Arizona big man Deandre Ayton is widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, to the point where he is working out for only one team (the Phoenix Suns) and openly proclaiming his expectation to land in the top spot. However, the Suns are exercising due diligence in the manner of any responsible team and that includes pre-draft workouts with some of the top prospects in the class.
One such workout took place over the weekend with Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. and, while it may not be enough to sway the Suns away from Ayton, his performance reportedly made a significant impression and his work so far in the pre-draft period has piqued the interest of a number of teams around the league.
Jackson Jr. profiles as a modern day dream in that he can defend in space, protect the rim at an obscenely high level, shoot a high percentage from the perimeter, and even create off the dribble. During his brief Michigan State tenure, Jackson Jr. encountered issues in staying on the floor, both with foul trouble and bizarre roster management from head coach Tom Izzo, but when he played, the talented big man showed off the extremely high ceiling that was likely on full display in Phoenix.
In the event that he slips past the Suns in favor of Ayton, Jackson Jr. could be a target for teams later in the lottery and, as noted above, the Kings, Hawks, Grizzlies, and others could have reason to listen for offers. It has to be noted that trade discussions are rampant this time of year but, if Jackson Jr. is as stellar in pre-draft workouts elsewhere as he seemingly was in Phoenix, it is very easy to see a team (or teams) becoming captivated with his potential and moving mountains to acquire him as a result.
Some view Jackson Jr. as part of a larger tier alongside Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Texas big man Mo Bamba, with others even siding with the theoretical offensive upside of Trae Young. Still, it isn’t hard to envision Jaren Jackson Jr. putting on an absolute show in a test environment and, unlike some workout warriors, he has the on-court game to back up the on-paper evaluation.