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Suns target versatility, defense and shooting with three picks in NBA Draft

Texas guard Kerwin Roach Jr. (12) passes the ball as Kansas' Landen Lucas, left, and Josh Jackson (11) defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, in Austin, Texas. Kansas won 77-67. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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PHOENIX — In the days leading up to the draft and even hours beforehand, the Phoenix Suns found themselves in the midst of one trade rumor after another.

The speculation — via unnamed sources, of course — had linked the Suns to Jimmy Butler, Paul George, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap and Kristaps Porzingis.

In the end, nothing happened. At least not by the close of business on Thursday.

The Suns not only kept the No. 4 overall pick to take Kansas small forward Josh Jackson but their two second-round selections, Miami guard Davon Reed and Valparaiso forward Alec Peters, as they continue to add to their core through the draft.

“We had conversations around four leading up to the draft,” GM Ryan McDonough said, “but over the last 24 to 48 hours, once we got more comfort that Josh was going to be there at four or likely to be there at four, I think that made us even more steadfast to hang on to the pick unless somebody blew us away with an offer.”

The Suns had Jackson rated as the best player in the draft.

At 6-foot-8 and 207 pounds, Jackson can play and guard multiple positions on the perimeter. His versatility, like Reed’s McDonough added, is key.

“That’s the way the league is going,” he said. “Obviously the ability to play multiple positions, especially defensively I don’t think that’s ever been more important. It gives coaches a lot of options.”

Pairing Jackson with Devin Booker and T.J. Warren, McDonough now believes the Suns have three of the better young perimeter players in the league.

“In our opinion,” he said, “elite wings — two-way wings — are the hardest players in the NBA to find. And that’s no disrespect to guards or bigs or whatever but elite wings with that kind of versatility—I don’t want to say Golden State started the trend although they may have mastered it in terms of getting a bunch of guys like that at a high level. We’re trying to see if we can do something similar.”

Though both Jackson and Reed can put the ball in the basket, it’s their defense that attracted the Suns.

Already Jackson is being looked at as the replacement for P.J. Tucker, whom the Suns dealt to Toronto at the trade deadline.

Jackson led Kansas with 59 steals and 37 blocked shots, while Reed, listed at 6-foot-6, made the ACC All-Defensive Team his senior year at Miami.

McDonough also spoke of a toughness Jackson, 20, and Reed, 22, bring.

Jackson plays with an edge, according to McDonough, and “frankly I thought we needed some more of that, I think we need some more of that as a team. He’s the kind of player who will raise the level in practice and in drills. And from what we’ve gathered, he’s not afraid to call people out who don’t compete that hard or aren’t that aggressive going after something.”

McDonough called Reed a blue-collar player.

“He didn’t put up huge scoring numbers or anything like that, but with our roster we didn’t feel like we needed that. We needed somebody who could defend their position, again, make open spot-up shots and brought, in addition to Josh, brought some toughness and grit and reliability and we think Davon checks all those boxes,” McDonough said.

Over four years at Miami, Reed made 202 3-pointers, the seventh-most in school history.

Peters, 22, meanwhile, broke Valparaiso’s career marks in scoring, field goals made and free throws made. He finished second all-time in 3-pointers made.

Named the Horizon League Player of the Year, Peters is a 6-foot-9 forward who can stretch the floor.

“He and Davon, our two second-round picks, we feel like we got two of the better shooters in the draft, which is obviously another area that we need to improve,” McDonough said.

With the new additions, the Suns’ roster now includes 11 players 24 years or younger, and that’s counting centers Alex Len and Alan Williams who are set to become restricted free agents.

“When you watch them play,” McDonough said, referring to Jackson, Reed and Peters, “they’re not screwing around. They’re serious-minded guys. You watch them in warm-ups, you watch them obviously when the game starts, they’re out there to do a job and attack.

“Again, we like that aspect of them, we like the fact that they can defend their position, hopefully multiple positions, and they fill holes on our roster at least with our young group. They filled in slots where we had a need.”

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