The Phoenix Suns are in a difficult spot at point guard. They should try out Josh Jackson at the position.
The NBA is a copycat league. It’s as cliche as it gets, but it’s true. Big (insert favorite number here)’s didn’t just start with the Miami Heat. Nor did super teams begin with the Golden State Warriors. All great ideas start somewhere and smart organizations steal them and flourish.
Closer to home is the seven seconds or less offense. This was a Mike D’Antoni special from his time with the Phoenix Suns that was oft criticized. Now, teams have adopted that idea, refined it, and gave it the necessary championship stamp of approval. If your team doesn’t play with pace then it’s probably in the lottery or stuck in the 1990s.
The point is, if your organization is a bottom feeder and isn’t looking at smarter, more successful franchises, then conversations need to be had. So listen up Phoenix, because Erik Spoelstra altered Justise Winslow’s career trajectory down in Miami by playing him at point guard.
This isn’t new. There are large forwards throughout the league that are their team’s respective primary ball handlers. The Milwaukee Bucks quietly (because it’s Wisconsin) broke the league with Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Philadelphia 76ers have the unique and jumper-less Ben Simmons occupying point. Then, of course, there’s phenom Luka Doncic and the chosen one LeBron James.
Save for Doncic (I love him, but he has 46 games under his belt), all of these experiments have proven to be beneficial. Most are natural fits, and that’s why they ended up there. The one who sparked the most surprise of late, however, is Justise Winslow. Naturally, he is the closest example to Josh Jackson.
Winslow has thrived as a point guard in Spoelstra’s system. He repaved his NBA career and elicited excitement from a Miami fanbase hanging on to Dwayne Wade’s farewell tour. He came in as a potential 3-and-D guy and struggled with his shot. He started his career as a large minus on the offensive end while carrying most of his production on defense. Now, with an improved three point shot and the keys to the offense, Winslow is just barely a negative in offensive real plus minus with a -0.29 rating. This ranks him 25th among small forwards.
Enter Josh Jackson. Each came in as potential 3-and-D wings with play making abilities. Once in the league, both struggled early, with Jackson just barely edging Winslow out in three point and free throw percentages. It’s difficult to be an effective wing on offense unless you’re knocking down a respectable amount of threes, so maybe change is due for Jackson as it was for Winslow.
Josh Jackson has shown flashes of good play making in the pros. He came out of college with a a superior assist to turnover ratio along with a higher usage rate against stronger competition than Winslow. Putting him at point would maximize his best skills, his athleticism and play making. Imagine a 6 foot 8 athletic freak attacking the basket off a pick and roll with Deandre Ayton.
There’s nothing to lose. The former number four overall pick hasn’t found his grounding yet on a team that desperately needs their high draft choices to pan out. With a team that needs a point guard and has an excess of wings, trying Jackson out at the one wouldn’t hurt.
The Suns surely aren’t trying to win games and may actively be doing the opposite. Along with that, having the ability to maximize your strengths (their most promising players are all wings, including tank reward Zion Williamson) is a plus.
If Jackson turns out to have a Winslow-like impact as a point guard, then Phoenix struck gold. If not, then it’s merely a few lost games in an already lost season. Regardless, if there’s any possibility this changes the Suns’ future, then the organization needs to at least try it.