The Phoenix Suns draft strategy will largely depend on the results of the lottery this coming Tuesday. Got the first overall pick? Take Markelle Fultz. Drop to 4th or 5th? Look harder at De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Jonathan Isaac.
But if the Suns settle into the second or third pick, most eyeballs will shift toward small forward Josh Jackson from Kansas and Lonzo Ball from UCLA. Those two are widely considered the next two best prospects off the board after someone makes the no-brainer pick of Markelle Fultz.
Now let’s take a deep dive into Josh Jackson, who played one season at Kansas before declaring for the draft.
Position: Small Forward
Weight: 203 lb
Wingspan: 6-10’ (has not measured since entering college)
Stats (Kansas Jayhawks): 16.3 points (37.8% 3P shooting), 7.4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks
Best asset: High motor, constant motion help on defense, offense and rebounding
Poor man’s NBA comp: Jimmy Butler, Paul George
If you are looking for the next Jimmy Butler or Paul George - both max-contract multi-time All-Stars who can carry a team on both ends of the court - then the closest you are going to get in this draft is Josh Jackson.
While some will question Jackson’s length because his wingspan is only 6-10” at best, his constant effort, motion, and ability to slide his feet to stay in front of his man, help make up for the 1-2 inches of arms he wishes his mom would have baked in 20 years ago.
Offensively, Jackson does a little of everything and scores easily inside and out, but does have a questionable shooting form that no one would teach to an impressionable kid.
Most scouts and GMs have called this 2017 Draft one of the two or three best in the last 15 years since the all-time great 2003 collection. Since Jackson is slotted at the very top - which is a lot higher than George’s 10th slot or Butler’s 30th - you have to consider that he might not JUST be a poor man’s version of those two one day.
Watch this video to get good glimpse of what he brings to an NBA team: explosiveness, offensive versatility, defensive impact and NBA readiness.
Jackson is always on the move, and always ready to catch a lob or drive into traffic to finish with one. If you enjoyed watching Marquese Chriss and Derrick Jones Jr. last year slamming home dunks, you will more of that with Jackson. And the way he jumps after the ball on rebounds makes me think of young Shawn Marion’s pogo sticks.
But unlike Quese and DJJ, Josh Jackson brings so much more to the table. Jackson can create and finish in traffic, he can shoot from distance, he can lead a break IN TRAFFIC and either finish or dish to the open man, and he can pass so well that he can play a point-forward position on offense. Watch him run the P-n-R, working the screen, dishing passes with either hand to a guy in scoring position.
Defensively, he is very active on and off the ball. He can slide, has what they call fast-twitch reactions to the offensive player’s moves, has active hands and plays physical.
After reading all those strengths, and doing your best fandom thing by shrugging off the weird long-range shooting motion, you have to be wondering if Jackson is a potential Hall of Fame player as the SF version of Kevin Garnett.
That may be, but there are hurdles to overcome.
He’s not very consistent from range, he has yet to show his ability to create shots in the half-court against NBA wings, he won’t win any length contests, and he’s a little undisciplined.
As you can guess by that shooting motion that only looks a little better than Shawn Marion’s (has a much higher release, but the rest of it is eerily similar), Josh Jackson does not have the most consistent shot among rookies.
He also has yet to show the ability to create his own offense. He’s a like a super-version of Quese and DJJ with some ball-handling and creating ability for others, but if put to the test to isolate and create his own offense, he’s shown some struggles with that.
Where Jackson stands out from the crowd at the top of the draft is his attitude and constant motor.
In some ways, he looks and acts like a smaller Kevin Garnett who can be a defensive “glue” guy and floor leader, even from the wing. Jackson has a fiery personality that could mesh well with Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss to form a threesome with an edge as they try to build the Suns back into a playoff team.
The key would be to make Jackson your verbal defensive leader on the floor. The Suns have way too few talkers on defense, which a killer in the NBA once the opponent goes into secondary actions and forces switches and adjustments on the fly.
Taking Jackson fits very well into the current Suns roster. He can share the small forward minutes with T.J. Warren, while sometimes playing together in a small lineup. He also allows you to keep Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis running the show at the point, makes a nice pair with Devin Booker on the wing and doesn’t get in the way of Bender and Chriss development at the big positions.
If the Suns land the #2 or #3 overall pick, they should definitely take Jackson.
With Jackson, Booker, Chriss and Bender - all 19-20 years old - you have a very nice core around which to build over the next few years.