NBA Draft 2017: Josh Jackson says he and Jaylen Brown could be ‘special’ for Celtics
The forward from Kansas could make Boston even more versatile if selected No. 3 in Thursday's 2017 NBA Draft
NEW YORK -- Around this time last year, the Boston Celtics took a hyper-athletic, energetic, versatile forward named Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft. On Thursday, there are rumors that they could take a hyper-athletic, energetic, versatile forward named Josh Jackson with the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft. Skeptics think they are too similar, with neither one of them a knockdown 3-point shooter or go-to scorer, at least at this point.
Leading up to the draft, Jackson did not work out for the Celtics, so it wasn't clear whether or not he saw them as a desirable destination. On Wednesday, though, he directly said he'd be happy to join the team that finished with the East's best record this past season.
"I think it would be great to play in Boston," Jackson said. "I see a lot of the players on their team that are about the same things that I'm about. Anybody who knows me knows that I love to win and I see that in a lot of the guys on their team. I would love to play in Boston."
Jackson explained that not visiting the Celtics was a timing issue. He and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, thought it would be "a waste of time" to go to Boston because the front office was not seriously considering taking him first overall. After the Celtics traded down to No. 3, there were "scheduling issues," he said, adding that he was "definitely open to the possibility" of a workout.
More important than the details of his travel schedule, though, was the way that Jackson raved about Brown. He said the two of them have talked, and he rejected the notion that their overlapping skills would be a bad thing.
"A lot of people talk about 'they're the same player' or 'they play the same position,' but, I mean, playing with Jaylen would be pretty good, I think," Jackson said. "I think it would be pretty special. Just because of how much the game is changing today. When you look at two of the best teams in the league and they're playing three small forwards at the same time, sometimes even four. So I don't really see how people would think two guys like me and Jaylen playing together would be any type of issue at all."
Jackson acknowledged that Brown is "a lot stronger" than he is, but said he thrives in transition and Brown is "more of a halfcourt guy." He thinks they can make each other better if they wind up together, and he isn't particularly worried about being stuck in a crowded frontcourt, fighting for minutes on a playoff team.
"I'm a competitive guy, so I'll compete with my teammates and I'll compete with opposing players," Jackson said. "It really doesn't matter. Being in a type of environment where it kind of forces you to be able to compete and forces you to get up and get to work, I think it would be really good for somebody like me."
When asked to define his position, Jackson initially said he didn't have one. Then he said that if he had to choose, he'd say he was a small forward. In today's NBA, players like him often play the 4 in smallball lineups, and part of the appeal of pairing him with Brown (and Jae Crowder) would be the ability to use them interchangeably.
"I just bring versatility," Jackson said. "I can guard 1 through 4, so, if you really watch the Warriors, I think that's why they're so good on defense because they can switch pick and rolls and they can trust players to guard multiple positions. Just having that versatility on defense really helps a lot. I am tough. I don't back down from anybody. I really don't care who I'm guarding."
As long as Jackson eventually improves his jump shot (a massive variable in terms of him making good on all his upside), it's hard to argue with him. Teams can't have too many like-sized, long, quick perimeter players these days, so this is completely different than, say, pairing two ball-dominant guards or two traditional centers.
This does not, however, mean that Jackson is a lock for the No. 3 pick. The Celtics could trade it in a deal for an established star, or they could have another prospect in mind. His main competition, Jayson Tatum, sounded a lot like Jackson when talking about how he'd fit with Boston's roster.
"I talked about that with coach Brad Stevens," Tatum said. "He just said guys that are my size and are versatile offensively and defensively, it's hard not to play those guys. That's what we talked about. If you can defend 1 through 4, if you can knock down shots, and then if you can score, that's a bonus."
Jackson's advantage is that he can defend 1 through 4 much more capably than Tatum. He is quicker on his feet on the perimeter, and he has a much more aggressive, physical defensive mindset. That, combined with his hustle and never-give-up attitude, which the Celtics tend to love, is what could make him such a nice complement to Avery Bradley, Crowder and, of course, Brown. While there is no guarantee they will team up, it sure sounded like Jackson would welcome such a partnership.
"I think we could really work together and do something special," Jackson said.
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