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Early on, it seems like Josh Jackson is the best fit for Phoenix Suns

UNLV guard Jalen Poyser (5) shoots against Kansas guard Josh Jackson during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. Kansas won 71-53. (AP Photo/David Becker)
LISTEN: Chad Ford, ESPN NBA Draft insider

The result of Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery did not go as bad as it could have for the Phoenix Suns, though it came close.

Owners of the second-best odds at the top overall pick with a floor no lower than No. 5, the Suns landed at four.

With the Boston Celtics (by way of the Brooklyn Nets) picking first, the Los Angeles Lakers second and the Philadelphia 76ers (from the Sacramento Kings) third, it is truly anyone’s guess who will be available when the Suns are finally on the clock June 22.

A guest of Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Wednesday morning, Suns GM Ryan McDonough said when looking at his team, one thing it needs is to improve defensively.

“I think our young guys are further along offensively than they are defensively, so we need to get better defensively,” he said. “We need to guard the three-point line better; we need to not foul as much this upcoming season and in the future.”

McDonough added he believes much of that will happen as his players gain experience and strength, which may very well be the case.

But that could also be improved via the draft, if a certain player falls to Phoenix.

“I think Josh Jackson in many ways was always the best choice for the Phoenix Suns if you just look at what their current personnel was,” ESPN NBA insider Chad Ford told Doug and Wolf Wednesday.

A 6-foot-8 forward who as a freshman for Kansas last season averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds with three assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.7 steals per game, it would not be a surprise to anyone if Jackson was the third player off the board, behind Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball.

Assuming the Suns have interest in the wing, that would be highly unfortunate.

While Ford said he thinks Jackson has all along been the best fit for the Suns, he said had Phoenix ended up with the top pick he believes they would have grabbed Fultz or Ball and then traded incumbent point guard Eric Bledsoe. Them likely not being in a position to take either, he noted, cleans things up for the team a bit.

“I think Josh Jackson is that two-way player, probably the best perimeter defender in the draft, can guard multiple positions,” he said. “Also is a really great passer, ball-handler. The only thing he really isn’t is a great shooter, but as you know, the Suns have some shooters like Devin Booker already in the backcourt that can reduce the impact of having one guy that isn’t a great shooter.”

Ford went on to say he sees Jackson has the hardest working player in the draft.

“He has an elite motor, he’s ultra-competitive,” he said. “He’s sort of like a 6’8″ version of Kevin Garnett, in some ways.”

Sounds good, right?

Of course, the Suns are not the only team who could benefit from a player like that, and picking fourth overall, it’s possible — perhaps even likely — Jackson will be off the board by the time they can pick.

If he is, another name likely to be linked to them over the next month is Jayson Tatum, a 6-foot-8 wing who averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game for Duke as a freshman.

“Tatum is the best scoring wing in this draft, he is already an elite scorer,” Ford said. “When you watch him play, I think he might be the most NBA-ready of the top prospects — he’s got pro moves, he’s got the right mentality, he’s so aggressive from everywhere on the floor.

“The question for him is a little bit, is he one-dimensional? He’s not an elite three-point shooter — actually, Josh Jackson shot it better from three than Jayson Tatum did, but Tatum’s form looks better — he’s not a guy that’s going to get you assists the way Josh Jackson is, and he was a, pretty, I don’t want to say pathetic defender, but he wasn’t a very good defender.”

Ford pondered how Tatum would fit with someone like T.J. Warren, who the Suns chose in the first round in 2014 and still appears to be part of the team’s future.

“I think there’s a lot of similarities there between them, and so Josh Jackson, I think, brings something to the table that the Suns don’t have, which is that elite, lock-down defender at multiple positions.”

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