Everybody knows what the Detroit Pistons are getting with the 6-foot-8 small forward and 2017 NCAA Champion Justin Jackson.
Don’t expect me to change minds here. Instead, I want to simply put people’s minds at ease.
Lots of folks like Jackson, while others really don’t. Perhaps it is because nothing about Jackson jumps off the page. Still, nothing deeply concerns you about Jackson, either. And that counts for something.
He is a talented and heady player with obvious offensive skill. He’s already 22 years old, however, and questions about his remaining upside are valid.
Is he just another halfway decent shooter off the bench? Can he create his own shot in the NBA? Maybe he’ll only be able to be a catch and shoot guy?
For more on Justin Jackson, I’ll gladly let the Draft Express gurus get you up to speed:
While Jackson has shown clear skill development, there are still some things he has to address to compete nightly against NBA wings. At 6'8 with a 6'11 wingspan, he has very good size and length for a wing, but is just an average athlete by NBA standards. He's a fluid athlete, but lacks a degree of explosiveness. His frame is on the thin side at 201 pounds, which is a cause for concern as a 22 year old junior, since he'll likely always be somewhat lanky. He'll have to continue to get stronger to handle the physicality of a NBA schedule as a small forward, much less be able to spend any time as a small-ball 4-man, which many teams like to see their small forwards do these days.
Jackson relies on his feel for the game and high skill-level to make the right reads on and off ball to help him score. There will be an adjustment he'll need to make playing against more complex defensive schemes than he saw in college, but in a smaller offensive role, Jackson will likely find ways to use his basketball IQ to find openings to get good looks at the rim.
Where Jackson struggles is creating offense off the dribble, either out of pick and roll or isolation opportunities. Lacking an elite first step to get into space and struggling to handle the ball in traffic, he is rarely able to shake his defender off the dribble. His drives are cut off before he can get into the lane and he is often stuck dribbling from sideline to sideline rather than toward the rim.
When he does find an opening, he prefers to score off floaters (41% on 75 attempts according to Synergy Sports Technology) or pull-up jumpers (31.5% on 73 attempts per SST) rather than attempting to take contact at the rim. He can be a crafty finisher at the rim (57.5% conversion rate per SST) but may have trouble finishing around the basket against longer rim protectors because of his lack of explosiveness and strength. He shot just 4.2 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, one of the lower marks among small forwards in our top 100 and rarely looked to initiate contact.
What do some of the NBA mock drafts predict for Jackson?
The Sacramento Kings will take Jackson at number 10 according to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish. Bleacher Report has Jackson going to the Miami Heat at number 14. Wait, Bleacher Report’s newest mock also has Jackson going to the Kings at number 10.
On to Jackson’s offensive highlights.
Jackson’s smarts and feel for offense and level of preparation are on display below. Make what you will of some of his physical limitations, Jackson is a player that can come in and help your team right away. There’s not going to be too much holding his hand and hoping he’ll eventually come around to being a productive player.
Jackson has the ability to drain shots from very deep, as you will see from the next two clips and many more if you dive into his college highlights, but if you take his 37 percent from 3-point range for his junior season into effect — up from 29 percent during his sophomore season — you can make a strong argument that he’s hitting his stride and will continue to shoot the ball with good accuracy from long range from here on out. Contrast that with Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson, for example. Both entered college same time as Jackson, both left after one season of college ball and both are still looking to shake the terrible shooter label. Jackson likely will never even come close to the pitiful shooting numbers from Winslow and Johnson in their first two NBA seasons.
More moving without the ball goodness and fluidity. NBA coaches and their schemes will really benefit from Jackson’s ability to read screens. And remember shooters out there — make sure you thank your screener.
These next several clips, if nothing else, show that Jackson is quick to get his shot up and can finish with both hands in a variety of creative ways. Can he get most of these types of shots up in the NBA with longer defenders guarding him or shot blockers lurking in the shadows?
That length! A 6-foot-11 wingspan at its finest.
Is Jackson the safest choice for Detroit? Maybe for some he seems like a great fit, as there is a possibility he could play some two guard. As we all know, Detroit needs offensively capable players. You would then think Detroit takes a long look at the mature and talented former Tar Heel.