In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we take a glance at Boise State’s Justinian Jessup.
It isn’t “normal” to see an NBA prospect, after spending four years in college, signing a contract with a professional franchise before the draft even arrives. In the case of Boise State standout Justinian Jessup, however, that is the reality, with the 22-year-old sharpshooter inking a deal with the NBL’s Illawarra Hawks in Australia for the 2020-21 season as part of their ‘Next Stars’ program.
“It’s a great opportunity to get NBA exposure while playing against tough competition,” Jessup said. “I’m excited about playing for Coach Goorjian and all the young guys on the team. LaMelo (Ball) playing last year was huge for the league and brought a lot of exposure (for the NBL) and I know it’s going to be tough competition which I’m really looking forward to.”
While the situation is a bit abnormal, Jessup isn’t the only player to enter the draft with the potential, or even likelihood, to be selected as a “draft-and-stash” entity and, in diving into his profile, there is a lot of potential intrigue.
Jessup, who is listed at 6’7 and 202 pounds, finished his college career as one of the more highly decorated players in Boise State history. He is the only player in the history of the program to record 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 steals and 50 blocks, and Jessup is also the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leader in three-pointers (325), toppling BYU legend Jimmer Fredette in the process.
As left-handed marksman, Jessup shot 41.9 percent from three-point range across the last three seasons, attempting 6.8 per game and 11.7 per 100 possessions. In addition, Jessup shot 70 of 73 (95.9 percent) from the free throw line as a senior, and he was named to the All-Mountain West first team for the 2019-20 campaign.
His shooting percentages speak for themselves, and Jessup also shoots with deep range. The southpaw also shoots an “easy ball” and, in short, there is no reason to believe he will not continue to be an effective floor spacer at the professional level.
Though Jessup’s primary appeal comes with his shooting, he flashed playmaking skills at times at Boise State. He feels the game well, operating with fluidity in the pick-and-roll, and Jessup also takes care of the ball, turning the ball over on only 7.9 percent of possessions in the last two seasons combined. It will be interesting to see how he matures as an offensive player on the whole but, while his shooting is his key strength, Jessup is at least comfortable enough with the ball in his hands to pose a threat.
Defensively, it is a mixed bag for Jessup, which is to be expected for a player with relative athletic limitations. On the positive side, he competes at a high level and is regularly in the right place at the right time. More skeptically, strength is a significant issue for a (very) skinny wing, and Jessup is not terribly explosive vertically or horizontally.
Jessup posted a 2.0 percent career steal rate and a 1.6 percent career block rate. Neither of those numbers stand out but, on the flip side, they aren’t comically poor for a shooting guard, which is the position Jessup projects to fill as a professional. He certainly isn’t likely to be a plus defender at the NBA level but, with added strength, Jessup could be a player that isn’t a terrible negative on that end of the floor.
At present, Jessup ranks as the No. 78 player available for Sam Vecenie of The Athletic and No. 82 on ESPN’s big board. As such, he is far from a lock to be drafted, and may be heading to Australia to continue his development without NBA team control as a result. Still, Jessup is certainly seen in a “draftable” range and, if a team values his shooting at a high level, the option to select him in the 50’s, send him to the NBL for development, and monitor his progress could be viable.
It is an overwhelming (and truthfully unfair) comparison, but CJ Moore of The Athletic polled evaluators in search of the “next Duncan Robinson” and Jessup received some attention through that prism. It is extremely difficult to project any player to follow the development curve of Robinson, but Jessup’s shooting prowess could land him in the NBA sooner rather than later.