Josh Jackson needs to be more offensively aggressive when Devin Booker returns

Josh Jackson has not taken the offensive step forward this season that fans were hoping for. Yet since Devin Booker has gone down, Jackson’s offensive production has spiked. Can he keep this up?

The Phoenix Suns need scorers. In order to be a team that can compete, they need more than just Devin Booker to be a regular offensive threat, and Josh Jackson was supposed to be that player when entering the league last season.

Granted he is only halfway through his second year in the Association, and granted he has never had a point guard to help set up his offense (an issue that has plagued the entire roster, of course), but as a highly athletic athlete, Jackson can be an offensive threat when both on the run and in isolation.

However, this season he has just not found that next level, although it appears that while Devin Booker has remained the offensive juggernaut and seems to be that the two have been unable to co-exist.

There is no doubt that Booker is the center of the team’s offensive attention, as he should be. But when Phoenix is down (which obviously happens more often than not) Booker puts the offense entirely on his shoulders and as a strong isolationist, he tends to not spread the ball around as much – and honestly, with good reason: outside of T.J. Warren, no one has shown an offensive consistently.

And Jackson is one of those generally inconsistent players, unable to regularly put up points when he has his opportunities with poor shooting and rarely attempting to take his man off the dribble and drive to the hoop.

This season Jackson has scored in double-figures 22 times. Nine of those games have come those 14 games when Booker has either been out of left early because of injury, showing that it is either just more difficult for Jackson to put up points when Booker is on the court, or that he refuses to take that offensive initiative.

But why can’t Jackson keep up his scoring ways when Booker returns?

The truth of it is that he can, he just needs to be more aggressive about it – a common theme with several members of the team.

While fans want Deandre Ayton to take on a larger chunk of the offensive pie, it is more difficult for him since he is never going to be a primary ball-handler.

Josh Jackson is. He touches the ball on most possessions already, and needs to use his innate athleticism to his advantage.

And this isn’t just shooting: Jackson is still not an efficient 3-point shooter – although he is now shooting 31.3% from beyond the arc, which is a positive step from that perspective (heck if he is able to reach even 35.0% from 3 he’d be that much more of an effective offensive player).

What Jackson should instead focus on is driving to the hole.

The Suns shoot the fourth fewest free throws per game in the league at a lowly 20.1 attempts with Jackson averaging only 3.4 per-36min. This is a result of very little playing to contact and instead shooting from the outside. Unfortunately overall the Suns just aren’t a good enough outside shooting team to warrant so many 3’s (they are 25th in the league at 34.1%), yet they are also 27th in the league in FTA’s at 20.1 per game.

Jackson driving more frequently would not only give him more shooting opportunities, but if he uses his ability to pass the ball in traffic (while he isn’t point guard efficient, he has shown that he can handle the ball to some degree), he might actually open up more scoring opportunities for Deandre Ayton who has not been fed the ball in the post as often as fans would prefer.

Josh Jackson’s best offensive period of his career came in the second half of last season when he took the offense upon himself when Devin Booker went down for the season, averaging 17.4ppg over his last 36 appearances.

Then this season his best offensive outputs have come with Booker as out as well.

While there is an obvious correlation there, Jackson can still take up a certain level of the offense upon himself when Booker returns, a necessity if the Suns are ever going to take an offensive step forward.