By: John Morgan Francis
As promised, this is my second of seven NBA Draft posts leading up to Thursday’s draft.
The Boston Celtics own the number one pick in next week’s NBA Draft. For months now it’s seemed as if the lock to be drafted first was Washington Combo Guard Markelle Fultz. Reports this morning from ESPN’s Chad Ford say otherwise. The ESPN Basketball Insider reported the Celtics are now considering taking Kansas Small Forward Josh Jackson first overall.
But whom should the Celtics take? There’s an argument for both.
Fultz is by far and away the best point guard in the draft. Though he played a smaller school that wasn’t as competitive as UCLA, Fultz also didn’t have the talent that surrounded UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Fultz’s defense isn’t necessarily elite but he’s far better than Ball in that category. He also averaged 23 point per game and dished out six assists.
The Combo guard has drawn comparisons to James Harden, an All-NBA superstar and MVP Candidate. If Fultz lived up to these expectations, he’d be a no-brainer for the Celtics. However the Celtics already have a point guard of their own in Isaiah Thomas who earned All-NBA honors this spring. Thomas is 28 years old and will be entering the final year of his contract next season, as he’s due a hefty raise (will be paid just over $6 million in 2018). Should Boston wish to pay him the max-contract he rightfully deserves; there’d be little sense in spending the first pick on a player who plays Thomas’ position.
However if Boston doesn’t see it fit to pay the 5’9 Thomas a max contract (which I don’t either) they may elect to trade Thomas this summer and move on with Fultz. It’s a tough decision, which has brought on the rumors and sure speculation by the Celtics of other options like Jackson.
The Kansas star played just one year of college ball and was a sensation in their tournament run. Overshadowed by senior guard Frank Mason III, Jackson actually had a stellar freshman season and it’s no surprise he’s being considered by both the Celtics and the Lakers. Jackson averaged over 16 PPG and 7 rebounds per contest. He shot over 50% from the field and an efficient 38% from 3-point land.
The Celtics currently have forwards Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown on their roster. With Crowder looking as he’s reached his peak and the rumors coming out of the Celtics looking to offer Forward Gordon Hayward a max contract this summer, Jackson may sound like a poor option with the first pick. However, Jaylen Brown is versatile to play shooting guard or small forward. Even if they signed Hayward, they could likely trade Crowder, still draft Jackson and either have Jackson come off the bench or play their power forward position when they go small.
Based on players Danny Ainge drafts and targets in free agency, Jackson fits his model perfectly. His defense is elite; he has size and length as well a hard-working motor at both ends of the court.
Let it be noted that Jackson had some off-the-court issues at Kansas that cost him to miss an NCAA Tournament game. However, under mentor Brad Stevens, that could easily be managed.
The decision on who to draft will surely be thoroughly examined throughout the next week by Danny Ainge & Co. It does appear Fultz isn’t the clear favorite to go first overall and a workout with the Lakers (own 2nd pick) verifies that. Stay tuned for more draft analysis.
Twitter Handle: @MonJorgan