Phoenix Suns Draft Watch: Josh Jackson

Jan 16, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Josh Jackson (11) and Iowa State Cyclones forward Darrell Bowie (10) battle for a lose ball on the floor at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Jayhawks beat the Cyclones 76-72. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 16, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Josh Jackson (11) and Iowa State Cyclones forward Darrell Bowie (10) battle for a lose ball on the floor at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Jayhawks beat the Cyclones 76-72. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports /

The draft watch continues this week with the most debated player in this draft: Josh Jackson.

Player Comparison

The freshman guard/forward from Kansas is compared by to Bulls All Star guard Jimmy Butler and rising Spurs star/future league MVP Kawhi Leonard.  The Jayhawks standout is putting up a modest stat line of 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.  While not comparable to the other top prospects in the draft, this is much better that the 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 0.7 assists Butler posted as a freshman at Marquette.  It is also superior to the 12.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists Leonard put up his freshman year at San Diego State.

Jackson is a less physical player than either Butler or Leonard.  Josh is a lean player standing at 6’8″ and generously weighing in at 207 lbs.  Butler and Leonard, both at 6’7″, had almost 20 lbs more weighing in at 220 lbs and 225 lbs respectively.  On pure appearance Jackson looks more like Los Angeles’s Brandon Ingram.

What sets Jackson apart as a prospect and against these comparisons is the well-rounded nature of his game.  He is currently averaging 1.2 blocks and 1.6 steals again.  This is much better than anything put up by either NBA star in their freshman year.  Jackson is also averaging 32.7% from deep.  While this won’t get him into the Steph Curry discussions, it is considerably better than the 0% put up by Butler or the 20.5% by Leonard.

Why the Suns Would Want Him

The Suns would love to have a defensive stopper who can make up for the horrendous olé defense that Devin Booker plays.  Jackson is exactly that.  At worse, he is a player in the mold of PJ Tucker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Justise Winslow.  High motor, good defender, who will change the pace of the game without touching the ball.  Those types of players often are the glue to a championship team.

The upside to drafting Jackson is that he has the potential to meet or exceed the Kawhi Leonard comparisons.  Many scouts doubt his ability to score in the NBA because of his poor shooting mechanics.  However, Suns fans will remember that Shawn Marion was a phenomenal jump shooter despite his strange shot.  For every Kidd-Gilchrist where poor form prevents performance, there’s a Bird, Dirk, or Marion who overcomes the mechanical flaws.  If Jackson can become one of those players, he can become an MVP type player because of his well-balanced approach and because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands often to be able to score.

If you told the Suns they could have a chance to get a 20 year old Shawn Marion again who had the potential to become Kawhi Leonard, you’d see grown men faint on a winter’s day.  That’s the opportunity that drafting Josh Jackson presents.  The floor on picking Jackson is 15 years of a more athletic PJ Tucker.  You can’t lose with having that on your team.

Why the Suns Would Not Want Him

The most obvious answer is because the Suns have TJ Warren and believe he can develop into a starting small forward.  If you believe TJ Warren is going to develop into a 20, 3, and 3 or 20, 5, and 5 type of a player, drafting Jackson wouldn’t hurt, but it’d be picking into an area of strength where you’re likely to stunt both players.  Jackson might have the bigger upside, but he is also a lot less of a known commodity than Warren and there’s no shortage of needs on this Suns team.

There are strong reasons to believe that Jackson will never reach his potential.  Most people will point to Kidd-Gilchrist as the prime example of an athletic guard who can’t shoot.  While teams would love to have that kind of player, it is painful to pick that player in the top three, which is likely where Jackson will go in this draft.  This is especially true when players like Dennis Smith are destroying college basketball and making them tough to pass over.

The Suns may also be concerned about his weight.  The team has already seen Chriss and Bender struggle to adapt to the NBA game because they don’t have big enough bodies to handle the size of NBA stars.  The Lakers have had the same issue with Ingram.  Jackson wasn’t able to put on weight between his senior year of high school and his freshman year of college.  If he can’t put on weight coming into the NBA, he won’t be ready to contribute in a serious way for years.


Jackson is going to get drafted somewhere between the 3-5 range.  While not as safe as Ball or

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Fultz, he has the potential to be a better all around player.  Unless the Suns can unload Bledsoe or convince a few ping pong balls to bounce their way, they aren’t likely to get a pick in the top two.  They are most likely in the range where Jackson is a realistic target.

Drafting Jackson would allow the Suns to have defensive versatility that they have not had since Marion and Joe Johnson were giving fans cause for championship dreams.  Pairing Jackson with the defensive versatility of Bender and Chriss  would give the Suns unique abilities to switch and rotate.

If the Suns come away with Jackson they will be set at the guard/forward positions for the next decade.  I love Lonzo Ball’s fit, but Jackson is the kind of player everyone would love to play with.  Offense is fun to watch, defense wins championships.  If the Suns draft Jackson, you can look for me among the fainted.

Next: Should the Suns Draft Markelle Fultz

  • Click on my name in the byline above to see more posts that I written, specifically those on other top members of the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft Class.