Josh Jackson - Kansas
Projected draft spot: 3rd (Draft Express), 3rd (CBS Sports), 3rd (ESPN)
Stats: 30.8 minutes, 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks, 51.5 FG%, 38.6 3PT%, 56.3 FT%
Strengths: Physical Tools, Scoring at all Levels, Passing, Defensive Versatility, “Takeover Potential”
Weaknesses: Free Throw Shooting, Focus/Intensity, Handle
Game Time: Saturday v.s. Oregon at 6:49 PM MST
What to watch for: Most everyone accepts that Josh Jackson, wing/forward of the Kansas Jayhawks, is one of the top prospects in college basketball this season. The Denver Nuggets will not be able to draft this kid, and even though this series is dedicated to providing information on prospects I believe to be on Denver’s radar, I’m obligated to explain why I have Jackson as the best overall player in the NBA Draft.
Starting with his physical tools, Jackson has a similar build to Andrew Wiggins coming out of college, and he has the physical ability to get to any location on the floor. The main difference though is that it’s much easier to envision Jackson making the right play once he gets there. On top of showing tremendous shooting potential around the rim, in the midrange, and beyond the arc, Jackson also possesses a high assist rate for his position as a secondary and tertiary creator. The Kansas offense employs some very capable players, including my personal favorite for NCAA Player of the Year, Frank Mason. Jackson’s job has been made much easier because of this, causing some concern about his true potential.
The only true question about Jackson is whether his late season surge from behind the three point line is more indicative of his shooting skills than his low free throw percentage. Some players never fully grasp scoring at the free throw line efficiently, yet they can still be capable shooters from all over the court.
There’s no way of knowing whether Jackson will struggle to shoot at the next level, but what’s truly important is the bounty of other skills Jackson possesses that will help him become an elite player. His defense (when locked in) is stellar. He can defend most players at the point guard position, while also bothering most power forwards. His lanky frame and incredible anticipation make him a threat to not just create turnovers, but finish lob dunks with ease. Offensively, he’s a solid cutter and will continue to develop on that end, but it’s his slashing and potential as a playmaker out of the pick and roll that might make him dynamic. He has shown an ability to finish in a variety of ways, and with a clear ability to pass, Jackson can counter when teams send help.
Jackson has the ability to be the next Kawhi Leonard. It’s not often people can say that, but Jackson truly has the all-around skill set to reach that level. His per game averages as a freshmen are very similar to Otto Porter in college. His combination of rebounds, steals, and blocks in his allotment of minutes is comparable to Draymond Green and Jae Crowder in college. Oh, and in conference and tournament play? He’s been even better.
Some team is going to luck into Josh Jackson when Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball are selected first overall. Jackson will likely go third, or perhaps even lower, but if a team brings him a long slowly at his own pace, Jackson will reward that team with the impact of a Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, or even Kawhi Leonard. The two-way wing is one of the most coveted positions in the entire NBA because of its all-around impact, and Jackson certainly fits the bill.