an abysmal  19.0% from beyond the arc (4-21). As a starter Jackson averaged 32.6 minutes per game in the preseason, thus raising his Per-36 average to 12.6.

That is not a starter’s scoring line.

By comparison, entering every game off the bench and not nearly receiving the minutes that Jackson got, T.J. Warren was a far more impressive scorer.

Warren averaged only 7.6 points per preseason game in only 76 minutes, however, he shot a dazzlingly efficient 61.5% from the field, and 22.7 points per-36 minutes.

He only attempted 5 3-pointers, making just 1, but unlike Jackson who chucks up 3-point shots like he’s not allowed to step foot inside the arc, Warren seems to have a much better grasp on his strengths and finds tremendous success driving and cutting to the rim.

I do not have Defensive Rating stats for anybody during the preseason, but Jackson’s purported two-way play would preclude that he is a more dominant defender than average.

Defensively Jackson did not outshine Warren at all, even in over twice the number of minutes played. Each player recorded 3 steals, while Jackson ended up with 6 blocks to Warren’s 3

I have not seen any defensive metrics for the preseason, but it should also be noted that while Jackson came into the NBA as a two-way player, their mediocre individual Defensive Rating for 2017-18 were extremely close: Jackson finished with a 112, while Warren trailed only slightly behind as a 114.

We should all hope that Jackson’s poor outing was simply it being preseason on a team learning from a new head coach, who just lost their general manager, and who is without their star player in Devin Booker.

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If Jackson, the still 20-year-old fourth overall selection only last season turns into nothing more than a decent role player at best, it will more completely sully the image of the franchise in the wake of the Ryan McDonough years, marking this era of tanking as one that found only one success, that of Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick.

In the meantime, first-year head coach Igor Kokoskov probably shouldn’t make any dramatic changes until he gets Devin Booker back in the starting lineup, which he is expected to do coming opening night on Wednesday October 17.

However, if even with Devin Booker by his side Josh Jackson shows over the first week of games or so that he still just cannot score with any modicum of efficiency, in particular that his 3-point shooting remains entirely unsalvageable, then he should revert back to the reserve role that he held last season, and T.J. Warren, an above-average NBA scorer, should start from there-on-out.