For every promising young rookie who enters the NBA, there’s always some inevitable player comparison slapped on him — fairly or unfairly — by those who have analyzed his skills, style, strengths and weaknesses.
Months before Josh Jackson became the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, the 20-year-old small forward’s defensive intensity and offensive potential had some observers equating Jackson’s longterm career path with that of All-Star San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard.
As it turns out, Jackson welcomes that demanding player analogy.
Appearing on NBA TV’s “The Starters” following a Phoenix Suns win at the the Las Vegas Summer League, Jackson said he, too, would compare his game to Leonard’s, and he hopes to model his career after the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
“The way he just plays both ends of the floor, defense and offense,” Jackson said of how he wants to emulate Leonard. “He’s just a really good player, and in today’s NBA league it’s kind of hard to find a guy who plays so hard on both ends just all the time.”
Leonard, the 15th overall pick in 2011, wasn’t as touted then as Jackson is now. But the Spurs’ latest franchise player, a two-time member of the All-NBA team, currently finds himself in the running for MVP honors every season after entering the league as a supposed defensive specialist.
“Defense creates offense,” Jackson said.
A 6-foot-8 small forward, Jackson would like to establish himself as someone who can do that for Phoenix, in Las Vegas. Teaming up with other key members of the Suns’ very young core — such as bigs Dragan Bender (19) and Marquese Chriss (20) — has Jackson locked in months before the real season starts.
“I’m really excited. Especially playing in summer league with a few guys who are actually going to be asked to play major minutes this year,” Jackson said. “That’s why I think it’s just really important for us to come out and take this serious. It’s actually a lot more important (for us) than some other teams here, because, like I said, we are so young and we’ve got so many guys who are going to play major minutes for us this year on the team.”
That means it’s more likely than not Jackson’s fiery side will come out on the court before he leaves Vegas. He told “The Starters” he’s the best trash-talker in this year’s rookie class, but he only utilizes that strategy “here and there, when I want to.”
While he admitted he has taken trash talk a step too far in the heat of battle before, Jackson said the approach can be harnessed to his benefit, too.
“It gets me going. I try to get under other players’ skin,” he said. “But mostly it gets me going.”
Among the many topics Jackson dove into, he also touched on why he is wearing a No. 99 jersey for the Suns this summer. When he was a ninth-grader and coming up on the AAU circuit he wore that same unique basketball number on his chest and back.
“That was actually the last number I wore before I wore 11,” Jackson said, adding he can’t have the same digits that donned his Kansas jersey for Phoenix (guard Brandon Knight currently wears No. 11).
Through two exhibitions in Vegas, Jackson is averaging a summer league-high 36 minutes a game, while putting up 16.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks, and shooting .343 from the floor.
Some incoming rookies might have looked at the Phoenix Suns’ 24-58 record — last in the NBA’s Western Conference this past season — and began concocting ways to avoid getting drafted by an organization in the early stages of a rebuilding project.
Josh Jackson did the opposite.
The one-and-done wing out of Kansas and his management team instead sought out the desert as a destination.
“It’s definitely a place I’ve thought about being ever since the draft lottery,” Jackson said at his introductory press conference in Phoenix, after the Suns stole the multi-talented, 6-foot-8 wing at No. 4 in the 2017 draft. “I look at the team and I just really get excited. This team has so much promise and I think I fit in pretty well, so I’m more than happy to be here, and I can’t wait to see what we can do this year.”
The Suns have won less than 30 percent of their games in each of the previous two seasons. So what does Jackson envision that others don’t?
“I thought that one of the most special things about this team is the youth that we have,” he said, adding that the young core he is joining — which includes Devin Booker (20 years old), Marquese Chriss (19), Dragan Bender (19), T.J. Warren (23) and Eric Bledsoe (27) — would be able to grow together.
The Phoenix roster, as comprised entering the summer, doesn’t exactly scream playoff contender. And although Jackson didn’t make any claims about what the team could accomplish in his rookie season, it was clear that his fascination with joining the Suns had more to do with the longterm.
“I remember watching Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green when they were all young, and they didn’t seem to click as well” Jackson said, referring to three eventual stars drafted between 2009 and 2013 by the Golden State Warriors, winners of two of the last three NBA championships. “But as time went on and they got older they just had the best team chemistry. And now look at them.”
