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Suns’ Josh Jackson earns positive reviews for Summer League play

Phoenix Suns' Josh Jackson, left, and Houston Rockets' Chris Johnson scramble for the ball during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Monday, July 10, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

It’s not that Josh Jackson played poorly. It’s just that he matched expectations for the Phoenix Suns as other rookies raised more eyebrows at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

For that, he earned praise but not adoration.

The Suns’ No. 4 pick finished a five-game stretch by averaging 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals and a block per game. It was plenty productive, and perhaps the only knock on the Kansas product came in his 42.5 percent shooting.

Overall, though, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton like what he saw in his rookie report following the Suns’ summer finale.

I like everything about Jackson’s game except his outside shooting. Jackson has gone 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) on 3s in Las Vegas, a big reason he’s shooting 42.5 percent from the field overall. But Jackson has found ways to become more efficient, making better than half his shot attempts the past two games.

As advertised, Jackson has embraced the challenge of defending, including a fun matchup with No. 9 pick Dennis Smith Jr. And he’s been terrific on the glass, averaging 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Jonathan Tjarks and Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer would probably nod in agreement with Pelton’s assessment.

They redrafted the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft class based on Summer League performances — yes, they know to take such things with a grain of salt — and didn’t take Jackson off the board until the Knicks were picking eighth overall.

Again, that’s not saying Jackson was playing poorly.

Josh Jackson falling this far also doesn’t feel right. He’s still not shooting the ball well in summer league — which, as we’ve discussed countless times before, is a major issue — but he’s been extremely impressive using on-ball screens.

The nice thing about Jackson is he’s more than just a defender: He’s a good ball handler and passer. I’m not as infatuated with his game as others are, but this summer he’s showcased why so many people do love it.

Tjarks is a bit higher on Jackson than O’Connor, and he adds that Jackson falling to No. 8 in their exercise is more about need for other teams — and the fact primary ball handlers tend to shine more in Las Vegas.

I like his game a lot and I don’t think he’s quite as bad a shooter as he’s being advertised. He’s not Andre Roberson, and he should be OK in Phoenix playing next to Devin Booker and Dragan Bender (who I’m still quite high on). Part of the reason why we have him this low is that it’s much easier for lead guards to look good in summer league than wings.

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