Josh Jackson Epitomizes the Concept of Best Player Over Best Fit

Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

After nabbing the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers will have to make a difficult decision between talent and fit — where does Josh Jackson fall on that scale?

The Philadelphia 76ers face one of The Process‘ more pivotal decisions this offseason. After moving up to third via the lottery, the 2017 NBA Draft wields a bevy of potential options in what is one of the deepest classes — if not the deepest — since 2003. How the Sixers approach their selection on draft night could determine not only how the team builds moving forward, but where their ceiling stands.

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  • Think of it in terms of an oft-referenced metaphor — the Sixers have two paths to choose from. One pathway vies for fit, while the other favors talent — and Josh Jackson, whom many are pegging at that number three spot, exemplifies that notion of Best Player Available.  He also doesn’t fit offensively, which is where those proverbial paths diverge.

    While there’s certainly some areas in which Jackson could find a serviceable niche in Brett Brown’s system, his general skill set isn’t tailored to run alongside Ben Simmons. He’s a skilled secondary creator and a dangerous transition threat — both as a playmaker and a finisher — but lacks the consistent shooting stroke and reliable scoring output to give the Sixers that go-to perimeter threat that they’ve been in continuous need of throughout the Process-driven years.

    He is, though, the second best player in this year’s class. He has the upside of an elite defender, while boasting the athletic tools and offensive talent needed to blossom into one of the league’s more versatile forwards in time. He’d give the Sixers a potential superstar — it’d then become an issue of finding where he meshes into a Joel Embiid/Ben Simmons-headed rotation.

    Part of the issue in doing so also relates to competitiveness. The growing pains of selecting somebody of Jackson’s ilk could drag down the Sixers’ productivity early on in his tenure. They’d likely experience some noticeable lumps offensively, with Jackson prodding his way around Brown’s system and finding the necessary balance in the inevitable Jackson/Simmons dynamic. He’d make them an even better defensive team — and that alone is a benefit — but he’d be more of a long term commitment on the other end.

    And, for all intents and purposes, that shouldn’t be an issue. This is a Philadelphia squad that should be taking the long road, per se, opting for proper development over quick fixes rotationally. Embiid is still getting back into basketball shape from a purely health-related perspective, while Simmons himself has gone a year without playing legitimately competitive basketball. Waiting a few years for Jackson’s offensive repertoire to expand, in theory, wouldn’t be a hit to the Sixers’ rebuilding plan.

    Related Story: Josh Jackson - Welcome to Philly!

    That idealism could dissipate, though. If Bryan Colangelo is committed to upping the pace of the rebuild — something he seems intent on doing — the team’s projected win curve could begin to lag as they work Jackson into the rotation. While a player like Kyle Lowry would add spacing and that viable go-to option on the perimeter, Jackson would still need to get a feel for his spots in the offense when roaming the floor off the ball, where he’d be utilized heavily as a slasher, rather than an initiator, on the offensive end.

    What further adds to that notion is the concept of drafting for fit, rather than talent. In numerous circles, Malik Monk — who is unequivocally the best basketball fit for Philadelphia — is in the conversation at three, despite the fact that he’s not a top flight talent in the same vein as Jackson.

    Monk could give Brown a more effective rotational piece early, fitting into an off-ball scoring role that could be molded around the expansiveness of Monk’s arsenal at the next level. Akin to Jackson, Monk is an elite athlete in his own right, while his fluidity of motion allows him to gun around screens and find his spots with impressive consistency on the offensive end. He doesn’t however, have the defensive versatility or positional malleability that Jackson’s game possesses.

    Related Story: The Case for Drafting Malik Monk at No. 3

    If his creation skills don’t pan out as planned, Monk could me more of a Lou Williams type than a Zach LaVine-esque talent.

    It’s up to Colangelo, at this stage, to make a decision on the direction of the team. Monk gives them more from day one, but doesn’t bring the wealth of upside that Jackson does on both sides of the ball. The latter would be more of a long term investment, yet yields a higher capacity for reward. Monk gives them a needed utility piece that fixes a problem that currently bugs the rotation. Whether or not the front office views the Kentucky stud’s skill set as an absolute necessity should determine the extent to which they view him as an option.

    Next: A Potential C.J. McCollum-for-Josh Jackson Trade

    As it does every year, the B.P.A. versus fit argument is one with many, many layers to it. It’s about judging team makeup, future developmental curves and competitiveness — then interpreting the correct way to approach a potential decision.

    Jackson is the best player in the Sixers’ draft range. We’ll see if that’s enough to get him off the board third.