If Tim Legler was running the Sixers, there is no question who the club would choose with the third-overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. In fact, Legler would take Kansas guard Josh Jackson second if it had come to that.
“I draft Josh Jackson,” Legler told Rob Ellis and Harry Mayes for 97.5 The Fanatic on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t hesitate. I would draft Josh Jackson at two if I got two.”
The Sixers wound up with No. 3 in the draft lottery on Tuesday, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Yet Legler -- a former NBA player and ESPN analyst for nearly two decades -- believes missing out on the second pick and UCLA guard Lonzo Ball might’ve been the best thing.
That’s a strong statement, considering there isn’t even a consensus on Jackson at three. De’Aaron Fox or Malik Monk out of Kentucky are also getting quite a bit of love there, as is Duke’s Jayson Tatum.
There’s no question the Sixers have options with the pick. Legler insists Jackson is not only the best fit for the team in the immediate future but also, over time, will develop into the perfect complement to Sixers bigs Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
“There’s no question in my mind he’s going to he’s going to develop into a guy that can consistently make shots, even at the NBA three-point line. Maybe not right away, but down the road, he will do that because he’s that hard of a worker.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that wants it more in this draft to be great than Josh Jackson, and he’s a game-changing player defensively. From day one, you’re better if he’s on the floor, because he’s that competitive defensively.”
Legler compares Jackson’s skill set to that of San Antonio Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard. While Leonard didn’t necessarily have a great shot coming out of San Diego State, either -- currently the knock on Jackson – he became a high-percentage mid- and long-range shooter over time.
Jackson not only has the desire to improve and a decent mechanical foundation to work with, but he’s also actually a superior prospect than Leonard was in several other areas.
“He just has that street-fight mentality that the Sixers really need, could use, and he can make shots playing off of Embiid and Simmons, and he’s going to get better as a shooter over the next couple years,” Legler said. “He’s the guy, to me, that is the closest thing that I’ve seen to a Kawhi Leonard-type of player coming into the league because of his two-mentality about the game. He’s not Kawhi offensively now, but if you look at Kawhi offensively his rookie year, you’re going to see a lot of similarities this year, because he’s a phenomenal ball handler and he’s a great passer.
“I’m telling you, Josh Jackson handles the ball and passes the ball right now at a higher level than Kawhi Leonard did coming into the league. There’s no question about it.”
There’s going to be a great deal of debate between now and the draft on June 22, but Jackson should certainly be in the mix. A tireless worker who can already handle the rock, play at both ends and possesses a high basketball IQ is exactly what the Sixers need on the wing right now.
That’s probably not going to convince many people the Sixers are better off picking three than two, but they could do a lot worse than landing the next Kawhi Leonard.