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ESPN’s Ford has Suns picking Kansas F Josh Jackson third overall in latest mock draft

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) salutes his teammates after a three-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Jackson scored 23 points in the game. Kansas defeated Baylor 73-68. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

With the Phoenix Suns owning the worst record in the Western Conference at 17-38, many fans are already looking forward to owning a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Suns will not know for sure when they will pick until May 16 and it won’t be until even later that fans know whom they will select, but ESPN’s Chad Ford’s newest mock draft gives them some clue as to what may happen.

Ford predicts that the Suns will take Kansas freshman small forward Josh Jackson with the third pick in the draft.

Jackson has been terrific in Big 12 play and has certainly made a strong case for being the No. 1 pick. I don’t see teams taking him over Fultz or Ball, but it doesn’t mean he’s not worthy of such a high selection.

His motor and versatility on both offense and defense make him a high-impact player. And that hitchy jump shot is starting to fall with more consistency this year. He should be a great fit on the wing next to Devin Booker.

The 6-foot-8 Jackson has led Kansas to a 22-3 record and the No. 3 ranking in the AP poll, while averaging 16.6 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game and shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from deep.

The 20-year-old is playing his best basketball lately, as he had a career-high 31 points with 11 rebounds Saturday in a one-point win over Texas Tech.

He profiles as a defensive stopper with plenty of intangible skills in his back pocket, such as his motor and playmaking ability off the dribble.

The Suns currently have T.J. Warren and P.J. Tucker acting as their primary small forwards. Tucker becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and Warren will become a restricted free agent next summer.

As it stands, Ford gives the Suns a 15.6 percent chance at winning the lottery and sees them finishing with a 27-55 record.

For those fans wondering why the Suns didn’t take the two most talked about point guard prospects, they were already off the board.

Ford has Washington freshman point guard Markelle Fultz taken first overall with the pick the Boston Celtics received from the Brooklyn Nets, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers taking UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball.

Last year, Phoenix came out of the draft with Croatian power forward Dragan Bender (drafted fourth overall), Washington power forward Marquese Chriss (eighth), and Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis (34th).

Bender struggled to get playing time off the bench, averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game before opting for surgery on his injured ankle Wednesday.

Chriss became a starter early in the season and hasn’t looked back, averaging 7.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game. He also was named the KIA NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month for January.

Ulis has predictably had trouble finding playing time behind Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight but has averaged 2.9 points and 1.1 assists per game in 8.5 minutes per game off the bench.

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