Josh Jackson smiled as his mother, Apples Jones, planted a kiss on his cheek, the former Kansas guard and his family members noticeably pleased Thursday night upon hearing from commissioner Adam Silver he’d been selected by the Phoenix Suns as the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“I’m pretty excited to be a Phoenix Sun,” the 6-foot-8 Jackson said of a team that last reached the playoffs in 2010. “I know they are a pretty young team. I think that’s really special though, because coming in I think we can learn a lot together and over the years we can be something really special and just being able to grow together, I think that’ll make our team chemistry a lot better.”
Jackson joins a team in the midst of a rebuilding process.
The one-and-done college player joins Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender as key pieces on a squad that ranked as one of the NBA’s worst defensive teams in 2016-17.
“I think I bring toughness, versatility, being able to guard one through four on the defensive end and also being able to play one through four on the offensive end, and as I watch today’s NBA basketball, versatility is probably the most important thing in this league today,” Jackson said. “I think it’ll be really special.”
Jackson said he also appreciated the fact his college coach, Bill Self, attended the proceedings.
“Through the recruiting process, Coach Self has always been amazing,” Jackson said. “My time at Kansas … he made (it) amazing for me. Before I even decided to go to Kansas, I always felt that he cared about me more than a basketball player. He cared about me as a man. He wanted me to be the best man that I could be. That was one of the biggest reasons I chose to go to Kansas. It speaks to his character today, coming out and being able to support me and just being here for me. It shows that he really cares.”
Jackson had mixed emotions at going fourth overall. Washington point guard Markelle Fultz was the No. 1 pick (of Philadelphia), followed by UCLA’s Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers) and Duke’s Jayson Tatum (Boston).
“If you ask me,” Jackson said, “of course I’m going to say I’m the best player in this draft, but if you ask those other guys, they’re going to say the same thing about themselves, I’m sure. But just I love competition and I love proving people wrong.
“I’ve been drafted to Phoenix and I’m going to go there and I’m going to make the best of it. I’m going to be the best player I can be. And those teams who didn’t draft me, one day they will be sorry,” Jackson added defiantly.
As far as the specific things that may make him the top prospect in the draft, Jackson said: “I think my versatility, just my competitive spirit. I don’t think the other guys in this draft really care as much as I do. I don’t think they play as hard as I do, period. I think that’s what really makes me special. I refuse to fail, period,” Jackson added.
Jackson worked out for Philadelphia, the Lakers and Phoenix. He did not work out for the Celtics.
“That was due to scheduling,” Jackson said. “I was excited to be on any team at the top of the draft to be honest, whether it was Philly, Boston, L.A. I felt like the type of player that I am, I could fit anywhere. But when I look at Phoenix and I see that they are so young and kind of need a three, somebody to come in and play that three spot, and I feel like that’s my favorite position to play. That’s where I’m the most comfortable. I automatically just get excited when I see stuff like that.”
Self happy for Jackson
Self, who attended Thursday’s NBA Draft to support Jackson, says he’s pleased Jackson is headed to the Phoenix Suns.
“I think it’s a good fit for him, an opportunity to play a ton early and also be able to impose his will on the culture there,” Self said of a team trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Self thinks Jackson will thrive in Phoenix.
“Everybody has their own opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I really believe Phoenix got the most talented player in the draft at 4,” Self said. “I know they’ve got to be very happy as well.”