Svi Mykhailiuk arrived at the NBA Summer League ready to score.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ second-round draft pick from Kansas put up 15 points and knocked down three of his 6 3-point attempts in his exhibition debut Monday night at the California Classic, in Sacramento, Calif.
The smooth shots from beyond the arc couldn’t have surprised anyone, but the flashes of athleticism from the 6-foot-8 guard likely opened the eyes of those who didn’t follow him closely with the Jayhawks.
Mykhailiuk finished strong above the rim on a couple of occasions during L.A.’s 98-93 loss to Sacramento at Golden 1 Center. One of his dunks came in transition, but another materialized in the half court.
The Kings’ Justin Jackson flew at Mykhailiuk when the Lakers rookie caught a pass on the wing, and the 21-year-old Ukrainian blew past his defender and rose up for a powerful two-handed jam before No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III could think about contesting it.
“That I can shoot real well gives me more opportunities to go to the rim,” Mykhailiuk told reporters afterward, “because people are going to close out on me hard, and I think I have good enough handles to go to the rim.”
It seemed the early-summer scouting report on Mykhailiuk might not have accounted for his agility and bounce — even though Sacramento guard and former KU teammate Frank Mason III (16 points, nine assists) could’ve warned the Kings.
“I think they might change later,” a grinning Mykhailiuk said of opponents’ expectations for defending him. “But it is what it is.”
Like fellow rookie Moe Wagner, Mykhailiuk, according to Lakers summer coach Miles Simon, showed some positive signs and played relaxed.
“Svi knocks down those 3s. In the fourth quarter he looked really good,” Simon added. “Defensively, moving his feet really well.”
His comfort level wasn’t inhibited by the NBA 3-point line extending a little more than a foot farther back than the college arc.
“Yeah, it’s not that far,” Mykhailiuk said. “But it’s just a little bit of an adjustment, and I think I’ll be fine.”
Wagner, who has known his new Laker teammate since their days of matching up in Europe, expected Mykhailiuk’s shooting display.
“That dude doesn’t miss,” Wagner said. “I’m not surprised. It’s fun to be on the court with him.”
A Mason 3-pointer (he made two of three in the win) ended the Lakers’ chances in the final minute.
“We lost — that’s not a good thing — but I think we competed hard,” Mykhailiuk said. “They made tough shots in the end and I think we’re gonna be better tomorrow.”
L.A. takes on Miami Tuesday night at 9, on ESPN2.
The Lakers’ other KU rookie, Malik Newman, missed the opener due to a left foot sprain.
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.