At the conclusion of the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery, many were ready to lock in Kansas swingman Josh Jackson as a foregone conclusion Sixers’ selection with the third overall pick. On the surface, adding the 20-year-old to this core definitely makes sense.
The team could use some additional talent at the two/three and Jackson would give the Sixers another freak athlete who can defend multiple positions. Based on his player profile alone, that’s the type of player you’d certainly want in Philadelphia. However, Jackson’s off the court issues could give general manager Bryan Colangelo some pause.
Colangelo addressed the media on Wednesday after the Sixers found out where their selection would fall, and provided the media with some necessary qualifications their next draft pick would have to meet.
“Versatility, and size, and skill, and character are things that we’re aiming for,” said Colangelo.
Of those four qualities he mentioned, the last one sounded as if it carried particular weight. When doing homework on a prospect, Colangelo said the Sixers’ front office considers “everything,” including a player’s upbringing, maturity, and decision-making, in respect to both on and off-court matters.
“Character is something that is priceless in what we do,” Colangelo continued. “It’s something that when you find the combination, that unique blend of talent and high character, it’s the best possible position to be in when you’re talking about evaluating players, people. Adding to culture starts with people.”
Out of all the top prospects in this class, Jackson is the only one to have any legal issues. He was charged with criminal damage to property of less than $1,000, a misdemeanor, for his role in damaging a car outside of a bar in Lawrence, Kansas. An affidavit released in March provided details of the incident, including the allegation that Jackson threatened to beat the woman whose car he damaged.
The incident in December began inside the bar when Calvert threw a drink at her ex-boyfriend, Lagerald Vick, another Kansas player. She said she was upset because Vick attended the party with his new girlfriend.
Calver[t] told police Jackson followed her to her car and "was yelling for her to get out of the car and that he would beat her ass," the affidavit says.
The affidavit said the bumper, grille, fender, windshield, left tail lamp assembly and driver's side front door were all damaged, with a total repair cost of about $3,150. Witnesses reported Jackson only damaging the door and tail light, with an estimated damage of $1,127, and District Attorney Charles Branson said Jackson was not charged with felony criminal damage because it couldn't be proved that the player caused all the damage.
Jackson issued an apology after the incident, offering to pay for any damage he may have caused.
He was also suspended for Kansas’s Big 12 Tournament opener because of a hit-and-run with a parked car in February. Kansas would lose that game to TCU.
The incident involving Jackson isn’t something the Sixers should brush over. Any incident involving a man allegedly threatening to beat a woman deserves thorough investigation considering how much of a hot-button issue that is in sports, not to mention just downright wrong.
Colangelo went on to tell the media that front office plans on conducting background checks and getting intel on all of the players of interest. That should give them the opportunity to thoroughly investigate the type of person Jackson is, as well as what exactly went down that night in December.
At the end of the day, pinning down someone’s character is a judgement call. Just because someone was deemed a model citizen in college doesn’t mean they’ll act that same way in the pros, and Jahlil Okafor is a prime example of that in his rookie season. There were no worries about Okafor’s character coming out of Duke, and he got into a slew of legal issues over the span of a couple months. Until a person is put into a certain situation, you won’t truly know how they’ll respond, whether it be an obnoxious heckler or an annoyed ex-girlfriend. Being able to handle yourself in difficult set of circumstances off the court is part of the job of being a professional basketball player.
On the flip side, one mistake doesn’t make Jackson a bad person, and the fact that he showed remorse that seems genuine is a good sign.
If the homework Colangelo does on Jackson led them to believe that the incident was an abnormal display of poor judgement that doesn’t accurately reflect who he is, then they should have few reservations taking him.
It’s a difficult yet important call to make, and it’s one that Colangelo will need to make sure he gets right.