Josh Jackson lived up to his high recruiting profile and then some while at Kansas. He was named a member of the First Team All-Big 12 and earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Jackson is a dynamic athlete with two-way star potential. Standing 6-8 with a 6-10 wingspan, he has the size and quickness to realistically defend four positions. Jackson is still relatively unpolished in quite a few areas of his game, but if he puts it all together he can be a superstar in the NBA.
Where Jackson will have scouts most excited is with his versatility on the defensive end. Kansas mostly used Jackson as a stretch power forward, using his athleticism to create mismatches on both ends of the floor. He has the lateral quickness and motor to lockdown the perimeter. He gets into a stance and takes pride in preventing his man from getting past him, but his technique does need some polish. He uses his length to disrupt passing lanes, averaging 1.7 steals per game. He had solid numbers across the board, also grabbing 7.4 rebounds and notching 1.1 blocks per game. Jackson does have a relatively slim frame for his size at just 205 lbs. He’ll need to add strength to be able to consistently check bigger NBA forwards. He does still lack discipline at this stage. He gets lost and ball watches too often while playing off-ball defense. He can also struggle in transition defense, regularly giving up open shots as he just runs back looking for blocks instead of matching up with a man.
Offensively, Jackson is mostly a mixed bag right now, but he’s oozing with upside. Jackson has impressive stats in just about every category and shows flashes in all stages of the game. He’s a big-time transition weapon, capable of taking the ball coast-to-coast himself. He can finish with either hand from a variety of angles. He’s also a smart off-ball player, creating offensive opportunities with his instincts cutting back-door. He uses his quickness to attack closeouts and explodes to the rim when he has space. Jackson displays good feel for the game as well, averaging 3.0 assists per game. His lack of discipline does shows up on the offensive end though, as he also committed 2.8 turnovers per game.
The key to Jackson’s offensive potential will be his jump shot. He shot 37.8% from three this season, which is a good mark for a college shooter. However, Jackson finished the season on a ridiculous hot streak, shooting 50% from downtown in February and March. His ugly shot mechanics and poor 56.6% free-throw percentage may be a better measuring tool for his shooting at the next level. Jackson’s shot form consists of a slow-developing release that starts low around his waist and comes out in front of his face. He is susceptible to really bad misses, often hitting nothing but the backboard. He’s especially bad when shooting off the dribble, since his form prevents him from creating enough space to get his shot off. He was better at hitting spot-up open threes, which he needs to be able to make enough of to force the defense to respect his perimeter game.
Jackson can also be useful in the half-court with his ability to initiate the offense. He can run the pick-and-roll as a ball-handler or as a screen man. He doesn’t have great ball-handling skills, but he can use screens to get to the rim with a head of steam. His best pick-and-roll skill may be his decision making. He can feed the big man rolling or whip passes to shooters in the corner. However, defenses will sag off and go under screens if Jackson doesn’t threaten them with his jump shot. When defenders can get in front of him, he lacks creativity and is often forced to kill his dribble. Where Jackson can be a threat in one-on-one situations is in the post. He flashes some post moves, hitting simple hook shots and turnaround jumpers. He also passes well out of the post and gets involved on the offensive boards down low. He doesn’t’ have the best touch around the rim, but he’s shifty and has good body control to hit difficult shots around bigger players. He had 4.9 FTA per game, showing an ability to absorb contact well.
Josh Jackson is an exciting prospect, showing high upside in just about every facet of the game. He’s still a raw player though, especially on offense. His jump shot will be a major question and may be the key reason he falls out of a top three draft pick. Jackson should be a high level NBA player off his athleticism and defense alone, but developing a reliable jumper could help him reach a superstar level of play. Jackson also has some personality issues that could concern teams. He’s an emotional player on the court as he gets in silly foul trouble, including picking up technical fouls. He also had some legal issues while at Kansas. On the court though, Jackson’s defensive versatility gives him a high floor with plenty of room to continue to grow as a player.