With only a few days to go until the NBA Draft, we’re going to break down a few mock draft selections for the Thunder. We’ve already done six, Semi Ojeleye, Luke Kinnard, Terrance Ferguson, Harry Giles, Jawun Evans, OG Anunoby, Derrick White, and TJ Leaf.We’re going to break down a couple more. Stay with us as the NBA season ends and the NBA offseason ramps up.
Who: Justin Jackson
Position: Small Forward
Where: North Carolina
Wt: 193 lbs.
After winning an NCAA championship and adding the ACC Player of the Year title to his resume’, Justin Jackson said goodbye to the University of North Carolina and immediately set his sights on the NBA.
As the leader of the Tarheels, Jackson’s game shined while improving upon areas of his game. At 6-8, Jackson averaged 18.3 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field as well as 37 percent from three. Per 40 minutes, his scoring average ballooned up to 22 points.
Many — if not all — mock drafts have Jackson going in the late lottery. With his offensive game and versatility as a scorer and facilitator, Jackson possesses the tools necessary for an exciting lottery pick. As deep as this current draft class is, there is still hope that after trades, moves and other draft night hoopla, a player like Jackson could slide down the draft.
That is where the Oklahoma City Thunder come in.
At 6-8 with a 6-11 wingspan, Jackson has the ideal body type to succeed in today’s NBA. That is certainly something Thunder GM Sam Presti values historically. Jackson’s ability to see the floor gives him the advantage of seeing over defenders and finding the open man in a fluid offense.
As an outside scorer, Jackson provides day one value. A natural shooting stroke with a quick trigger helped propel Jackson as one of the more efficient scorers in one of the tougher basketball conferences in the country.
On the fast break is where Jackson flourishes. His understanding of spacing rarely leads to a logjam of players at the rim after a steal, resulting in a missed opportunity. Either streaking to the rim to finish a turnover or fanning out to hit an open jumper, Jackson’s basketball IQ shines in the fast break.
The greatest asset to Jackson’s game is exactly that — his basketball IQ. He can easily integrate himself into an offense and adapt his game in order to make an impact and flourish. He prefers to create offense off the ball or as the passer. His savvy understanding of spacing allows him to find holes in the defense and score.
While his size and length jump out at scouts initially, his weight also has the same effect on the opposite end of the spectrum
Jackson is small. Small enough that at times, he found himself pushed, pulled and bullied by bigger, stronger forwards/wings. This will certainly become more of the norm transitioning into the NBA unless he makes a serious change to his body. His lack of physicality may scare some teams earlier in the lottery allowing Jackson to slide down further in the draft.
With his lack of physicality, Jackson loses versatility on the defensive end — forcing him to only defend players his size or smaller. Switching him on to PFs or bigger SFs could create problems for team defense.
His preference of scoring off of floaters is not necessarily due to preference but rather necessity. Due to his smaller frame, he has trouble finishing off of deep penetration to the basket. In the NBA where some shooting guards/wings are 6-7 — like the Thunder’s own Andre Roberson — Jackson will have to develop the ability to finish to find success as an athletic wing in this league.
On the defensive glass, Jackson leaves some to be desired. Averaging only 4.7 rebounds per game with his measurables is a little concerning.
It is easy to see why Jackson provides a ton of optimism for potential drafting teams late in the lottery. His scoring, offensive versatility and basketball IQ give scouts confidence that he can become a great contributor to an NBA franchise.
He is no stranger to improver as well. His shooting percentage from beyond the arc — something scouts were worried about after his sophomore campaign — jumped from 29 percent to 37 percent this season. When you factor in his knowledge of the game on the court, it is far from wishful thinking that he could improve on his weaknesses elsewhere in the NBA.
Jackson may be just out of reach for Presti and the Thunder, but if he slides to 21, he is a player they should seriously consider to improve their roster.
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