The hope in Phoenix is that Booker, Jackson and either one, or both, of their young power forwards from the 2016 draft — Chriss and Bender — and/or a to-be-determined 2018 lottery pick (spoiler alert: the Suns aren’t making the playoffs next season) will form a combination capable of developing into a stellar team in the future.
“When coach (Earl Watson) came and visited me and watched us work out that was one of his key points, just being able to give the young guys opportunity,” Jackson said. “He knows we’re not perfect, we’re gonna come out and mess up. But we have to have that opportunity to be able to come out and make mistakes so we can learn from them and get better.”
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who no doubt also preached that opportunity concept to Jackson ahead of the draft, didn’t back off the Golden State ideal model referenced by Jackson. McDonough said he and his team studied how the Warriors and Oklahoma City turned around their franchises through the draft.
“It starts with the caliber of the player, in terms of the talent, in terms of their approach. Most teams with young players don’t win a lot of games — we get that part of it,” McDonough said. “But if the guys work hard, grow together and grow on the same timeline you can turn it pretty quickly and takeoff pretty quickly.”
No one looks at the current Phoenix core and sees a Curry-Green-Thompson trio or Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook/James Harden-type combo in the making. At least not yet. If Phoenix adds a top-three pick in a year or finds a way to trade for another up-and-coming talent this summer, it could be on its way to the kind of drastic turnaround Jackson envisions.
It might not work out that way, but Jackson will do everything within his power to restore the hopes of a franchise that has missed the playoffs seven consecutive years — and counting.
Leading up to next week’s NBA Draft, many have scrutinized the merits of Josh Jackson’s basketball skills and debated just how high those attributes should carry him up the big board of a loaded rookie class.
The defense, passing and athleticism Jackson displayed during his one season at Kansas make him worthy of a top pick, but every time someone takes a deep dive into his draftability, his off-the-court stumbles from his time in Lawrence come up, too.
As the Journal-World reported in May, the 20-year-old prospect reached a diversion agreement in a case of criminal damage to property, which included writing a letter of apology and anger management classes.
Fielding questions from the media for the first time since then earlier this week in Los Angeles, following his second pre-draft workout with the Lakers, Jackson didn’t mind addressing those mandated classes when a reporter asked him about the matter.
“There is some truth to that. I have been taking an anger management course,” Jackson said. “I’m just about wrapping it up right now. It was just something I had to do and I learned from the mistake that I made. I’m making it through it.”
The 6-foot-8 wing, who could end up playing in L.A. if the Lakers decide to take him with the No. 2 overall pick, said he had learned from the experience.
“One of the biggest things I got out of it was just to worry about the things that I can control and not to worry about the things that I can’t,” said Jackson, who never bristled at any topic thrown at him by media during his brief time with the Jayhawks. “It sounds so simple, but I went home and I thought about that a lot. It made a huge amount of sense to me, because there’s a lot of things in this world that we can’t control, yet frustrate us. But you just can’t worry about them too much.”
Jackson, no doubt, has answered questions on the matter every time he has spoken with an NBA decision-maker over the past couple of months. And franchises all have ways of performing in-depth background checks on incoming rookies, especially those who could soon become the young face of the team. Owners and management don’t want to invest their money or the organization’s future in a person who will bring them unnecessary headaches.
It doesn’t appear teams are too worried about Jackson the human being, despite his mistakes. If they were, you would hear predraft reports of his stock dropping and teams leaning toward staying away from him.
With a week to go before the big night in Brooklyn, if anything, Jackson is trending upward, challenging UCLA’s Lonzo Ball for the No. 2 spot. The way he handled the questions regarding the anger management class that accompanied his diversion is a sign he’s addressing his maturity, as well as his game, which will only impress the NBA teams that are paying very close attention.
It turns out the Josh Jackson to Los Angeles buzz was just starting to hum when the one-and-done Kansas standout canceled a workout with Boston the week before the NBA Draft. Less than 24 hours later, Jackson showed up Tuesday at the Lakers’ practice facility for an examination with the Celtics’ historical rival.
