Scouting Report: Jaren Jackson

I’ve watched Michigan State several times this season, yet I haven’t written about any of their players. Today, that changes. Michigan State is ranked #2 in the country as non-conference play wraps up, largely in part to Jaren Jackson’s strong play. Jaren Jackson Jr. is averaging 10.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 3.3 BPG and 2.2 TOPG on 44% shooting, 34% from 3, and 84% from the line.

Strengths:

  • Jackson has a great physical presence, standing around 6’10” with a 7’4″ wingspan.
  • Jackson’s defensive skillset is nearly unmatched. He can guard quicker, smaller players on the perimeter and can also guard the post incredibly well. His quick reaction time, long frame, lateral quickness, and quick recovery time allow him to be a dynamic rim protector. Here are two examples of all of those in one. Additionally, Jackson is an incredible helpside defender, and is able to rotate to the helpside without abandoning his assignment.
  • Jaren Jackson Jr is also a great rebounder. Defense and rebounding often go hand in hand, and Jackson is no exception. Jackson plays just 22 minutes per game, thus his nearly 8 rebounds a game is very impressive, translating to 13 rebounds per 40 minutes.
  • Jackson shows the ability to stretch the floor, shooting 34% from 3 and 84% from the line. While his shot is not perfect, it is effective enough to draw the opposing big man out of the paint.
  • Jaren Jackson JR is the son of former NBA guard Jaren Jackson, giving him a strong pedigree. He is also a hard worker and has a very high motor.

Weaknesses:

  • Jackson’s jump shot form is inconsistent and changes with closeouts. Consistency in his mechanics is essential for his shooting to succeed at the NBA level.
  • Jackson is not a good finisher at the rim for his position.
  • Jackson’s ball handling and shot creation is subpar.
  • Jackson often finds himself in foul trouble (5.8 fouls per 40 minutes)
  • Must add strength- like most freshmen, he needs to add strength to be dominant in the NBA.

Overall, Jaren Jackson’s offense may be limited to spot up shooting early on, which needs refinement, but he has one of the highest defensive upsides in the draft. Jackson possesses all the defensive traits needed to be a successful defender in the NBA. If he can learn to limit his fouling while adding strength, his defense will become near elite.

Jackson would be a great fit with the Mavericks. First, he fills an immediate need of PF/C. As I’ve noted in the past, almost all of the Mavs’ big men are free agents after the 2017-18 season. Furthermore, the Mavs are constantly near the bottom of rebounding per game, and Jackson’s high rebound rate would help immediately address that. Second, Rick Carlisle has shown how much he values a big man with a high motor. Salah Mejri is a great example of this, as Mejri is the highest energy player on the team, and his constant effort is rewarded with good playing time. Lastly, Jackson’s shooting potential is important to the team, as Jeff Withey and Dwight Powell did not succeed as shooters with the Mavs. The Mavericks would thrive with a defensive anchor down low that can also stretch the floor to bring the opposing center out of the paint.

Ideally, Jackson may be near the perfect big man for the Mavs to draft, as he checks all the boxes of Rick Carlisle’s perfect big: shooting ability, rebounding, rim protection, athletic, and switching ability on defense. Carlisle could very easily hide much of Jackson’s deficiencies and minimize his shot creation flaws, and help set him up with good scoring opportunities at the rim, likely through the pick & roll.

NBA comparison: Serge Ibaka

Projected draft range: 6-10

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