In Part 2 of our series on how Lonzo Ball will run the Lakers’ offense…after some significant roster changes…we take a look at Floppy, a common half court set in the NBA.
NBA Draft – Scouting Reports
In part one of our series on how Lonzo Ball will run the Lakers Playbook, Pete Zayas takes a look at the early offense action of Delays & Down Screens.
Lonzo Ball is the most unconventional prospect that I’ve ever seen, and it isn’t particularly close, a sentiment that Nate Duncan & Mike Schmitz echoed on recent episodes of the Laker Film Room Podcast. Rarely do you find such a well-regarded lead guard prospect with such a low Usage Rate (18.1%), who’s generally uninspiring in a “this guy can get me a bucket when I need it” sense.
He’s statistically staggering, on both ends of the spectrum. His 67.3% True Shooting Percentage is nearly unprecedented for a freshman PG in a major conference. He led the nation in assists, despite not dominating the ball the way that most PGs do. His Offensive Rating was a jaw-dropping 131.3.
Yet the extremity of his statistics can be as anxiety provoking as they are mind-blowing, a fact that is exacerbated by his bizarre shooting mechanics. He took 8 mid range jumpers all year. He turned the ball over on 32.7% of the possessions that he used in the Pick & Roll. The aforementioned Usage Rate. Why should we trust a guy that we can’t rely on as a scorer who also turns the ball over with frequency on the NBA’s most common play with the 2nd pick in the NBA Draft? Because those criticisms aren’t valid in the first place, and we’ve been looking at those perceived weaknesses through the lens of volume rather than effectiveness.
Mid Range Game
The notion that Lonzo Ball’s infrequency from mid range is evidence of his ineptitude needs to be turned on its head. The ability to avoid taking shots from an area that is well-established to have a low Points Per Possession return is a good thing. The goal of a defense is to surrender the longest, most well contested 2-point shots possible, preferably off of the dribble. Conversely, the best offenses in the NBA seek the Holy Trinity of shot attempts: free throws, layups/dunks, & open 3-pointers.
It’s no coincidence that UCLA’s historically productive offense was conducted by a player who eschewed mid range shots in exchange for those more efficient looks. This mentality contributed heavily to his low Usage Rate, as he consistently passed up a decent shot to get a great one for either himself or a teammate.
But the reality of the NBA is that sometimes the defense DOES win a possession, forcing a mid range shot with a respectable contest, and that happens more frequently than it does in college due in part to the shorter shot clock. So the question is…can Ball hit these shots if he needs to?
We don’t have a definitive answer to that question, but this is what we do know:
- 4-8 on his mid range jumpers. (4-7 vs. Man Defense)
- 6-12 (62.5 aFG%) on his pull up jumpers off of pick & rolls.
- 3-3 on runners off of the pick & roll.
- 56-122 (45.9%) on 3pt attempts that were between the college & NBA lines.
In most respects, the sample sizes are too small to draw any conclusions…and that’s the point. He’s anywhere from respectable to downright good from a percentage perspective, so the only basis for the notion that his mid range game is a weakness is due to his miniscule volume, in area where avoiding volume is a good thing.
Pick & Roll Play
Lonzo Ball’s pick & roll play is the most misinterpreted part of his game, as he’s often portrayed as an ineffectual scorer who can’t create off of ball screens. The reality is that his Points Per Possession data in pick & rolls looks like this:
UCLA’s pick & rolls were designed were to maximize shot attempts to spot up shooters and roll men, while minimizing shot attempts for the ball handler, whether it was Ball running the pick & roll or someone else. These are far more efficient shots than having the ball handler shoot off of a pick & roll, and Ball did well to maximize these attempts.
Ball can score when he needs to. He isn’t going to break down a hedging big with a devastating inside-out dribble, or split a trap with a low & tight crossover, but he’s very good at identifying and exploiting the mistakes in pick & roll coverages. He’s at his best in the pick & roll when the hedging big leaves before the screened guard has recovered. Watch as he attacks the defensive big right as that big starts to recover to his man.
The presence of TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh reduced the necessity for Ball to pull-up from mid range off of pick & rolls to virtually nothing, due to their pick & pop ability. Regardless of whether or not the opposing big is hedging hard or dropping back into the paint, a popping big can exploit defensive pick & roll coverages in a way that makes the pull-up jumper a secondary option.