A possible draft target for L.A., which owns the No. 2 pick, Jackson told media following the session he was excited about working out for the Lakers for the second time in a six-day span.
“I was all for it. Of course, I’m not gonna tell them no,” Jackson said. “It was just an honor to be here today. I just want to thank the whole organization for having me.”
The 20-year-old wing who displayed his versatility on both ends of the court throughout his lone season with the Jayhawks met with and played in front of Lakers legend and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, head coach Luke Walton and other members of the organization the previous week, too. That was in Sacramento, with Jackson’s trainer, and more on his terms.
“But today I kind of got out of my comfort zone a little bit working out with their training staff,” Jackson said. “I thought both went pretty good.”
In the mind of the 6-foot-8 prospect from Detroit, he felt in better shape for workout No. 2, and his objective for the on-court job interview was to provide proof that he’s addressed some of his perceived weaknesses as a player, such as 3-point shooting and ball-handling.
“A lot of things people know I can do. I’m athletic, long, lanky,” the 203-pound athlete with a 6-9 3/4 wingspan said, “but I’m just trying to show that I’ve improved since the end of the season at Kansas.”
From the moment the Lakers secured the No. 2 pick via the draft lottery, many assumed the organization would select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball in that spot — right after the Celtics presumably take Washington guard Markelle Fultz at No. 1. But given the Lakers’ interest in meeting with Jackson a second time (they reportedly are trying to do the same with Ball), the incoming rookie was asked whether his chances of playing for L.A. seem to be improving.
“It was definitely more of a ‘come in, try to impress them.’ And hopefully I impressed them enough,” Jackson replied. “But they can’t look past any guy in this draft because we’re all really, really talented, and I think we all bring a lot to the table.”
Fultz, Jackson, Ball and Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, who worked out for the Lakers before Jackson on Tuesday, all seem to be coveted talents. The rumors and conjecture surrounding who ends up where only will ramp up between now and the June 22 draft.
While the two best teams in the NBA clashed in The Finals Monday night, news of one top incoming rookie canceling a pre-draft workout with a preeminent franchise sneaked out.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman came through with the surprising scoop: One-and-done Kansas wing Josh Jackson scrapped a workout with the Boston Celtics, who own the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft.
This past Thursday, Jackson met with and played in front of the Los Angeles Lakers, who will pick No. 2. So why would he decide against displaying his skills for the Celtics?
It’s not as if Jackson is in Lonzo Ball’s overpriced Big Baller Brand shoes, with his father appearing on every sports-based argument show that will have him, claiming the Lakers are the best fit.
Jackson is fierce on the court, and you know he would take great pride in being selected first overall. So obviously there are other factors at play.
Perhaps Jackson’s management has advised him against a session with Boston because Washington’s Markelle Fultz has emerged as a lock for the No. 1 spot. Or maybe, as many have speculated since Goodman reported the cancellation, a team (conceivably the Lakers) already has made a promise to Jackson that it will draft him.
Who knows? The only conclusion we can really draw from this is there’s little chance of Jackson ending up with the Celtics, unless the team trades down in the draft, with Jackson becoming a piece of a more enticing collection of assets than Fultz alone.
Now it seems — barring some as of yet unforeseen trade, of course — Jackson is bound for either the Lakers at No. 2 or Philadelphia at No. 3. Neither would be a bad place to start for the 20-year-old talent from Detroit. Both the Lakers and Sixers have struggled the past few years. But the NBA’s structure sets such organizations up with high lottery odds, enabling them to stockpile young, talented players.
As a Laker or Sixer, Jackson would join a core built for the future, and that’s certainly not a bad thing, considering Golden State and Cleveland seem bound to meet in The Finals as long as LeBron James plays for the Cavaliers and Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are Warriors.
Maybe three years from now, LeBron finally shows some rust, just as the Sixers are on the come up with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jackson leading the way.
Or, possibly, the Lakers really do prefer Jackson to Ball, L.A. gets Paul George next year and the purple and gold are back to their yearly playoff runs sooner than everybody thought.
Either way, Jackson will be just fine — even if he doesn’t get to join a Celtics organization much closer to contending for a title.
Forget Markelle Fultz. Ignore Lonzo Ball. Get out of here with that Jayson Tatum noise. Pay no attention to the De’Aaron Fox buzz.
ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose has seen the most valuable incoming rookie. And his name is Josh Jackson.
Rose, a Detroit native like Jackson, brought up the most promising Kansas basketball talent in the draft during a broadcast of the show he co-hosts, “Jalen & Jacoby.” And Rose did so while discussing whether Boston, owner of the No. 1 overall pick, will draft Fultz, the versatile guard who spent his one-and-done season at Washington, or trade the pick in a move to land an established all-star.
“If I’m the Celtics, and they’re drafting for somebody else, don’t be surprised if that team wants them to take (Jackson),” Rose said. “I’m looking at you, Indiana.”
The Pacers, with whom Rose played for six seasons during his NBA career, are rumored to be looking into trade options for all-star forward Paul George before he hits free agency in 2018. Whether Jackson ends up with that franchise or another, Rose proclaimed the 6-foot-8 forward who wowed spectators and scouts alike with the Jayhawks is an NBA rookie to watch out for next season.
“He’s gonna be a player,” Rose said of Jackson, who averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists for KU. “I haven’t really decided who I’m gonna compare him to, but he’s gonna be a lockdown defender that can play multiple positions. He’s an improved jump-shooter. And he has more bounce to the ounce at the hoop.”
Rose wasn’t done there, going on to praise Jackson’s toughness.
“See, that’s one of the things I look for in a player that ain’t a measurable that’s gonna be on the stat sheet,” Rose added. “And so, if I’m picking number one, just in a vacuum, regardless of need, if I’m thinking I’m taking the best player that’s actually who I personally would take first overall.”
According to Rose, the 20-year-old Jackson is the “most valuable” rookie in the 2017 draft class.
“When we’re watching basketball, in November, December, he’s gonna be a guy out there (getting thrown) in for minutes, SC Top 10 just banged on somebody catching a lob,” Rose predicted. “Like that’s gonna be his trajectory. Other players are gonna have terrific situations, hopefully, that they can be productive in. But if he falls in the right spot…”
At DraftExpress.com, Jackson is holding steady as the projected No. 3 pick, for Philadelphia. But all three teams at the top of the board — Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sixers — have seen their names come up in draft trade rumors. So there’s a chance Jackson might not necessarily end up playing for the Celtics, Lakers or Philly, or even the teams who should hope he drops out of the top three, Phoenix and Sacramento.
In the five weeks between now and the 2017 NBA Draft, a lot can, and most likely will, change — particularly in the realm of opinions on the potential impact of the most sought-after incoming rookies.
For the moment, it seems the likeliest scenario for one-year Kansas star Josh Jackson is heading to Philadelphia as the No. 3 pick and teaming up with a young core built around one-time Jayhawks center Joel Embiid.
Most around The Association assume Washington’s Markelle Fultz will go No. 1 to Boston (or to some team that trades an all-star in exchange for that slot) and the Lakers will take UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick. That leaves the 76ers, a team lacking in the productive guard department, with the choice between Jackson and what’s left of what is considered a great crop of point guards.
In a lottery reaction episode of The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express was asked which player makes sense for Philadelphia if it’s not a lead guard.
“I think they really have to look at Josh Jackson,” Givony said, “and they have to bring him into their gym and figure out, ‘How far away is this guy from being a good shooter?’”
As those who followed KU’s 2016-17 season closely will recall, Jackson greatly improved his 3-point accuracy over the final few months of his brief time with the Jayhawks. The versatile 6-foot-8 forward from Detroit showed his biggest weakness wasn’t a completely lost cause by hitting 38.5% of his 3-pointers in January, 47.8% in February and 40% in March.
“If you can get him some good looks and you can continue to develop his stroke,” Givony said of why Jackson made sense for the Sixers, after referencing his late-season surge. “In the NBA not everybody comes in as a finished product.”
We have no way of knowing whether Philadelphia coach Brett Brown and his staff would take this route, but Givony wondered whether Jackson could be persuaded into changing up his shooting mechanics with the endgame of adding an effective NBA-range 3-point shot to his arsenal.
