Three former Phoenix Suns are impressing early on with new franchises

Dragan Bender Josh Jackson Phoenix Suns (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dragan Bender Josh Jackson Phoenix Suns (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

James Jones rid the Phoenix Suns of a number of former GM Ryan McDonough draft picks this past offseason. Let’s check in on them early on this season.

T.J. Warren

The draft day trade of T.J. Warren itself did not come as much of a surprise to many, it was how  he was traded that confused most fans.

Dumped off to the Indiana Pacers with  a second round pick, James Jones received nothing in return but cap space.

The Pacers were elated that they were able to add a scoring small forward to an already playoff roster without having to give up anything in return, and he has not let them down.

Indiana is 12-6 through 18 games and Warren has been a big part of it.

However, his averages are lower than they were with Phoenix last season, and even lower than the season before.

At 17.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, each marks lows of the past few years, his rebounds in particular his lowest since his second season in the league. He therefore has essentially become entirely a one-dimensional scorer, providing very little else, shooting 53.6% from 2 and 34.0 from 3, both the second best of his career.

While his shooting would have been nice in Phoenix, there is no doubt that Kelly Oubre plays a much bigger and more well-rounded roll than Warren was.

Dragan Bender

Personally, I wanted to see Dragan Bender return for one final season, playing in a good offensive system for the first time under Monty Williams, and a true pass-first point guard in Ricky Rubio.

Unfortunately we will never get to see such a grouping, and truthfully, it’s for the better.

Originally reported to have signed with a Russian franchise, he was surprisingly brought in by the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that seemed to fit Bender’s style well.

It hasn’t come together – with the big club. Although it is a different story entirely in the minors.

Spending the majority of the NBA season thus far in the G-League (which is where he should  have been with the Suns franchise), he has only appeared in one game for the Bucks, for only 2:14 on November 23, finishing with 1 block, 1 assists, 1 turnover, and 1 personal foul.

He is, however, averaging 21.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in five appearances for the Wisconsin Herd, where he is also shooting 30.0% from 3 on 12-20 shooting.

Granted, it’s the G-League, but those numbers are still eye-popping. He didn’t even do anything like that in the Summer League for the Suns.

Josh Jackson

Josh Jackson was supposed to be a star  for the Phoenix Suns.

Instead he became a cancer.

At one point it seemed like he might even be cut from the Memphis Grizzlies before even beginning his tenure, although by stashing him with their Memphis Hustle G-League affiliate, they are able to keep him away from the professional players while watching his development from afar.

Presumably he will be called up during the regular season because much like Dragan Bender, his G-League stats are quite impressive.

Averaging 21.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.6 blocks, Jackson is looking – against minor leaguers – like the kind of player that could potentially develop into a serviceable NBA role-player (not exactly what Ryan McDonough had anticipated when selecting him fourth overall).

Most impressively though are his shooting numbers, shooting 50.0% from the field and a burning-hot 48.7% from beyond the arc, 19-39 thus far.

His free 52.6% free throw percentage is what Suns fans came to expect, but a stat that a franchise can deal with considering his field goal shooting overall.

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Maybe Ryan McDonough should have stored Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson in the G-League for the first few years of their career while they actually developed at a reasonable pace.

Who knows how they will pan out overall, but one can not help but be impressed with their minor league numbers thus far, and wonder if they have been kept on the Northern Arizona Suns roster for this season, how they might have looked there.