It’s been assumed for a while that the Celtics would select Markelle Fultz with the first pick in next week’s NBA Draft, but ESPN reported this week that Boston is considering Kansas’ Josh Jackson – who has been behind Fultz and Lonzo Ball in most mock drafts. Shannon Sharpe explained how he would handle the pick to Skip Bayless on Friday’s “Undisputed.”
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The Celtics need to make this decision with beating LeBron in mind
“I’ve said that of the guys I’ve watched play – and I didn’t get the opportunity to see Markelle Fultz play – but of the guys I’ve watched play, I thought (Josh Jackson) was the best player. For me, I think they should explore trading the picks. If you can package that and get a Jimmy Butler or maybe get a Paul George, then I would do that deal.
"Now, if there’s nothing out there for me, I’m taking Josh Jackson. Skip, there’s no guarantees. We hear a lot of rumbling that they’re in the running for Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin. There’s no guarantee that you are going to get one of those players. If you can’t find a trade to your liking, I’m taking Josh Jackson.
“But here’s the thing: In order to beat the Warriors or the Cavs – let’s just take the Cavs because this is the Eastern Conference – you must have someone that can challenge LeBron offensively and make him work defensively. Because if you can’t, you can’t beat him.
"Because he’s going to roam and he’s going to pick off your passes. And he’s going to be fresh on the offensive end and he’s going to punish you. Although he had to work a lot more than he normally does guarding KD he was still able to put up a triple-double. So imagine if you have a guy that doesn’t have that kind of offensive firepower and he doesn’t have to worry about him.
"Or you could put a (Iman) Shumpert or a J.R. Smith or some of them guys on him, if they’re still there. … I don’t see it, Skip. Josh Jackson, although he’s a talented rookie, I don’t see a rookie putting the Celtics over the top to surpass the Cleveland Cavaliers.”
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Is this draft class overrated?
“So you’re saying you don’t like Josh Jackson enough for Boston to take him if, in fact, they could trade the pick. So you don’t think much of this draft class then?”
Denny MedleyDenny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Trading the pick for Jimmy Butler or Paul George is Boston's best bet
“No, I doubt. First of all, if this was LeBron James working out for one team, Shaq working out for one team, Olajuwon, one team … There’s nobody in this draft like that, that’s why they’re having to work out.
"I said this to LaVar (Ball) when he was on the show. I said, ‘I don’t like the fact that you said you only want (Lonzo) to work out for the Lakers.’ Skip, if I get a financial degree and I figure I’m only going to interview with Goldman Sachs, well … you’ve limited yourself to either Goldman Sachs or no one. He was basically trying to say it’s either the Lakers or no one, and I didn’t like that from the jump.
"And now, all of the sudden, here we are a week from the draft, and it’s, ‘Oh, I’ll work out for you, I’ll work out for you,’ because now there’s a possibility he might not go No. 2 to the Lakers. ...
“If I could package this deal – because think about it, Skip, they still have the Nets’ No. 1 pick next year, which could be the No. 1 overall pick – you’ve got Avery Bradley for another year, $8 million, package Josh Jackson. You’ve got Jae Crowder, three years about $7 million or $8 million. You can package them and get something good in return, but you have to have assurances that Jimmy Butler or Paul George is going to sign long term. This can’t be a one-year rental and you give up what you give up to get those guys.”
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Passing on Lonzo Ball would be a mistake
“I’m going to say it again: Lonzo Ball is a transcendent player, a game-changer, a once-in-a-generation passing talent unlike we’ve seen since a Stockton or a Magic or a Jason Kidd. He’s in that category to me. That’s what my eye told me when I watched him eight or 10 times during the basketball season.
“I’m with you on Markelle Fultz. I didn’t watch him one time. His team was pretty terrible. It went, what, 9-22 in the regular season and 2-16 in conference, and he was hurt when they came to UCLA later and the game at Washington. … UCLA won that game, 107-66. Lonzo put up pretty good numbers. He was 22, six rebounds, five assists and four steals in that game. Markelle had a pretty good game, he had 25 on 5 of 10 threes. I know he can play, but he can do the one thing Lonzo does best, which is make everybody a whole lot better. So, if I’m the Boston Celtics, I’m taking Lonzo Ball.
“I do like Josh Jackson, I told you that from the start during the NCAAs. But I don’t like him better than Lonzo. And then I saw an interesting second-level stat on ESPN.com yesterday … wins above replacement … leading all of college basketball was Lonzo Ball at 4.1. Down at No. 6 was Josh Jackson.
"And the harder I look at what Josh did … I saw a bunch of Big 12 games, but the one game I was most interested in was the Elite 8 game against Oregon. Josh Jackson in that game … goose egg in the first half. He had zero and they fell behind 43-33. He wound up with 10 points, and he did have 12 rebounds , five assists, five turnovers, but they lost badly, 74-60. Then I look at his sort of wildly inconsistent play, even through the Big 12 regular season … just up and down, I’d see flashes of brilliance, potential NBA greatness, I don’t know, I’m not sure.”
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Isaiah Thomas' presence makes drafting a point guard risky
“But Skip, the reason why I don’t like Fultz – and I don’t really like any of the point guards for Boston – is because we’ve seen this. Isaiah Thomas must have the ball in his hands to be effective. If you take the ball out of his hands – we’ve seen teams try to play him at the two, and he’s not nearly the guy he is when he’s ball dominant.
"So if you put Markelle Fultz or if you put Lonzo Ball in that offense – you don’t maximize what they do and why you got them if you take the ball out of their hands and give it to Isaiah Thomas. But if Isaiah doesn’t have the ball in his hands you’re not maximizing what he can give you. So this is why I will take Josh Jackson if I can’t find a trading partner to get Jimmy Butler or Paul George and have some assurances that they’re willing to sign with me long term. Other than that, I’m taking Josh Jackson because he’s a guy that doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective.”