Kentucky basketball: Isaiah Jackson three-team trade in NBA draft finally lands in Indy

Isaiah Jackson and NBA commissioner Adam Silver (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Isaiah Jackson and NBA commissioner Adam Silver (Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

Isaiah Jackson as expected was the first Kentucky player drafted in the 2021 NBA Draft, but as he had to wear many hats at Kentucky playing a variety of roles, it took him changing hats three times on the draft night to settle down.

The Los Angeles Lakers actually made the selection that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver read, and Jackson made his way on stage in New York putting a Laker hat on and accepting congratulations from Silver.

That was short-lived and the audience already knew something was up with the Lakers actually sending him to Washington. But that web wasn’t done being woven as another deal the Wizards had already made as well ended up sending Jackson to his new home in Indianapolis.

While the Lakers made the pick, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski made it known earlier that the Wizards would acquire the No. 22 selection, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma along with Montrezl Harrell from Los Angeles for Russell Westbrook.

Coinciding with that Washington finalized a deal to ship the 22nd pick to the Pacers in exchange for the No. 31 pick Isaiah Todd and Aaron Holiday according to Sham Charania.

In the end, Jackson is the winner getting to play in Indianapolis, just 316 miles or a five-hour drive from his hometown of Pontiac, Michigan.

At the conclusion of a tumultuous season for Kentucky, the lone consistent bright spot was always Jackson. Coach John Calipari could always count on the 6-foot-10 forward night in and night out. He never moped and always accepted his role, no matter what that had to be from game to game.

He came to Kentucky known for his defense at Waterford Mott High School where he was a three-time All-State selection and coinciding with being a four-time defensive player of the year in his conference.

Jackson grew as the season progressed and ultimately was a foregone conclusion that he would remain in the draft and most likely a first-rounder even though he wasn’t projected to be entering his freshman year.

That played out and for Calipari, it meant Jackson would become the 42nd Kentucky player under Cal to be drafted and followed forward P.J. Washington being drafted in 2019 at No. 12 by Charlotte.

It also means that a Wildcat has been selected in the first round of the draft in each of the past 12 seasons.

The Pacers finished the past season 34-38 in second place in the Central Division 12 games behind eventual NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks. They have finished in second place in that division four straight seasons and five of the past six.

Jackson will bring to the Pacers a high octane player who was often referenced by many during the year as a human pogo stick bouncing up and down the floor non-stop. His huge wingspan and prowess for swatting balls and grabbing rebounds made him an instant attraction for scouts and a headache for players matching up with him on the court.

He quickly made a name for himself against Kansas early in the year when he swatted eight blocked shots. That stat was the most rejections in a game for any Wildcat since Willie Cauley-Stein rejected nine shots against Boise State on Dec. 10, 2013. It was also the most ever by a UK player against an Associated Press top-10 opponent in Wildcat history.

At the end of the 9-16 season, he was named to both the SEC All-Freshman Team and the SEC All-Defensive Team with an average of 8.4 points a game, grabbing 6.6 rebounds, and swatting 2.6 blocks per contest.

Best of luck Isaiah all of Big Blue Nation was happy to have you part of the family.