Can Michigan State’s two-way big man translate his game at the next level?
Watching Jaren Jackson Jr this season, you can tell he is one of the more raw prospects heading into the NBA draft this Thursday. However of all prospects, Jackson could have the biggest upside and the highest ceiling.
Jackson, standing at 6’10, 225 pounds with a 7’4 wingspan is mostly known for his two-way play. His 9’1 standing reach also is among the longest in this years class.
Jackson is a very intriguing prospect that many analysts think will be a future all-star, however some are saying otherwise. It could be because he is a very young prospect (turning 19 in September) with a raw game, or it could be because of what we saw from him in March Madness before getting knocked off by Syracuse in the 2nd round, having a total of 8 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes during those 2 games.
We will break down the strengths and weaknesses of his game and how it will translate to the NBA:
Jackson has been known to be a leader on the court, someone who will pump his teammates up and keep them hype throughout the whole game. He is also one of the more physical, well built athletes we have seen among recent drafts. He uses his physicality mostly to run the floor and play above the rim.
Jackson uses his body to his advantage when it comes to spacing the floor. His long arms give him an easy target to lob passes to, and when he isn’t under the rim, he can pop out to the arc and get the job done. He shot a career 40% from 3-point range in his time at college, something many NBA teams highly value from the power forward/ center position the way the game is changing.
Jackson’s dad, Jaren Jackson Sr, played pro for 13 years including winning a championship with the Spurs in 1999. Basketball is in his blood so he has been around it since he was young. But what separates Jackson from most big men in this draft class is his defensive versatility. He has learned how to switch off the screen and guard smaller players on the perimeter. He stays light on his feet on the defensive side of the ball, and has very quick movement.
One of the biggest concerns for Jackson’s game, that many scouts have pointed out is his toughness on the court. For someone with Jackson’s build, he can be soft at times on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. During his time at MSU, he averaged only 10 rebounds per game per 40 minutes. Those rebound numbers indicate he needs to get tougher on the glass to have a chance to succeed in the NBA. His toughness is a huge factor in determining whether he will be a top 5 pick or not.
Also hurting Jackson’s draft stock along with his softness, is his defensive IQ. He doesn’t have the worst IQ by any means, however, in the post he is still falling for pump fakes and letting defenders go around him when they post him up.
As we all know, the Atlanta Hawks own the 3rd pick in the draft and there is a very likely chance they could select Jaren Jackson Jr. He appears to be a future all-star type player with a ceiling of someone like Karl Anthony-Towns. Jackson will look to translate his 3 and D game to the NBA, all while learning how to play tougher on both sides of the ball, something new head coach Lloyd Pierce could easily teach him.
Pairing him with John Collins in Atlanta’s front court would definitely be interesting to see. It wouldn’t be the biggest front court having two guys both 6’10, however it would be a very athletic pair with a bright future from what we saw in Collin’s rookie season and Jackson’s time at MSU.
There is a strong chance Atlanta takes a risk on the 18 year old big man in Thursday’s draft, he has been 1 of about 5 guys the Hawks name has been linked to with that 3rd pick.
Ryan Andrews |@Ry_And1
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