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Stiffs NBA Draft prospect watch: Josh Jackson

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering the top prospects for the Denver Nuggets in the 2017 NBA Draft in our Stiffs Prospect Watch series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of top first round prospects.

Josh Jackson

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three point % Free throw %
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three point % Free throw %
16.3 7.4 3.0 1.7 1.1 2.8 51.30% 37.80% 56.60%

Strengths

Athleticism

Jackson is an athletic freak. He didn’t participate in the combine’s athletic testing, but his speed on the court, jumping ability and slashing to the hoop are top-tier. He uses that athleticism on defense, where he’s also very gifted. Our own Ryan Blackburn rated him as the fifth-best defender in this class, and for a freshman that’s an outstanding rank. He gets his blocks via his quick leaping ability rather than excessive length, and there is no question that he is an NBA-level athlete from Day One.

Defensive upside

To again reference Ryan’s write-up on defenders:

Jackson possesses many of the fundamentals necessary to pester opposing ball handlers, as well as the physical tools to overwhelm them. With incredible feet and the proper use of his long arms, Jackson appears much bigger than he is on film, and it shows. Opposing players constantly lose their balance, or dribble into traffic, or simply pull up to avoid attacking the Kansas product head on. With proper refinement, Jackson could be a rare breed of wing stopper in the NBA, one of the most important positions today with a variety of excellent wing scorers.

Jackson had some issues with too many fouls this year from playing overly-aggressive defense, but I’d rather have to reign a guy in than push him to compete harder. You’ll never have to prod Josh to compete - that’s in his nature on every play.

Offensive creativity

Jackson played forward and at 6’8” he is perfectly sized to do so in the NBA as well. But his 3.9 assists-per-40 show his ability as a secondary ball-handler and distributor as well. Check out these passes from just the first handful of games this season:

That’s what lets NBA teams dream on his ability to fill a Jimmy Butler or Andre Iguodala role as a big-time two-way player who can distribute the ball.

Weaknesses

Maturity

Jackson is one of the older freshman in the draft, as he turned 20 in February. Still, he’s had some off-the-court noise that casts some doubt on his readiness for the League. He allegedly kicked the back of a female basketball player’s car and threatened to beat her up. He also went to court for backing into someone’s car in a parking lot and not leaving his information. It’s not Joe Mixon territory, but teams can rightly be concerned about how he’ll reflect on their team and what sort of citizen he might be in their community. If he goes in the top-5, no team’s front office can afford to tie its team’s future to a player who might get them fired. The Nuggets have first-hand experience with a team lynchpin going off the rails (see: Lawson, Ty) and know better than most how it can affect them. This is the one issue that might cause him to drop.

Shot-making

Jackson’s shot evolved over the year, and he was better-than-expected from three-point range, but his free throw percentage of 56.6% does not scream “excellent shooter.” His form comes and goes and is something that will have to be addressed by whichever team drafts him. Neither Butler nor Iguodala is a great shooter, but they improved enough to make themselves a threat to shoot from all over the court, which increased the effectiveness of their driving and opened up passing lanes as well. That’s what Jackson will need to become a star.

Fit with Nuggets

Jackson is the best player at a position of need for Denver (SF) with Danilo Gallinari having opted out of his contract and both Will Barton and Wilson Chandler in the last year of their deals. He also fills Denver’s major need of upgrading its offense while also fitting its passing and cutting offense to a tee. Basically, he’s a perfect on-the-court fit with as high an upside as anyone in this draft. That’s why he will definitely not be there when Denver is drafting. To get Jackson they would have to move up AND have him fall down the draft board a few spots. Unless Tom Thibodeau has been replaced by a space alien, Jackson is unlikely to fall past Minnesota at 7 and is most likely a top-5 pick. Strange things happen in drafts, though.

Projected draft spot

SBNation - 4

Draft Express - 3

CBS Sports - 5 (Forgrave), 3 (Parrish)

ESPN (Chad Ford) - 3

Final thoughts

Josh Jackson is an extremely unlikely pick for Denver, but simply because expending the draft capital to get up to select him would be a massive and unlikely endeavor. He could slide due to character concerns in a draft of similarly talented players at his combo forward position. Jayson Tatum and Jonathan Isaac could both leapfrog him in some scenarios and Denver could then choose to move up and select him. His on-court talent doesn’t concern me at all - I think he’s a supremely talented player and could be a future All-Star and lynchpin of a Denver contender.

Denver has spent an inordinate amount of time talking up their “talented players who are good guys from good families” talking points the last several drafts, though, and would have to be convinced that Jackson’s brushes with the law are not indicative of a bigger problem. I think it’s unlikely in any event, but Jackson’s fit as a defender, slasher, and willing distributor would be an excellent fit for this team.

Just don’t hold your breath.