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NBA Draft 2017 Prospect Breakdown: Justin Jackson

North Carolina’s Justin Jackson followed a run to the title game with a national championship. Now he looks to translate an improved jump shot to the next level.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Kentucky vs North Carolina Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31 (er, No. 41). The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down North Carolina junior Justin Jackson.

North Carolina junior Justin Jackson is rated as a lottery selection by numerous sites. Despite being widely considered as a top-20 player at worst, he is a borderline first-round choice in my rankings. He is a player I expect to drop lower than many present projections due to a lack of feel for a lack of toughness relative to his age (22) and no elite readiness with a limited ceiling.

Offensive Profile

Justin Jackson was praised for his improvement in extending his jump shot in his junior season. Despite the improvement he still only shot 37% from deep and knocks down 75% of his free throws. He struggles to maintain a consistent release. His shot is no longer a liability but he needs it to be a weapon to be a plus scorer at the next level. Without becoming reliable from the corner spot, he may find trouble carving out a role offensively in a rotation.

Jackson is a good decision-maker who does not feel the need to demand the basketball. He has a good handle for his size yet only averaged 4.7 rebound with his 6’11 wingspan. He is long but plays shorter than his frame at times while having room to grow in moving without the ball. Overall, his offensive game has no obvious flaws or skills worth getting excited about. To make an impact at the professional level his outside shot must translate to the NBA and the rest of his game from rim to mid-range will have to grow along with it.

Defensive Profile

Jackson improved defensively as a junior but still leaves much to be desired. While primarily defending smaller players, he only blocked 0.2 shots per game—an anemic number for a player of his size. He will struggle against larger NBA wings with an inability to defend players with more size and vertical gifts. Unfortunately, Jackson does not have great hands (0.8 steals) to aid him with his vertical limitations.

Despite these traditional holes, Jackson is not necessarily a poor defender overall. He mostly holds his position against his man and is effective at denying the ball in the post and on the wing. He provides strong help defense and effectively digs down on taller players. Much like his offensive profile, Jackson does not have obvious flaws on the defensive end that are not able to be corrected—nor does he have a strong skill to impact the floor on the defensive end. Over time, Jackson could fulfill his potential and maximize his length to become a versatile professional defender. However, given his age and experience his development should be further along at this time.

Fit for the Atlanta Hawks

Most predictions have Jackson off the board before Atlanta picks at #19 and he is not a player worth moving up to acquire. Should Jackson fall to Atlanta’s first selection there is space to get excited about his selection. With a winning pedigree and above average all-around skill, Jackson may thrive in a system where he is surrounded by better players. In time, he could be able to defend 2-4 and knock down the corner 3. Such a profile would be worthy of a #19 pick but the Hawks would be betting on Jackson’s instincts and jump shot growing more than is typical of a 22-year-old junior with significant high-level college experience.

Summary

Justin Jackson profiles as a better overall player than his individual skills suggests. This is often a strong profile for players who become busts due to failing to provide a readily translatable NBA gift. Jackson needs one elite skill and the rest of his game becomes much stronger. A dependable outside shot would make his offensive game more translatable at all three levels. That feel like a more comfortable bet in the late 20’s than just outside of the lottery.