FanPost

History Holds Hope for Justin Jackson

It's no secret that Justin Jackson had an underwhelming rookie year. Hopes for him were high as the 15th overall pick. The Kings had serious need at the Small Forward position and he was given ample opportunity to fill that need, to the tune of 1500 minutes on the court. "Three and D" is the prototype for his position in today's game, meaning he needs to shoot well and defend even better. Hitting only 31% from distance and recording less than half a steal per game clearly did not cut it. Looking forward, it seems Vince Carter will probably not return to the team. Temple and Shumpert could depart as well if they decline their options. That has justifiably aroused some anxiety in Kings fans around the weakness of their squad at the 3. It seems likely that Sacramento will either draft a Small Forward or look for one in free agency. And while that's not a bad idea by any means, I think there should be some optimism for Jackson next year. After all, recent history shows us that Small Forwards drafted in the middle of the first round can take huge steps forward in their second season.

In the 2016 draft only two Small Forwards were drafted between picks 10 and 20. Those were Taurean Prince (picked 12th) and Caris LeVert (picked 20th). I've complied some of their scoring and advanced stats below.

T. Prince

PTS/36

3PT%

PER

WS

BPM

VORP

2016-17

12.3

32.4%

9.8

1.1

-2.3

-0.1

2017-18

16.9

38.5%

12.8

2

-0.7

0.8

C. LeVert

PTS/36

3PT%

PER

WS

BPM

VORP

2016-17

13.6

32.1%

12.3

1.8

-1.1

0.3

2017-18

16.6

34.7%

14.3

2.3

-0.5

0.7

Both players showed significant improvement across the board. And their similarities with Jackson don't end with their draft position. Both players entered the league at age 22, like Jackson, and both played for teams that did not finish well in the standings. That means that their improvements were not artificially inflated by playing with superstars. The history of improvement in mid-first round wings goes back further than last year as well.

In 2015, three Small Forwards were taken between picks 10 and 20. The first was Justise Winslow (picked 10th). He had a very disappointing rookie campaign, and had to undergo season ending shoulder surgery after just 18 games in the following year. But in 2017-18, his second full year, he showed enormous improvement.

J. Winslow

PTS/36

3PT%

PER

WS

BPM

VORP

2015-16

8.1

27.6%

8.4

2.5

-0.6

0.8

2017-18

11.3

38.0%

11.5

2.6

-1

0.4

His BPM and VORP dipped, but his WS and PER went up. So as far as advanced metrics go, his improvement isn't too cut and dry. But just look at his scoring and 3PT%. That is a massive jump from his rookie year. The comp between Winslow and Jackson isn't as tight as it is with Prince and LeVert, considering Winslow entered the league at a younger age and is on a better team, but this should still be a good sign for Kings fans who are looking for Jackson to step up his game. The next player I looked at was taken exactly where JJ went, at the 15th pick. We have three full years of data for Kelly Oubre Jr.

K. Oubre

PTS/36

3PT%

PER

WS

BPM

VORP

2015-16

12.7

31.60%

8.2

0.4

-5.8

-0.7

2016-17

11.2

28.70%

9.1

2

-2.3

-0.1

2017-18

15.4

34.10%

11.9

3.7

-1.2

0.4

Oubre had his scoring and 3PT% drop in his second season, but the following year those figures were better than ever -€” far better, in fact. And his advanced numbers showed significant and consistent improvement year to year. Two years after being picked in the 15th spot, the Wizards have a solid 6th man at the Small Forward position.

There was one more SF taken in the 10-20 range of the first round in 2015. That was Sam Dekker, who was picked 18th. He only played six total minutes in his rookie year though, and has since changed teams in a trade. He has not showed the promise of the other four players we have looked at, but that isn't all too surprising considering his lack of playing time as a rookie and having to change systems, coaches, and cities. Even if we do include him in the sample though, 4 out of 5 players showing massive improvement after just a year or two has to be an augury that Kings fans can take comfort in.

Prince, LeVert, Winslow, and Oubre all made less than one-third of their 3-point attempts as rookies. They are all now solid threats from distance. They have all had their PER and Win Share numbers increase steadily each season. That's four guys who were disappointments on the wing as rookies that have proven to be solid rotation players already. Considering the similarities that Justin Jackson has to each of them, it's reasonable to think that he could follow in their footsteps. If that proves to be the case, the Kings may soon have a better option at Small Forward than they thought.

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)