The Trail Blazers’ offseason is upon us, and the 2018 NBA Draft will provide Portland with an opportunity to supplement its roster with a talented youngster. With only the No. 24 pick at their disposal on draft night, the Blazers will surely look to get lucky by finding an NBA-worthy prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we will be looking at the intriguing potential of Maryland sophomore forward Justin Jackson.
- Height: 6’7’’
- Weight: 219
- Wingspan: 7’3’’
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SF/PF
- Age: 21
- Projected draft range: Early 2nd round - Mid 2nd round
- PPG: 9.8 I Per 40: 13.5
- RPG: 8.1 I Per 40: 11.1
- APG: 1.9 I Per 40: 2.6
- STL: 0.8 I Per 40: 1.1
- FG%: 36.6
- 3P%: 25.0
- FT%: 82.8
The obvious feature that has scouts drooling over Jackson is his physical measurements. If drafted by the Trail Blazers, his 7’3’’ wingspan would tie him for the team lead with Al-Farouq Aminu. Due to injuries that removed the Maryland product from most of the 2017-18 season, his freshman season is a better gauge of his skills. Jackson has solid range like most of the modern NBA’s big men, hitting the three at a 44 percent clip during his first season with the Terrapins. He is also effective in the paint, using his frame to bully and outsmart defenders with an array of post moves. Jackson entered the 2017 NBA Draft but pulled out after a less-than-stellar performance at the NBA Combine.
With such a small sample size during the 2017-18 season (only 11 games), it is hard to gauge what improvements Jackson made from his freshman campaign. Even with his physical gifts, his athleticism leaves much to be desired. At the 2017 NBA Combine, his agility and vertical numbers ranked near the bottom of all players that attended. Another question mark is Jackson’s consistency. During his two years at Maryland, he only scored in double-digits in back-to-back games twice. To put that in perspective, another potential draft target, Chandler Hutchison, had a 24-game streak of scoring 10 or more points. It is also difficult to know what the Maryland forward’s success shooting the ball will be at the next level. His percentages dipped considerably during his sophomore season, shooting just 25 percent from three.
As mentioned before, Jackson’s sophomore year was cut short due to a torn labrum. He played just 11 games and certainly didn’t help his draft stock in those contests. Still, while his scoring was down from his first season, his rebounding and assist totals increased. Once their starting forward was lost for the year, the Terrapins struggled in the Big Ten. After going 8-3 with Jackson in the lineup, they finished the year 19-13 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Jackson’s best game of 2017 came on Dec. 3 when he scored 20 points and helped Maryland to an overtime win over Illinois.
Jackson certainly does have potential at the next level as his physical metrics exceed most of his peers. At his best, the Maryland forward could develop into a Boris Diaw-like player — someone who can score on multiple levels, but might not be up to snuff with the athleticism of opposing stretch-fours. The red flags, however, are numerous. A season-ending injury is always worrisome, and his dip in shooting percentages during his limited number of games in 2017 will not be looked upon favorably as scouts dive deeper into his resume.
There’s no question that the Trail Blazers lack firepower on the wing. Even at their best, the play of Maurice Harkless, Pat Connaughton, and Evan Turner left much to be desired last season. The problem is that Jackson sits somewhere in-between a three and four in the NBA. He’s not quite athletic enough to guard most small forwards, but he’s too small for the typical power forward. If drafted by Portland, the Maryland product would add a nice scoring punch off the bench that could handle the ball and get his own shot efficiently. With another trip to the combine this month, Jackson will have a chance to prove to teams that he has progressed from last year’s performance. Even if he does, injury concerns could hinder him from leaping into the top half of the first round.
Do you want to see Jackson in a Trail Blazers jersey next season? What prospect would you like to see us highlight next? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.