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Earl Watson: Suns’ Josh Jackson is working to improve his shot

Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson (20) advances the ball up-court on a fast break as Utah Jazz forward Ekpe Udoh defends during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

LISTEN: Earl Watson, Suns Head Coach

Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson has never been known for having the prettiest jump shot.

As a freshman at Kansas last season, he shot an impressive 51 percent from the floor. But entering last June’s NBA draft, many around the league wondered if the athletic small forward’s jump shot would translate to the pros.

After the Suns drafted Jackson fourth overall, head coach Earl Watson said the 20-year-old began working on his shot with player development coach Mehmet Okur.

“One thing we noticed … he had a great arc to his shot and great rotation on the ball just naturally,” Watson told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 F.M. Arizona’s Sports Station. “It wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be. So a couple of tweaks and just repetition, repetition over and over. I think Mehmet Okur has done a great job.

“Josh is such a confident player, and he is such an intelligent player. When you tell him to fix something once you never have to tell him twice.”

In his first three preseason games, Jackson shot 47.6 percent from the floor. The San Diego native’s most efficient shooting performance in a Suns’ uniform to date happened last Friday. In a 112-101 loss to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, Jackson scored 11 points and finished 5-for-9 from the field, including 1-for-2 from three-point range.

Jackson’s talent has been on display during summer league action and in three exhibition games. But, ball security has been an issue. On Monday against the Jazz at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Jackson coughed up the basketball seven times, bringing his preseason total to 17.

Watson said he is encouraged with the progress of Jackson’s shot and made it clear that turning the ball over has been an issue for the entire team. As a team, the Suns turned the ball over 32 times on Monday.

“(The) Utah Jazz is a good team,” Watson said. “They have a veteran group. They did a great job of being aggressive and taking us out of sets. Our young guys have to go through the process when they get beat up. I think a positive is a lot of teaching points, negative are the turnovers. But another positive that we’re shooting the ball a lot better than we thought this early in the season.”

Watson said working with Jackson on his shot has been a smooth process because it is easy to coach him and critique what he does on the court.

“You can speak in a very blunt type of way, and he always says he understands,” Watson said. “He’s mature beyond his years for such a young guy. The difference is he has a unique edge that you can’t teach.”

Whether Jackson will develop into an elite NBA player remains to be seen. But, Watson said his mindset reminds him of Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook and has confidence he will be great.

“He’s a very intelligent person,” Watson said. “Very articulate and charismatic. He thinks deeper beyond the moment. He started a chess club in the third grade so that shows you how he thinks. He sees plays before it happens and the speed of the game is always different in the NBA. He’s edgy, he’s a vocal leader, he’s passionate and he’s such a tough person and we’re very lucky to have him.”


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