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NBA Draft Profile: Justin Jackson

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The UNC product drastically improved his game as a junior, winning the NCAA tournament with the Tar Heels.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Gonzaga vs North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Only 23 days remain until the 2017 NBA Draft and, if you’ve been following the Portland Trail Blazers (you’re here, after all), you probably know that they possess picks No. 15, 20, and 26 in the first round. Should they use one on UNC forward Justin Jackson? You be the judge.

Justin Jackson

  • Height: 6’8”
  • Weight: 200 lbs
  • Wingspan: 6’11”
  • Shoots: Right
  • Position: SF
  • College: UNC
  • Age: 22
  • Projected draft range: 12-19

2016-17 Statistics

  • PPG: 18.3 | Per 40: 22.8
  • RPG: 4.7 | Per 40: 5.8
  • APG: 2.8 | Per 40: 3.5
  • BLK: 0.2 | Per 40: 0.3
  • STL: 0.8 | Per 40: 1.0

Strengths

Jackson is one of the more NBA-ready offensive products we have examined so far. He has a high basketball IQ, is good about making the right pass, and is a quick, effective shooter. Range is not an issue. This is great because the ability to hit a deep three makes him that much more threatening on the drive, where he displays impressively soft touch in the lane. He can fit in a variety of NBA offenses because he has great instincts but isn’t ball-dominant. Defensively, Jackson has quick feet and is always active, constantly bothering opponents of similar size.

Weaknesses

The frame isn’t there yet. Jackson is the right length to be an NBA small forward, but he is a featherweight. He struggles to defend physical players and really is not the best option to slide down in small-ball rotations. Sheer lack of overall strength limits his upside. This is not exclusive to the defensive end; Jackson has a beautiful floater, but he tends to settle for it (and other tough shots) because he is unable and often unwilling to absorb contact. How successful he is at the next level is partially tied to how well he adds muscle and what he subsequently learns to do with it.

2016-17 Season

Jackson made the leap from “solid piece” to “offensive focal point” his junior year by deconstructing and rebuilding his shot mechanics. That is downright impressive in its own right and suggests that he is a fast learner with a mind for where the game is headed. He took his 3-point percentage from 29 percent the previous year to 37 percent on over seven attempts per game (high volume). He finished the season with ACC Player of the Year honors and was an integral part of the Tar Heels’ NCAA championship run.

Overall Assessment

For how much Jackson struggles to create high percentage shots for himself, his reliance on height and length at the college level is worrying—not because having the right measurements is at all bad, but because that advantage goes away against NBA defenders. It’s nice that he can float the ball over defenders or see over the top to open teammates, but if getting to and finishing around the rim is a weakness in a 6’8” college junior’s game, that’s a red flag. Of course, Jackson offers more than drives to the hoop, so he is certainly worth a look. In terms of overall versatility and smart decision making, he’s among the best players on the board.

Overall Fit

The Trail Blazers presently have a dearth of forwards that can shoot from deep. Of Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, and Jake Layman, Harkless led the group with a 3-point percentage of 35.1 last season. That is not at all ideal for an offense that should be capitalizing on ball movement. Jackson has the quickfire capability to spread the defense for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Like Lillard and McCollum, though, his own defense may be an issue.


Do you want Jackson in a Trail Blazers jersey next season? Which player would you like us to analyze next? Tell us in the comments below.