Suns select Josh Jackson with fourth pick in NBA Draft

Jun 22, 2017, 4:55 PM | Updated: 6:26 pm
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)...
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Josh Jackson was there after all.

After the Kansas swingman’s stock soared to the point where he was reportedly in the mix to be selected by the Lakers at No. 2, he ended up falling into the lap of the Phoenix Suns. John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station, reported Boston would take Jayson Tatum at No. 3 and then the Suns’ pick would be Jackson.

With the pick, the Suns grabbed the best two-way lottery talent in the 2017 NBA Draft with the fourth overall selection.

Following a pre-draft day trade that put the Sixers atop the order and the Celtics third behind Los Angeles, Philadelphia started the draft by selecting Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.

The Lakers followed by taking UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, and the Celtics went with Duke small forward Jayson Tatum as a more complementary pick alongside last year’s No. 3 pick, Jaylen Brown.

That led the 6-foot-8, 207-pound Jackson to Phoenix.

“I think I can bring a lot of defensive versatility, a lot of offensive versatility. You know, I can guard 1 through 4 on the defensive end and I can play 1 through 4 on the offensive end,” Jackson told ESPN at the draft.

The 20-year-old averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a freshman at Kansas. He shot 51 percent overall and, despite a questionable jump shot, 38 percent from three-point range. Jackson struggled at the foul line, hitting just 57 percent there.

One of the more athletic players in the draft, Jackson flashed an intensity on the defensive end that was reflected in his 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Jackson is the complement to Suns guard Devin Booker on both ends, able to pick up a more athletic opponent on defense or run the offense alongside Booker in an oversized backcourt. Jackson’s solid handle and passing instincts make him the perfect fit alongside ball-dominant backcourt mates in Booker and Eric Bledsoe, as noted in our pre-draft profile of the Kansas swingman.

Jackson thrived playing in an offense alongside two ball-dominant guards in Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, and his efficiency shooting said as much about his willingness to play team ball than anything. Jackson has sound handles and proved most capable breaking down defenses in the halfcourt to score at the rim or make the smart pass — again, that was easier when his jumper was falling.

Therein lies the problem.

Much of Jackson’s production came with him playing as a ball-handling power forward, where he was able to easily take defenders off the dribble or cause havoc running them off screens. The threat of the jumper played a big role in that, as college bigs out of their element reacted to Jackson’s pump-fakes.

Aside from Jackson’s jumper, which with improvement could be the trigger to him becoming more than an elite role player, the only other dings on his draft resume were two off-court incidents in his single year at Kansas.

From a wider lens considering the Suns’ perspective, the selection of Jackson appears to be a fine fit.

Beyond adding a wing who will compete with T.J. Warren, who is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, the Suns’ selection of Jackson clears up concerns that Bledsoe’s days in Phoenix might be coming to an end had they selected point guards Lonzo Ball with a higher draft choice — Phoenix had the second-best odds in the lottery — or De’Aaron Fox, who was also reportedly in consideration as the No. 4 pick.

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