“People say great things about his work ethic. And he really does everything else,” Givony added. “He’s a phenomenal defender. He’s a great passer. He’s outstanding in transition. He can play a lot of different positions. You can play him off the ball — you can play him on the ball a little bit even. There’s a lot there with Josh Jackson. They need to look at him.”
Teams taking gambles in the NBA Draft is a June tradition, but selecting Jackson with the third overall pick wouldn’t qualify as a risk for the Sixers. The only unpredictability accompanying the 20-year-old prospect is his often-scrutinized jumper. No, it’s not a pure, fluid stroke — Jackson brings the ball down low and shows it a bit as he rises up on 3-pointers. But which is more likely: Jackson stinks from long range for his entire career or he works at it until it becomes a trusted part of his game?
Jackson is too competitive to take a complacent approach to owning a below-average 3-point shot, especially now that so many NBA teams value that real estate behind the arc more than ever. He’s not entering the league with a trustworthy 3-pointer, but I’d bet on him adapting into at least a serviceable long-distance threat sooner than later. Same goes for his 56.6% free-throw shooting as a college freshman.
Philadelphia would still have the ability via free agency or the trade market to go after the floor-balancing shooter it needs. No player available at No. 3 other than Jackson is entering the NBA with as complete a skill set. And a nucleus of Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Jackson with some to-be-determined guards (by the way: the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick next year, which is bound to be in the lottery) projects as one of the league’s up-and-coming teams, able to contend in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
The Ping Pong balls have spoken, and a trio of the NBA’s classic franchises will decide between them which incoming rookies will occupy the top three picks in the 2017 draft.
Thanks to The Association’s annual lottery on Tuesday, one-and-done Kansas star Josh Jackson, a projected top-three pick, has a much better feel for what his future holds. And the versatile 6-foot-8 forward very well could end up the fresh young face in one of the league’s marquee markets.
Odds are Jackson won’t go first overall — that spot long has been associated with Washington point guard Markelle Fultz. But, most likely, Jackson won’t drop any farther than fifth, either. Two to four seem the safest bets for where Jackson lands. But since we’re here we might as well dive into some NBA lottery reaction and look at why each of the top five teams would be interested in kicking the shoes on Jackson to see if they want to add him to their roster.
No. 1 - Boston
This would be a fantastic spot for the rookie from KU to begin his professional career. But, at this point in time, it seems as if Boston is more likely to take Fultz or trade the pick for an established all-star.
But one never knows what Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is thinking. If, by June 22, Ainge were to shock everyone and decide upon taking Jackson, it likely would mean he’s too enamored with the team’s current backcourt rotation of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier to break it up with Fultz or Lonzo Ball. However, the current contracts for Thomas, Bradley and Smart expire in the summer of 2018, so it would make sense for Boston to take a young potential star guard on a rookie deal and move on from one of the more established members of the backcourt.
Don’t bet on seeing Jackson in Celtics green.
No. 2 - L.A. Lakers
Jackson has the personality and game to shine in L.A. However, this spot screams Big Baller Brand. If the Lakers are as crazy about UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball as his father, LaVar, is about the idea of his son joining one of the NBA’s storied franchises, then Jackson has no shot at wearing that classic purple and gold uniform.
Unless, that is, Lakers legend and current president of basketball operations Magic Johnson — long familiar with Jackson’s game due to his ties with his alma mater, Michigan State, and that program’s recruitment of the Detroit native — sees more overall potential in Jackson. L.A. does, after all, already have a couple of young point guards in Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. Then again, it wouldn’t be too difficult to part ways with one of them and hand the keys over to Ball, the local prodigy.
No. 3 - Philadelphia
This is where things really get interesting for Jackson. Many consider him the third-best prospect in a talented draft class. But the Sixers have a glut of young frontcourt players and no longterm answer in the backcourt. Philadelphia already plans on using 6-10 forward Ben Simmons as its primary ball-handler on offense. Would the organization comprise an even less traditional lineup and give Jackson guard minutes, too? If the Sixers took that route they could put a monstrously long lineup on the floor that few teams could match.
If the 76ers want to address needs instead of taking the best available player on the board, though, they could opt for one of the coveted Kentucky guards, De’Aaron Fox or Malik Monk, instead.
