Josh Jackson Should Be in the Discussion For #1 Overall Pick in the NBA Draft

By Jason McIntyre

Nobody has had a better NCAA Tournament than Kansas freshman Josh Jackson. Offensively he’s showed the entire arsenal – step-back 3-pointers, post-up moves, taking people off the dribble – and defensively he’s been just as impressive, between his skywalking blocks and his smart, one-man-zone against Purdue (four steals).

At 6-foot-8, he’s a prototypical small forward in the NBA – part Paul George, part Jimmy Butler.

Can someone explain why he isn’t in the discussion for the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft?*

The draft lottery on May 16 will be perhaps the most significant in a decade. Depending on whom you talk to, there could be four franchise players in this draft: guards Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, and forwards Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum.

The draft lottery will be the first massive domino to fall, followed by what happens in the playoffs. The Boston Celtics, who might have the #1 pick, could make a deep run. Or get bounced early. That certainly will impact their outlook on the future.

There are too many hypotheticals to go through, but consider this: What if the Celtics land the #1 pick, the Lakers are at #3, and Danny Ainge says, “hey Magic, you want/need Lonzo Ball, or his dad is gonna lose it. Flip us #3 and [insert a future pick here] you can have the 1st pick.”

Boston slides down to #3 and grabs the wing it has coveted for two years: Josh Jackson. I know they drafted Jaylen Brown last year, but this gives them two long, talented wings, perhaps to play with a big and two guards in a deadly small ball lineup. You don’t quite have the 3-point shooting of the Warriors, but you definitely have the athleticism on the wing.

How scary is Brad Stevens for the next five years if he’s got a nucleus of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and Josh Jackson? [I know I left out Isaiah Thomas. That’s for another post on another day.]

Take the Philadelphia 76ers. They just drafted Ben Simmons to be their point guard of the future. He’s 6-foot-10, but can run the point because he’s such a fantastic passer. They’re set with bigs (Embiid, Daric) but really hurting at SG/SF. Do you want a Lonzo Ball-Ben Simmons tandem – two really unselfish players – or would you prefer Simmons/Jackson?

Some teams – Knicks, Kings – are dying for a point guard. Other teams – Suns, Hornets – are pretty solid in the backcourt, and could use help on the wing.

Tatum was ahead of Jackson for much of January/February, but this NCAA run has really pushed Jackson into the discussion for the #1 overall pick. If he can shut down Dillon Brooks Saturday in the Elite 8, it’ll only bolster his case.

*Of course the NBA is a guard league. (But it’s also a 3-point league.) It’s been that way for over a decade. It was a big man league in the 90s/early 00s but then Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson and Shaq left the league and every big man wanted to shoot from the perimeter.