The Phoenix Suns selected Josh Jackson with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Just one year later, he may have a replacement.
After a draft night trade helped Phoenix land two-time NCAA champion Mikal Bridges, some experts believe that the 22-year-old rookie is a better fit alongside Phoenix’s core than Jackson.
While the front office must have hoped that the two could play at the same time, the Suns have been outscored by 10.9 points per 100 possessions during the 45 minutes they have shared the floor.
But it gets worse, as there is one stat that’s particularly mind-boggling. While it is a relatively small sample size, Phoenix has outscored opponents by 40.4 points per 100 during the 24 minutes Bridges has played with franchise centerpieces Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
The Suns have been outscored by 8.2 points per 100 when Jackson is on the court with Booker and Ayton. The four players have only overlapped for 1.7 minutes, so the previous on-court/off-court statistics aren’t skewed by instances when both were on the court.
Bridges has averaged 1.11 points per possession thus far during his rookie campaign, which ranks in the 84th percentile in the league. For comparison, Jackson has averaged 0.67 PPP and that ranks in the 5th percentile. As a rookie, Jackson’s efficiency was not much better; he averaged 0.84 PPP, which ranked in the 21st percentile.
No team in the NBA has given their players more spot-up opportunities (23.5 percent) than the Suns have so far this season. This is how Bridges has been used most often (42.2 percent) early on. He spotted up quite a bit (40.9 percent) in college last season with Villanova as well.
This is not a tremendous surprise, considering experts believed it might be his most valuable skill set (via SB Nation):
“He was an outstanding spot-up shooter in his junior season during Villanova’s run to a second title in his three years there: Synergy ranks him in the 98th percentile in spot-ups overall and 95th percentile in all catch-and-shooter jumpers. He gets great elevation on his shot and releases the ball high above his head, two important characteristics of a shooter who will be heavily guarded from the moment he steps into the league—Bridges finished in the 95th percentile on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers thanks in part to that high release point and verticality on his jump shot.”
Since entering the pros, he has performed well on this play type. Bridges has averaged 1.04 PPP when spotting up, which ranks in the 56th percentile. That is above average, despite his lack of experience, and he obviously still has room to improve as he develops too.
He has also averaged 3.3 points per game on catch-and-shoot attempts, which ranks No. 5 overall among all rookies. But when adjusting for playing time, however, Bridges is averaging 6.5 points per 36 minutes on catch-and-shoot opportunities. That’s the best when looking at all qualified first-year players.
Jackson, meanwhile, has averaged 1.6 points per game on catch-and-shoot looks. That translates to 3.0 points per 36, less than half of what his teammate has been able to produce. His effective field goal percentage (40.0 percent) is significantly worse than what Bridges (58.9 percent) has produced this season.
In addition to Bridges’ above-average defense, he has also been more effective offensively for the Suns because of his shooting ability. As the season progresses, it’s worth monitoring how Phoenix will distribute playing time between Bridges and Jackson.