For those who follow KU, it would be intriguing to see Joel Embiid, another No. 3 pick from Kansas, team up with Jackson as part of a young core on course to blossom over the next several years and potentially turn into a force in the Eastern Conference.
No. 4 - Phoenix
If Jackson slipped out of the top three, the Suns would be thrilled to have him. Their two best players at this point are guards Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe. Adding a two-way wing such as Jackson, who also happens to be an adept passer and fierce finisher in the open floor, would make Phoenix a team to watch out West in the future.
The Suns had the second-best odds of landing a top-three pick before the lottery balls bounced out of their favor. One would think ownership and coaches would do backflips across the Sonoran Desert if Jackson fell into their laps.
Unless they think Duke’s Jayson Tatum is a better answer. [Scoffs inwardly.]
No. 5 - Sacramento
Look up and down the Kings’ roster and you’ll find a who’s who of “why him?” Sacramento will be thrilled with whomever it drafts fifth overall, because that young man instantly becomes the new centerpiece of the franchise. If the Kings know what’s good for them, they are gathering all their good-luck charms, opening doors for strangers, not cutting anyone off in traffic and praying to the basketball gods at all hours from now until draft night, in the hopes that four other franchises pass on Jackson.
If you’ve kept up with Josh Jackson’s NBA Draft stock over the course of his one-and-done season at Kansas, you know his name often appears following those of Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball on “best available prospect” lists and mock draft scenarios. Sometimes, Jackson even slips out of the top three in the eyes of some evaluators.
And, if you’re like me and wonder why Jackson isn’t more often at least in the conversation as a top-two pick, one new 2017 draft breakdown will leave you nodding your head instead of shaking it.
The Ringer’s NBA Draft Guide ranks the top 60 rookie prospects for the June draft, and only the king of the mocks, 6-foot-4 Washington point guard Fultz, is thought of more highly than Jackson, a versatile 6-8 wing from Kansas who doesn’t have a $495 signature shoe coming out or a father intent on annoying the basketball community at large.
According to analysis from The Rigner’s staff, Jackson could turn into a player as lethal as Tracy McGrady or as versatile as Andre Iguodala. His prospect profile includes a list of his positives and negatives, as well as a telling shot chart, highlighting Jackson’s ability to finish inside (62.5% around the rim) and his favorite area from which to fire behind the arc — the right half of the floor (46.9% on 32 attempts).
Those who watched Jackson play his 35 games in a KU uniform are familiar with the pros and cons he brings to the hardwood. Some of the plus-side attributes referenced at The Ringer include Jackson’s explosiveness, feel for the game, ability as a perimeter/team defender, play-making and rebounding.
The aspects that give evaluators pause? Jackson’s “average” 6-10 wingspan, shooting mechanics and tendency to dwell on negative plays, to name a few.
Obviously even the most elite future pros can be dissected to find their flaws. The majority of the league’s top-three picks, year after year, never come close to transcending to the level of LeBron James or Michael Jordan. Jackson’s overall ability on both ends of the floor, along with his instinctive passing and willingness to defend make him a coveted player and a rare rookie who can compete and contribute immediately. It will be interesting to see if his stock fluctuates at all in the weeks ahead, as various teams invite him in for individual workouts, following Tuesday’s draft lottery.
Why no combine?
Jackson, who passed on attending the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, explained that part of his pre-draft strategy recently in an interview with Rebecca Grant.
“Normally, like the top 10 picks don’t go to that,” Jackson said. “There’s no benefit from it. You can only lose. They already know how good you are, and then if you go there and do bad it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe he’s not that good.’ So it just hurts your draft stock.”
During his Q&A with Grant, Jackson also detailed how his upbringing made him a tough player on the court. The 20-year-old millionaire-to-be said he used to battle his mother, Apples Jones, one-on-one.
“It would get so bad that sometimes I would cry that she would block my shot, take the ball from me,” Jackson said of his games as a youth against the former UTEP player, adding he didn’t defeat his mom at basketball until he was about 14 years old.
When Jackson hears his name called early at the 2017 draft, on June 22, you can bet Jones will have tears in her eyes as she watches what her son has accomplished, with her help.
Josh Jackson won’t know until late June exactly where he will go to begin his NBA career. But the one-and-done Kansas star should have a much better idea of his potential destinations within the week, following the 2017 draft lottery.
