Jaren Jackson Jr. is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He finished plus 2.6 on the FiveThirtyEight RAPTOR defensive rating, which was 18th best last season. Perhaps a more accurate representation of his defensive impact is that Jackson Jr. led the league in blocks for the second time in his young career at age 24.
Top 25 NBA Players Under 25: No. 7 – Jaren Jackson Jr.
He finished the season with averages of 18.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 3.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals on 51/36/79 shooting splits. His points, rebounds, and blocks were all career highs. To no surprise, Jackson Jr. is also a two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team award winner.
Jackson Jr. was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft out of Michigan State. The skill set and potential that made Jackson Jr. an intriguing draft prospect have translated exceptionally well to the NBA. He’s an ideal modern-day big man who can stretch the floor on offense and protect the paint on defense. His two-way prowess is evidenced by his 36 percent shooting from three and league-leading three blocks per game.
Fit in Memphis
Jackson Jr. is a perfect fit for a modern-day big man because he impacts winning despite having to put up more than 20 points per game.
The Grizzlies big man is someone who can contribute in multiple aspects, which is perfect playing alongside the likes of point guard Ja Morant. Morant is one of the league’s best at getting to the paint to score and setting up teammates for open looks. The fact that Jackson Jr. can stretch the floor is huge for the Grizzlies’ offensive success. Morant loves driving to the paint, and center Steven Adams‘ shooting range is limited. Jackson Jr. is the offensive glue guy who makes the system work because the fact that he can shoot effectively from three-point range fills a need. Even though Jackson Jr. is most known for his defense, he’s also above average offensively. According to RAPTOR, he finished with a plus 0.5 offensive rating last season.
Jackson Jr. has a 7-foot-4 wingspan, which plays a significant role in receiving All-Defensive selections. Despite his young career, his length and athleticism made him a two-time NBA All-Defensive First-Team winner. He could finish his NBA career with close to ten All-Defensive selections. At 6-foot-10 and 242 pounds, Jackson Jr. has the ideal length and ability to anticipate plays. Jackson Jr. is also a power forward, as Adams is typically the Memphis Grizzlies center. If Jackson Jr. played center the entire season, he could put up even more than three blocks per game.
Last Word on Jaren Jackson Jr.
Overall, Jackson Jr. impacts winning on both ends of the floor. Only at age 24, he still possesses untapped potential as someone who could have multiple All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Jackson Jr. is an ideal secondary star who is one of the league’s best defenders yet doesn’t demand the ball often. His unselfishness and two-way impact contribute to winning in multiple aspects, which plays a significant role.
Memphis has a promising young core, and a significant part of it is the Defensive Player of the Year, Jaren Jackson Jr., who is also an underrated offensive contributor. With Jackson Jr., Morant, and Desmond Bane, the future of Memphis is bright.
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