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Justin Jackson – 6’7” Forward, Maryland University, 21 Years Old
Justin Jackson has been placed anywhere from the end of the first round to going undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. He is a polarizing prospect because his play took a nose-dive in his sophomore season because of a shoulder injury to his shooting arm suffered in a closed practice against Wake Forest prior to the season. He attempted to play through the injury but decided to have surgery to fix the issue in December. Because of this injury, Jackson went from a player who many expected to go as high as the lottery to now being a late second round projection.
His first season at Maryland, Jackson opened the eyes of NBA scouts with his versatility. He is projected to play power forward in the NBA despite only being 6’7, he has a strong body weighing in at 225 pounds and a ridiculous wingspan at 7’3 inches, which is in the same as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant. In the 2017-18 season Jackson averaged 9.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2 assists per game. The Canadian forward has the potential to be a good professional in the NBA as long as his game continues to develop.
The NBA is moving towards position-less basketball that has players who can switch constantly on defense and guard multiple positions. This is what makes Jackson attractive to scouts as a Draymond Green–type player on defense. This is not to say that Jackson will be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year type player. This just means he has the physical tools and IQ to potentially guard point guards and centers in the NBA. His 7’3 wingspan has been talked about quite a bit as the key to his success at the next level, particularly on the defensive end. He is also a strong rebounder for his size. He maintains strong box-out technique and attacks the basketball. This allowed him to get 8.1 rebounds per game last season which included 2.5 offensive rebounds.
On the offensive end, Jackson is somewhat limited and will have to adjust. Like a lot of players his success in the NBA will be dependent on who drafts Jackson. There are questions about his ability to shoot the basketball because he only shot 25 percent from three in his second season, but Jackson attributes that slump to the torn labrum in his shooting arm. He is clearly able to shoot the ball as he shot 44 percent from three in his freshman season. Despite only averaging 2 assists per game last season, he has shown flashes of vision and playmaking ability in his time at Maryland. Operating in the high-post, he often finds open shooters after attacking the basket.
Jackson is not the most explosive player and many pundits think he will struggle to get by defenders at the next level. Defensively he makes up for his lack of explosiveness because of his long arms and strong basketball IQ. However, offensively it could become a problem. He is capable of handling the basketball in open floor situations, but it is not advanced. Do not expect to see him playing one-on-one against most defenders in the NBA. There are also obvious question marks about his shoulder injury. Because his shooting numbers were so abysmal in his sophomore season, his individual workouts will be vital if Jackson wants to show NBA front offices he is capable of reproducing his freshman numbers.
There has been some speculation that Jackson’s game resembles that of Draymond Green. While it is extremely unlikely he will ever reach that level of play, there are similarities in their style. Green has shown the rare ability to be able to guard all five position in the NBA. He is able to do so because of his high basketball IQ and tremendous length. Jackson shares these attributes, and although he does not have the same kind of lateral quickness as Green, he should be able to guard all five positions in spurts. At the least he is a versatile defender who is capable of switching any pick and roll.
Offensively, he is more comparable to a Trevor Ariza. You will probably not get a ton of playmaking from the Canadian. Instead, he will be a catch-and-shoot player with the ability to run the floor in transition and use his length to finish around the rim. Because of this, it is most likely that Jackson will be picked by a team that already has strong offensive players. Golden State immediately comes to mind particularly with the expiring contracts of Patrick McCaw and Kevon Looney. Other potential fits are the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, both of whom already have elite offenses. There is a possibility that Jackson is not drafted. If this is the case, a team like the Toronto Raptors could potentially offer him a two-way contract.