With every subsequent NCAA tournament game that Kansas forward Josh Jackson controls on both ends of the court, his NBA draft stock continues to rise.
Not that there’s much more room for it to do so.
In my newest mock draft, I have Jackson slotted third overall to the Phoenix Suns. ESPN and CBS Sports have the same projection, while Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Sharp tabbed Jackson as the No. 2 pick before the tournament started, along with the following examination:
Josh Jackson’s jumper is a work in progress—he’s been hitting more threes recently, but still doesn’t quite pass the eye test—but he does everything else well, and he’ll be a handful to deal with at the next level. He’s like a bigger Justise Winslow, and surrounding him with the Suns shooters could be perfect.
About that jumper, which was a concern heading into the season and admittedly pretty inconsistent early in the year. Since January 21, Jackson has knocked down 50 percent of 3.1 three-point attempts per game. Against Miles Bridges–a likely lottery pick–and Michigan State in the second round, he hit a catch-and-shoot three, a step-back three and two mid-range jumpers off behind-the-back dribbles, showing off that improvement on the biggest stage.
Jackson is 6-foot-8 and 203 pounds with a 6-foot-9.8 wingspan. He has absurd athleticism (Exhibit A of many). He can get his own shot in the half-court. He’s a nightmare in the open court. He’s a fantastic passer. If he continues to shoot like he has over the last couple months, he’s going to be a problem.
And that’s only half of what he brings to the table.
Jackson’s biggest impact in the NBA, at least right off the bat, will likely be on the defensive end. Adding quick feet, the intelligence to jump passing lanes, and an endless motor to his already elite size and athleticism combo, the Kansas freshman averages 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest. He’s Top 150 in the country in steal percentage (3.1) and Top 300 in block percentage, a rare feat.
“He’s one of those guys who you’d throw out there and he’s going to do something positive,” one NBA general manager said, per NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper.
Ultimately, concerns about Jackson’s shot mean he probably won’t challenge for the No. 1 pick, but with the way he’s playing right now, anything else is possible.
In our newest 2017 NBA mock draft, there are three Top-6 picks and six first-rounders projected to be playing in this weekend’s Elite 8.