Only a handful of organizations will have a shot at adding Jackson, projected as a top-three pick (top-five at worst), to their roster. And while an incoming rookie would be glad to earn a hefty paycheck from any franchise, you know Jackson has to be covertly hoping the Ping Pong balls bounce certain ways during Tuesday’s lottery.
Fourteen teams have varying odds at winning the potentially franchise-altering game of chance. And Jackson’s career arc could take a significantly different path, depending on which teams are lucky enough to secure one of the top three slots.
Here’s a look at which NBA franchises Jackson should hope to see at the top of the draft board — listed from least-appealing to best-case scenario, accompanied by that team’s chances of securing a top-three pick.
The Kings are the trainwrecking-est franchise the league has to offer. They haven’t posted a winning record since the 2005-06 season and moved their only all-league-level talent, DeMarcus Cousins, before this year’s in-season trade deadline. Playing in Sacramento means enduring a losing culture with a franchise whose front office has a track record of shooting itself in the foot.
There is good news for Jackson on this front, though. Through a previous deal, Philadelphia has the ability to swap picks with the Kings. So if Sacramento leapfrogs a number of teams, including the Sixers, into the top-three, Philadelphia could claim that choice as its own. The bad news? It’s not impossible for Philly and the Kings to both land in the top three.
The Magic can’t match the prolonged futility of the Kings, but they appear to have got their hands on Sacramento’s blueprint. The team has hovered in the realm of mediocre to awful since head coach Stan Van Gundy left in 2012. While Orlando has a number of young players on its roster, none of them scream “all-star in the making.”
Jackson could end up as the face of the franchise if the Magic drafted him. But it also would be a very long time before his face showed up during NBA Playoffs broadcasts.
Though the Hornets (the artists previously known as the Bobcats) have made the postseason two times in the last four years they’ve mostly operated as a middling team.
Maybe Jackson emerges as the star wing the franchise has lacked and he spearheads a turnaround with guard Kemba Walker. But that scenario seems more iffy than a certainty.
There aren’t many doomsday scenarios for a prospect as talented as Jackson, so we’re already venturing into “this ain’t so bad” territory with the possibility of him ending up as a key player for his hometown team, the Pistons. Truthfully, the trickiest part of this potential alliance is Detroit would have to part ways with or give up on at least one of its wings for Jackson to fully thrive. Small forwards Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson are under contract for next season.
Suiting up for the Pistons as their primary wing would qualify as more appealing if the team’s highest-paid players — center Andre Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson — began meeting the organization’s expectations.
The Suns have failed to win 25 games each of the past two years, but the future at least seems promising with 20-year-old shooting guard Devin Booker, a productive point guard in Eric Bledsoe and 19-year-old frontcourt lottery picks from 2016, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. Add 20-year-old Jackson to the mix and you’ve got a youthful core with, at the very least, the kind of longterm upside to enliven a franchise that has missed the playoffs every spring since 2010.
Going to the Timberwolves would be near the top of Jackson’s ideal draft-day possibilities if we were just talking about him joining forces with Karl-Anthony Towns and head coach Tom Thibodeau. But Minnesota already has a perimeter forward from Kansas whom Jackson long has drawn comparisons to, Andrew Wiggins.
We know that Jackson and Wiggins have different strengths to their games, but if you put them together in the same lineup a Jackson-Wiggins combo might get a bit too redundant. If one were a 3-point marksman it would be perfect. But neither are, and Minnesota would be better off with the ability to space the floor and maximize the potential of superstar-to-be Towns.
L.A. LAKERS (46.9%)
In name, the Lakers are a glamorous NBA franchise. In reality, they lost at least 67% of their games each of the past four seasons. Picture Jackson wearing the purple and gold and it doesn’t take long to envision him becoming an instant fan favorite with his stylistic passing and vicious attacks of the rim. But are any of the Lakers’ recent lottery choices going to turn into all-stars at any point?
It could be years before the Lakers are back in the playoffs, let alone among the Western Conference’e elite.
