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NBA Draft: Josh Jackson still without Celtics workout two days from draft

The player who may be Danny Ainge’s guy at number three is not buying that the Celtics are using the pick. He probably has good reason to be skeptical.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

A day after the Celtics worked out Jayson Tatum and Danny Ainge announced that the player they would have drafted at number one will probably be there at three, the Cs hoped they would finally get their workout with former Kansas star Josh Jackson.

It didn’t happen.

Chad Ford has been hot on the Jackson-to-Boston trail since before the Celts completed their trade with the 76ers to move back in exchange for a future selection. In one of his mock drafts he went as far as to say he would not be stunned if Boston took Jackson first.

Now that they’re third, the possibility of Jackson being picked seemed imminent, the team probably imagined Jackson’s stance on refusing to workout with them would change with two picks in front of them. That is not the case—Ford is reporting that Jackson’s camp does not fully believe that Boston is using the pick.

It’s hard to blame them with Paul George, Jimmy Butler and now even Kristaps Porzingis rumors flying everywhere. When a big-name player is on the trade block, it’s tradition for Boston to be connected given their treasure chest of future picks.

The decision isn’t in Jackson’s hands, according to Ford, and it’s his agent, B.J. Armstrong, who is doubting Boston’s willingness to draft from three. Armstrong also represents Draymond Green, Derrick Rose, Omer Asik and Emmanuel Mudiay.

The Celts can take Jackson if he falls past the Lakers, and, if he is indeed their primary target, Ainge likely won’t have any issue with the current disagreement. There is a concern that Boston won’t have medical info (the most valuable pre-draft information) on Jackson if there isn’t a workout before Thursday’s NBA Draft. With two days left, that seems unlikely.

Jackson did not attend the draft combine, so he did not get medically evaluated there either.

Ainge has said that he believes there are multiple elite prospects at the top of this draft class, and that was one of the motives in moving back out of the first overall selection. If the Celts don’t have a clear line of sight on Jackson’s health, they may opt instead for Tatum given that he participated in a workout for the team yesterday. A Boston source was reportedly impressed by Tatum’s footwork and shot-making, an area of clear need on the roster.

Pre-draft hype, comments, workouts, the combine and interviews can all be overrated. Every executive is looking for every edge they can just as player’s agents are, given that every extra spot they gain overall yields more money in their rookie contract. Armstrong may be concerned that Jackson could fall if another team moves into third in a deal with the Celtics, or that a bad workout could hurt his stock that currently has momentum all the way up to a possible option for the Lakers at second-overall. There could also be a fear of Boston’s packed rotation, which yielded little playing time to rookie Jaylen Brown.

A report out of L.A., where Jackson has worked out multiple times, did not bode well for Jackson several days ago. That could be a motive for the Jackson camp’s hesitancy so close to draft night.

Scott Souza, meanwhile, notes that Boston’s last two lottery selections, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, had multiple workouts in Boston with the team.

There’s also the George layer that has been added since Jackson’s round of workouts with the Lakers. There has been a ton of noise on George’s interest in playing for LAL after his contract with the Pacers expires this summer. If the Lakes are trying to set up a strong starting five to complement George at the small forward position then Lonzo Ball may be their guy now.

That leaves Jackson, Tatum and the outside chance of someone else at three for Boston. It isn’t unprecedented to take a player without a workout, but there does seem to be momentum behind Tatum.

Jackson brings a sensational physique and explosive athleticism, upside on both ends of the floor and the ability to pass the ball with poise. He also has a short wingspan, shaky shooting mechanics and is not the best at putting the ball on the floor.

He’d be a work in progress for sure, much like Smart continues to be and Brown certainly showed to be in his rookie year. He may not be redundant in skill-set, but would be another raw talent tossed onto the bench of a team that was the one-seed last season.

The prospect of Tatum can’t help but intrigue. His defense has been messy at times but his body control is impeccable, his shot is fluid and full of poise, his footwork in the post and on the drive is polished and he brings outstanding size at 6’8” with a 7’0” wingspan. It’s an element that the Celts don’t have.

For a Boston team that struggled to hit open shots against the Cavaliers, has been searching for a secondary scorer outside of Isaiah Thomas, and goes small often with a larger wing like Jae Crowder playing the four the prospect of Tatum definitely seems within reason at third-overall.

The big question that Jackson, Tatum and Celtics fans are asking right now is will the guy who puts on the Celts cap on draft night be playing in that uniform next year? Ainge probably doesn’t even know that answer right now and that’s why this is the most exhilarating part of the NBA calendar.

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