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Josh Jackson – 6’8” Small Forward, University of Kansas, 20 Years Old
Josh Jackson is yet another ‘one-and-done’ player entering this years NBA draft, after an undeniably efficient and successful rookie year at the University of Kansas, where he was named ‘The Big 12 Freshman of the Year.’ A pivotal part of their 31-5 year, and benefitting from KU’s elite coaching staff, Jackson was able to make a significant impact. A 16.3-7.4-3.0 per game stat line was compounded by decent shooting clips (51.3 FG%, 37.8 3FG% and 56.6 FT%) and hard-nosed defense.
Projected by almost all as a 2-5 pick, Jackson is a player who can slot right into the starting-5’s of many teams in the NBA.
Jackson is nothing short of a constant nuisance to the opposition on the defensive end of the floor. Like many of the elite small forwards in the NBA, he has shown the capability to guard multiple positions; namely. from the 1 to the 4. In an increasingly pick-and-roll themed league, displaying the ability to switch and guard players of different sizes is valued at a premium.
Moreover, his speed and tactical alertness allows him to be a pest on the perimeter. Although sometimes more-than-necessary, he’ll continuously find passing lanes and attempt to thwart them. These instinctive reactions can occasionally be gambles, but coaching staffs should be able to harness his technique in the right vein, in due course.
Aside from all the technical aspects of his game on defence, however, it is easy to recognise – just from watching him play – the invested effort he puts in. Whether he is defending on or off the ball, he makes opponents work as hard as they possibly can to get by him. This type of intensity cannot be groomed by coaches; it forms based on the willpower of a player, and their devotion to success on the less-colourful end of the floor.
While Jackson may not be the most skilled offensive player in the draft, he still shows the basic qualities – and more – of an effective NBA player. His best quality is his unselfishness. He understands than he is not ready to be a primary scoring option, and so readily distributes to more able teammates in that field, displaying high acumen and on court vision.
Despite his obvious offensive potential, Jackson has some ways to go before he can really dominate that end of the court like he does on defence. His on-ball skills – dribbling, making his own shot, among others – are far less than any other draftee projected to go similarly high in the draft. At times, he may make an extra pass not worth making or lose the ball in transition.
Moreover, although his shooting clips (listed above) seem impressive, they come from a small sample size of 3 point shooting, and poor free throw shooting. His normal field goal percentage remains high, but he is still a developing shooter with a shot form that needs altering.
Perhaps his main drawback, especially in comparison to other ‘top prospects,’ is his at-times overly fiery attitude. Only 3 players in his entire conference had more technical fouls than him throughout the season, and his off court drama may raise eyebrows in some NBA teams’ front offices. He was required to attend counseling sessions for various acts of misdemeanor through his year in college. Jackson is at a very tender stage where the next couple of seasons will define his general temperament and focus. It is up to whichever team that drafts him to channel his determination into the right things.
It is only due to NBA rules that Jackson even spent a year at Kansas. He’s as good and better than many players already in the league, and will make instant impact. He is a high floor, high ceiling type player than most teams would be desperate to add. If all goes right for the high-energy small forward, he could develop into an all-star caliber player in the seasons to come. He must be developed more delicately than other players, potentially due to his personality, but can play big dividends in the future.
NBA Player Comparison
Unselfishness and tenacity are two words that ring synonymous with Josh Jackson. Gritting and grinding over overt flashiness is a tougher way to make it to the very pinnacle of basketball, but players like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler have done it. Jackson needs to learn from these hard-nosed players, and incorporate the way they carry themselves into his personal mentality. Those two players are at an elite level, but while Jackson may currently be far behind in terms of ability, – shooting, namely – he showcases many of the intangible qualities that those two are known for.