The Phoenix Suns have a choice before them, and unlike decisions made in the past, the question surrounding T.J. Warren or Josh Jackson must be made correctly.
The Phoenix Suns need a power forward and a point guard in the worst way if they are going to ever dig themselves out of the basement of the NBA. Hopefully both can be filled no later than this summer, although at least one might be filled by trading one or both T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson.
That trade could happen at some point during the regular season too when a player who at the moment isn’t available unexpectedly does, and Phoenix will have a decision to make: do they keep or trade either Josh Jackson or T.J. Warren?
Of course the results of any trade package rely on what the other team wants in return, but if the Suns happen to be the team making the pitch, or decide to put their foot down as to what is too much as requested by that second team, who should Phoenix want to keep between those two small forwards?
Right now I would say that without a doubt that player should be T.J. Warren. While we all want Josh Jackson to morph into the star player we were told they were getting when they drafted him fourth overall, there are a lot of flaws and deficiencies in his game that invoke fear in the eyes of fans that he will ultimately be a bust.
The key issues that fans have of him right now is the fact that he does not seem to be anywhere near the two-way player he was supposedly going to be as his 3-point shooting has actually taken a nose-dive this season and his defense is okay at best.
Moreover, T.J. Warren (like Jackson) said he was going to focus on his shooting this past offseason and look where it has brought him: he is sixth (as of November 11) in the league in 3-point percentage at 47.5% of all players who have attempted a minimum of 40 from beyond the arc.
Last season I often compared Josh Jackson to Shawn Marion for a number of reasons, one in particular being that Marion’s 3-point shooting was horrific his rookie season but took a large leap in his second season and then an even better leap by his third. I figured then that their two defensive mindsets made for a great comp, and if Phoenix really had just drafted a second Shawn Marion, they were certainly on their way to being a very good team for a long time.
However, we just hadn’t seen that step forward yet for Jackson, and yet we now have from Warren – plus like Marion, Warren is a slasher, but now add that 3-point shot to his arsenal and at the moment shares the same DRtg as Jackson (they are both at 114), and that early comp may have been placed on the wrong player.
It is obvious that Warren is not only good, but that he wants to be better.
While I am sure (or at least I hope) that that is true for Jackson, he just hasn’t shown that as of yet and did not take the leap forward after one season that it really felt like he should of.
(Jackson has a 71 ORtg so far this season…A 71! That is worse than both Ryan Anderson (94) and Isaiah Canaan (99)!)
The Phoenix Suns are in a pickle right now because of their lack of depth at two positions while also having three (including Mikal Bridges) small forwards, all of whom have discernible talents that should make them each talented starters in the NBA should they be on teams that require their starting services.
Josh Jackson too still has a lot of talent to grow into and shouldn’t be discarded for an expiring contract and a middling second round pick. If traded, he needs to be packaged for a player that is going to help Phoenix make that next leap forward, hopefully a young, talented point guard.
Unless Jackson makes a sudden and undeniable leap at some point very soon, T.J. Warren’s leap already might have just made Jackson much more tradable – and even expendable.
No longer would the Suns have to worry about holding onto a player that might develop into a great player before their eyes – on another team – they have a very good small forward on their roster now (a veteran too who is on a very good contract) who might just be the long-term answer.
If the Phoenix Suns find themselves needing to make a trade at some point, they should probably think long and hard about what they can get for Josh Jackson, and let T.J. Warren be the regular starting small forward for the foreseeable future.