NEW YORK (18.3%)
Why would Jackson want to play with the Knicks more than the Lakers? Glad you asked. Although a dysfunctional vibe has surrounded New York for years now, Jackson could turn out to be a vital part of a reboot. The team’s president, Phil Jackson, publicly floated the idea of trading away Carmelo Anthony this offseason. Plug Josh Jackson in his place and you have a vigorous one-two punch, with budding superstar Kristaps Porzingis and Jackson to build around for years to come.
The die-hard Knicks crowd at Madison Square Garden would fawn over Jackson because of his defense and versatility, and he would become an instant hit with New York media. This is sneakily a great outcome if everything were to line up correctly.
NEW ORLEANS (4%)
For the most part, the Pelicans’ roster is really unappealing. But when you look inside and see two of the league’s most dominant big men, the idea of Jackson in The Big Easy becomes highly intriguing. Anthony Davis and Cousins can only do so much for the team on their own. They need a capable wingman who can both set them up on offense and help them out defensively. Sounds like a job for Jackson.
Of note: The Pelicans better hope they sneak into the top three, because if they don’t they relinquish their pick to Sacramento, as agreed upon in the Cousins trade.
Sure, the Sixers have reeked for the past four years, but that was all part of the process. Jackson would be another young piece to add to a roster constructed to take off in the Eastern Conference within the next couple of years. Assuming former KU standout Joel Embiid and 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons can stay relatively healthy, Jackson joins them and Dario Saric to form a strong nucleus, all 23 or younger.
If the Ping Pong balls bounce Philly’s way, the Sixers could even end up with two high lottery picks, because Philadelphia gets the Lakers’ spot if it falls outside of the top three. Now you’re adding yet another coveted talent to the mix and the 76ers suddenly look destined for a profound transformation.
Although the Nuggets have missed the playoffs each of the past four seasons, the organization has — without bottoming out — accumulated enough talent to be a player away from becoming a postseason regular. Denver is set up well for the future, because 22-year-old center Nikola Jokic is on pace to become an All-NBA big as soon as next season. The Nuggets will have salary cap flexibility this summer, too, which makes them a player in free agency, as well as a suitor in potential major trades.
If the team gets lucky enough to draft Jackson, Denver could accelerate its climb in the West.
Dirk Nowitzki will turn 39 this offseason, and the Mavericks are close to entering a new era as a franchise. Landing a player with Jackson’s potential would expedite a smooth transition. Although Dallas’ two most productive players not named Dirk — Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews — dabble in small forward, they, like Jackson, are versatile, so playing all three of them at once wouldn’t be impossible. In fact, Jackson’s play-making ability might actually make things easier for those two, Nowitzki and (restricted free agent) Nerlens Noel in the half-court and open floor.
The best part about playing for Dallas, though, would be Jackson knowing owner Mark Cuban is willing to spend the money necessary to chase after championships.
The odds are not in favor of the Heat jumping to the top of the lottery, because the team went 30-11 in the second half of the season and barely missed the playoffs. But any elite prospect would love to see Miami luck its way to a slot in the top three. The Heat has only missed the postseason five times since Pat Riley, now president, first joined the organization as a head coach in 1995. Because of his success and the franchise’s three NBA championships — fueled, of course, by the presence of historical talents Dwyane Wade and LeBron James — as well as Miami’s location, the Heat are always in the mix for top free agents, too.
Miami will be a projected playoff team next year regardless of how the lottery plays out. If the Heat added Jackson, its prospects could improve for years to come, and he would plug in nicely to a lineup with center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic.
The Celtics secured the No. 1 seed in the East this year and are one victory away from a spot in the conference finals. But thanks to a visionary trade in 2013, they also have the ability to swap picks in the 2017 draft with Brooklyn, which happened to own the NBA’s worst record during the regular season. In other words: Boston is in position to contend immediately and for the foreseeable future. Should Jackson end up with the Celtics, he would join all-star guard Isaiah Thomas and premier big Al Horford as offensive facilitators, capable of setting up the 3-point shots coach Brad Stevens’ offense counts on, while also giving Boston increased defensive versatility, with Jackson’s ability to switch and guard multiple positions.
What’s more, the Celtics have cap room this summer to land a top free agent or trade for another all-star. Boston figures to be near the top of the East for years to come, and a competitor such as Jackson would thrive in such circumstances.