June 22, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) Josh Jackson believes the Phoenix Suns got the best player in the draft: Josh Jackson.

The Suns agree.

''People say he was the best two-way player,'' general manager Ryan McDonough said. ''The last I checked the game is played two ways.''

The small forward from Kansas who is known for his defense and plays the game with an ''edge'' was the Suns' choice with the fourth overall pick Thursday night.

''I don't think the other guys in this draft really care as much as I do,'' Jackson said. ''I don't think they play as hard as I do, period. I think that's what really makes me special. I refuse to fail, period.''

Jackson joins a Suns team already loaded with youthful talent as the franchise continues the long climb back toward relevance.

The 6-foot-8, 207-pound forward averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in his lone season with the Jayhawks. The 20-year-old Jackson was the Big 12 freshman of the year and an all-Big 12 first-team selection.

He fills a Phoenix need with his defense.

McDonough said the only real weakness in Jackson's game is his spot-up shooting.

''If he can shoot the ball at an above-average level,'' McDonough said, ''he can be a star.''

Jackson was available to the Suns because the Boston Celtics, picking third, chose another small forward, Jayson Tatum of Duke.

Jackson plays with an attitude to his game, something Phoenix coach Earl Watson loves in his players. Devin Booker does, too, so things could get interesting out on the wing for Phoenix.

''We love his fire, his competitive spirit,'' McDonough said. ''Frankly, I thought we needed some more of that.''

McDonough called Jackson a perfect fit for the Suns, joining Booker and T.J. Warren as versatile wing players.

''In our opinion, elite two-way wings are the hardest players in the NBA to find,'' McDonough said. ''I won't say Golden State started the trend although they may have mastered it in terms of getting a bunch of guys like that at a high level. We're trying to see if we can do something similar.''

Jackson joins an already-young team that came away with two lottery picks last year, thanks to a draft-night trade with Sacramento. The Suns chose then-18-year-old forward Dragan Bender with their pick last year, third overall, then acquired Sacramento's eighth selection from the Kings and chose 19-year-old forward Marquese Chriss.

Jackson said he looked forward to learning together with his young teammates and developing chemistry.

''It's going to make us a really special team down the road,'' Jackson said. ''You think back to the Warriors when they all came together - Draymond (Green), Stephen (Curry), Klay (Thompson) - they practically grew up together in this league and look at them now.''

McDonough said the Suns extensively investigated an off-court incident that Jackson was a part of last December. He was arrested after kicking in the tail light and denting the driver's door of a Kansas women's basketball player's car while she was in it.

He agreed to a diversion program that requires him to go to anger management class among other things in order to have the misdemeanor offense dismissed.

Asked about the incident, Jackson said, ''I don't think it really represents who I am.''

''You know, I made a mistake that day. I did,'' he said. ''I admitted to it from day one. I think the whole situation was blown out of proportion, just because I am who I am.''

Jackson said the incident ''wasn't as bad as everybody made it out to be. But I have owned up to it and I accept responsibility for it from day one.''

With their two second-round picks, Phoenix chose a pair of seniors, 6-5 shooting guard Davon Reed of Miami at No. 32 and 6-9 power forward Alec Peters of Valparaiso at No. 54.

Reed, who averaged 14.9 points per game as a senior, worked out twice for the Suns, who like his defense and shooting ability.

Peters, the Horizon League player of the year, averaged a conference-leading 23 points per game. McDonough called him one of the best shooters in the draft.

Peters did not work out for teams because of a foot injury and will skip the Las Vegas Summer League, but the Suns believe he will be ready by training camp.

The Suns are enduring the longest playoff drought in the franchise's history. Phoenix hasn't made it to the postseason the last seven seasons.

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