Josh Jackson says of teams who passed on him in NBA Draft: 'One day they'll be sorry'
Jackson goes No. 4 overall to the Suns, and is eager to face the best in the desert
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — When everything unfolded as most experts predicted in the first 15 minutes of the 2017 NBA Draft, Josh Jackson fiddled with his fingers, stone-faced. He watched as the 76ers picked Markelle Fultz, the Lakers took Lonzo Ball at No. 2, and the Celtics bypassed him in favor of Duke's Jayson Tatum at No. 3.
Evaluated by many as the draft's best two-way player, Jackson waited and seemed a little perturbed. Before Thursday's draft, a member of Jackson's family said the expectation was he would go in the top three. Instead, he went to the Phoenix Suns at No. 4. And Jackson heads to the desert with a Jayhawk-sized chip on his shoulder. The 20-year-old is known for his competitiveness and it came out in the interview room.
"I don't think the other guys in this draft really care as much as I do," Jackson said. "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."
Perhaps Jackson lit a fire under himself that will last his entire career. It may not be Draymond Green remembering the name of all 34 guys drafted ahead of him in 2012, but Jackson burns hot.
"If you ask me, 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," Jackson said. "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 is an A-level defender, a skill you don't lose when transitioning from college into the NBA. He's not a good shooter coming in, but his upside could produce a player with the athleticism of a Russell Westbrook and defensive ferocity of a Kawhi Leonard.
"I think I bring toughness, versatility, being able to guard 1 through 4 on the defensive end and also being able to play 1 through 4 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.
Phoenix last made the playoffs in 2010, and Jackson is excited to be headed there. He suspects his offensive skills will have time to be nurtured with the likes of Devin Boooker and Eric Bledsoe handling the ball.
"I was excited to be on any team at the top of the draft to be honest, whether it was Philly, Boston, L.A.," Jackson said. "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 3, somebody to come in and play that 3 spot, and I feel like that's my favorite position to play. That's where I'm the most comfortable."
Jackson was asked about an incident last season at Kansas, who filed charges against him. It became part of Jackson's story the past three months, with the media and with NBA clubs.
"I don't think it really represents who I am," Jackson said. "You know, I made a mistake that day. I did. I admitted to it from Day One when it was brought up. I think the whole situation was really blown out of proportion, just because I am who I am. Reporters want to make a story and get themselves a name. But everyone who was close to the situation and everyone who I've talked to about it, they know exactly what happened that day. There was nothing that -- it wasn't what it was made out to be. It wasn't as bad as everybody made it out to be. But I have owned up to the mistake I made and I accept the responsibility for it from day one."
"I really want to get out there and see where I stack up against some of the best players in the world," he said.
Lots of players feel like they should have been taken higher, but few have the tools to be the No. 1 overall pick. Jackson's poor jumper and ball handling skills may have prevented it. That won't matter if he grows into a top-25 NBA player. Phoenix has waited a decade to be good again, and it might have lucked into landing a franchise player.
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