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NBA Draft 2017 Scouting Profile: Justin Jackson

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Jackson’s presence as the primary weapon on a championship team speaks enough about how capable a shooter he is – but does he offer enough else to be worth a top 10 pick?

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Position: SF/SG

General Information: 22-year-old junior, played for UNC. From Houston, Texas. 2017 ACC Player of the Year, 2017 National Champion.

Measurables: 6’8.25", 200 lbs, 6’11” wingspan, 8’8.5” standing reach, 29.5” No-Step Vertical, 35.5” Max Vertical.

2016-17 Season Statistics: 18.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 1.7 TOPG (40 games played, 32.0 minutes a contest) – 44.3% FG, 74.8% FT, 37% 3P

Summary:

Jackson’s presence as the primary weapon on a championship team speaks enough about how capable a player he is – Jackson turned a big shooting weakness into a strength just in time to help UNC win it all. He’s a smart, aware, tough player who any coach would like to have on an offense. The biggest concerns about Jackson are on defense, where his physical profile holds back his otherwise competitive edge. A safe-floor, lower ceiling player than many in the class, it’ll be interesting to see how teams value his skills over other higher-potential players in his draft range.

Offensive Breakdown:

Jackson’s biggest NBA plus is his shooting ability, which he turned from a serious weakness his freshman and sophomore season into a strength this year. Check out the serious improvements in his statistics over the past three seasons, courtesy of hoop-math.com.

Justin Jackson Shooting Improvements

Season 3P% (MPG, APG) % of shots 3pt 2P JS % % shots 2pt J TS%
Season 3P% (MPG, APG) % of shots 3pt 2P JS % % shots 2pt J TS%
Freshman 30.4% (0.7, 2.4) 28.00% 50% 52.30% 54.10%
Sophomore 29.2% (0.9, 3.0) 28.80% 41.40% 43.50% 52.80%
Junior 37% (3.3, 8.6) 47.70% 39.40% 30.20% 55.50%

As Jackson became comfortable with the three and developed his once streaky stroke into a consistent weapon, Roy Williams really utilized Jackson’s improved range (and trusted Jackson with 8.6 three attempts PER GAME). The best news for UNC was that Jackson never became a ball-dominating three point shooter - 86% of his threes this season were assisted, compared to just 33.8% of his jumpers. He’s also got a nifty floater that he pulls out when he finds the space in the mid-range but doesn’t want to fully attack the paint. His improvement over the past three years culminating in Jackson being the star player on a Championship team is mighty impressive.

Despite his high volume of shots, Jackson wasn’t ever a ball-stopper (that was Joel Berry’s job); he averaged 3.5 assists (15.8% rate) on a 1.6/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, both fine numbers considering his 25.6% usage rate. He’s got a good ability to protect the ball, even from faster defenders, and doesn’t get overly sloppy. While he should be considered a capable and willing passer at the NBA level, it’s a secondary or tertiary skill at best; he hasn’t shown the moves or the instincts to be a primary distributor.

Jackson also isn’t much of an rim-runner; only 22.1% of his shots this season came at the rim and a whopping 58% of them assisted. That means more than half on his attempts at the rim were assisted; compare that to more natural attackers, such as Josh Jackson (42.9% of shots were at the rim, with only 41.7% assisted), OG Anunoby (54.9%, 45.1%), or Jayson Tatum (33.2%, 29.3%). These players all are significantly better at breaking down the defense and getting to the rim, mainly because they were all spectacular athletes at the collegiate level. Justin Jackson wasn’t anything more than an average collegiate athlete, and will be less-than-average at the NBA level.

Jackson’s presence as the primary weapon on a championship team speaks enough about how capable a shooter he is. But beyond that, his value on offense is murkier. He’s a secondary ball-handler at best, and NBA defenders will know they can stick closer to him than they should because he lacks the slashing speed to take advantage of overplays. His offense then comes down to trusting his shooting to translate, and considering it took him three years to inch that 3P% over the 30.5% mark, I’m a little more worried about the three-foot-further shot than I should be for a guy who NEEDS to shoot.

He’s a relatively safe-floor player who, at the worst, will give a team a capable floor spacer who will never stop moving off-the-ball. He’s a smart player who doesn’t make many mistakes and plays with solid toughness and focus. But in such a dynamic draft class with so many boom players, I can’t see lottery teams snagging him unless they really think they’re a solid 5th-starter/strong bench option away.

Defensive Breakdown:

Jackson’s effort on defense isn’t an issue; watch him compete against Malik Monk in the UNC/Kentucky Elite Eight matchup to see all you need to with his defense. He’s got good footspeed and a 6’11 wingspan, and can cover ground in a hurry. His best defensive matchup in the NBA will be against smaller guards, where he can hopefully keep up in space and disrupt with his length. But as soon as he loses that speed advantage, it’s very hard to see his defensive positives on the floor. He’s not an explosive player by any means, and lacks the ability to stay in front of players with much greater flexibility and movement. He’s also not likely to be able to add serious weight to stand up in a much bigger, more physical league; he’s STILL only 200 pounds after three years of it being a serious weakness at the COLLEGE level. He was often a liability on defense at UNC, and I can’t see that changing in the NBA.

Much like the rest of his non-shooting game, Jackson’s rebounding is solid if unremarkable. He finished with 10.8% defensive rebounding rate and 5.8 boards snagged per 40 minutes; both great for a shooting guard, and average for a small forward.

Intangibles:

As evidenced by his remarkable shooting turnaround, Jackson looks the part of a gym rat. He was a vocal and visual leader at top-notch NCAA program, and helped lead his team to back-to-back Championship appearances. Roy Williams stuck by him and praises him to no end - he’s the type of locker room presence any coach would love to add.

Fit with Sacramento:

With the talent around him at the No. 10 spot, it’s hard for me to get excited about Justin Jackson as a King. As a late-teens pick, I understand adding a capable spot-up shooter at an apparent position of need… but then again, he’s not really in the position of need. His value at the NBA level will come from playing shooting guard, where his lack of strength or ability to play and attack down low will be less of a major issue. Jackson matching up against NBA small forwards, even with his prototypical height/length, is terrifying for a 22 year old who only barely hit 200 pounds as a junior. Jackson’s best moments in college came against smaller players at both end of the court, and that’s not the position the Kings need to fill.

Sacramento needs shooting and floor spacing at the three, but they also need someone who can help Skal Labissiere/Willie Cauley-Stein out with quicker wings AND make an impact on the board. If the Kings go point guard early, I’d much prefer them taking a shot on other risks, such as OG Anunoby (much riskier, especially offensively, but he’s got the potential to be a game-changer defensively), Lauri Markkanen (same issues defensively, but much more chance he can become a space-breaking shooter), or whoever fell out of the top 9, even they’re redundant position-wise.