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Suns GM says Josh Jackson was the best player in the draft

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Kansas' Josh Jackson, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Phoenix Suns as the fourth pick overall during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in New York.

Kansas' Josh Jackson, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Phoenix Suns as the fourth pick overall during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in New York. by Frank Franklin II/AP Photo

During a press conference Thursday night, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admitted he would’ve slept much better in the past few weeks if his team landed a higher pick in the NBA Draft.

But McDonough was relieved Thursday when the draft played out how he expected, and he still landed the player that he really wanted with the No. 4 overall selection: Josh Jackson.

After watching Jackson in workouts leading up to the draft, McDonough believes the Suns landed a player who is a perfect fit for their young core of talent, which includes wings Devin Booker and TJ Warren.

“We thought Josh Jackson was the best player in the draft,” McDonough said. “People say, well you know, he’s the best two-way player, and the last I checked the game was played two ways, you don’t just play one.”

Throughout the past month, Jackson was linked as a potential pick for the top three teams in the draft: the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

In the past week, trades signaled that the 76ers would take Markelle Fultz and the Lakers would take hometown point guard Lonzo Ball. Jackson never participated in a workout for the Celtics, setting the stage for the Suns to take him.

McDonough kept tabs on Jackson throughout his one-and-done season at Kansas, and was his impressed by his impact. He cited KU’s loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals when Jackson was suspended for the game.

“He’s a very competitive guy,” McDonough said. “He’s a very driven guy. He’s the kind of player who will raise the level in practice and drills. 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.”

With the hope that Jackson can turn into an NBA All-Star, the Suns are confident that Jackson will be able to fix any flaws with his jump shot.

Even without perfect form, Jackson made 37.8 percent of his shots from behind the 3-point line. According to hoop-math.com, he shot 38.1 percent on jump shots inside of the arc.

“I think Josh is a guy who has shot the ball better in games than he would do in practice or drills or something like that,” McDonough said. “I think he’s a gamer. You guys have been around the game long enough, you know what that means. I think he has the ability to raise his game to the level of competition.”

When considering Jackson with the fourth overall pick, the Suns conducted plenty of research to his off-the-court incidents. McDonough said they always try to be “very thorough” with any pick, but estimated they talked to 20 to 30 sources about Jackson’s incident outside of a Lawrence bar where he was accused of causing damage to a car. He later signed a diversion agreement.

“The more we learned about Josh, the more comfortable we got,” McDonough said. “I talked to coach Self (Wednesday) night and he swears by Josh and he swears by his character. Thinks he’s a great kid and great competitor.”

Jackson is expected to suit up in a Suns uniform for the first time during the NBA's summer league in Las Vegas.

McDonough is confident that Jackson will make an immediate impact and he has all the potential to become one of the league's top players.

“If he can shoot the ball at a high level, even an above-average level, I think he has a chance to be a star,” McDonough said. “Other than that offensively, he moves the ball very well. I think he is one of the better passing wings that we’ve scouted and I’ve scouted in a long time.”

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