The circumstances with the Lakers are quite different, with no credible 3-point threat amongst their bigs and only decent mid range threats in Timofey Mozgov & Ivica Zubac. As a result, Ball will likely have to be more of a scorer in pick & roll situations if he ends up in Los Angeles. On this play, he snakes the pick & roll to rid himself of the back pressure from the trailing defensive guard, and knocks down the jumper.
Ball’s biggest weakness in the pick & roll is his propensity to settle for stepback 3’s when switched onto a big. He’d be well served to improve his inside-out dribble and hesitation moves as a counter to the stepback, which would allow him to attack the basket when the big applies ball pressure.
NCAA Division 1 analytics guru and Laker Film Room contributor Cranjis McBasketball has done a ton of great work on Ball’s pick & roll abilities that I highly recommend. The statistical case for his pick & roll ability is strong.
Quality in Quantity
Lonzo Ball’s basketball ethos is simple and devastatingly effective. He’s constantly seeking the most efficient shot, for either himself or his teammates, has a strong grasp on what those shots are, and knows how to get them. Despite arriving there in a different manner, his statistical profile is quite similar to Steve Nash’s, as a highly efficient scorer on low volume that maximizes the opportunities of the entire team. He can shoot from mid range…he just knows that should be the last resort. He can create quality looks on the pick & roll…but they’re usually for others.
And if you’re wondering why he doesn’t do those things more often, you’re missing the point.
De’Aaron Fox is a speedy, athletic PG out of the University of Kentucky that the Los Angeles Lakers are rumored to be considering with the 2nd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. In this video, Pete takes a look at his game on the offensive side of the ball.
By: Mike Garcia
Age: 20.2 years old as of April 20, 2017
According to the Team USA 2015 measurements:
Height: 6’7.0″ w/o shoes, 6’8.25″ w/shoes
Weight: 203 lbs.
Standing Reach: 8’9.8″
Source: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Josh-Jackson-7239/ ©DraftExpress
Size comparison: T.J. Warren.
T.J. Warren measured at 6’7” w/o shoes, 6’8.25” w/shoes, with a 6’10.25” wingspan, 8’8” standing reach, at 220 pounds.
The 2015 USA Basketball measurements were used because the most recent measurements from the 2016 Hoops Summit in terms of standing reach, didn’t make sense. Also, in terms of height, wingspan, and weight, he has been basically the same size for roughly three years and counting. Add roughly 15lbs. of mass to his frame, and Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren nearly match in terms of height, weight, wingspan, and standing reach.
In terms of athleticism, Josh Jackson has the twitch of shooting guard. That level of athleticism, whether it’s power forward or small forward, is difficult to find. He has a great first step and always puts opposing power forwards on their heels. His leaping ability is well above average too, showing explosiveness off of one or two feet with his forays to the basket. More importantly, he has shown some dexterity with his footwork, including a euro-step in transition, a step back jump shot, and a handful of isolation moves for a midrange jump shot.
What makes Josh Jackson special, is the motor behind the athleticism. A great motor can be defined as a high level of activity within a limited amount of time. Remember all of those times that Dennis Rodman would tip a basketball two-to-three times before he grabbed a rebound? How about Kenneth Faried’s ability to attack the offensive glass? Josh Jackson’s motor is slightly different. He seems to be everywhere at once, whether he’s rotating well defensively or attacking the glass. He’s not one to sit around on either end of the floor but seems to be at the right place at the right time.
Defensively, he has shown great lateral agility. His level of twitch allows him to switch onto NBA-level small forwards and possibly a few shooting guards, while still being able to match up well in terms of footspeed. Since he played power forward for Kansas, his athletic ability and length allowed him to be great at defending pick and roll, switching from power forwards to the point of attack.
He has very good speed in the open court, and it shows whether he grabs a defensive rebound and pushes up the court, or flies down the wings for a finish.
Strength, on the other hand, is a big opportunity for him to improve on. It is a bit discouraging to see a player roughly the same weight from age 17 to age 20 where he is now. He has a lightweight frame in general, but his motor, length and athletic twitch may just be eviscerated by bigger NBA power forwards.
Offensive Skill Set
Painted Area: In the painted area, he attacks the basket like a guard. Josh Jackson sticks primarily to layups, flip shots, floaters, and the rare jump hook. This can be seen as a large advantage offensively, as shown by over 5 shots per game at the rim, simply because he has the ball-handling and athletic ability to blow past defenders. Of his total shots, 42.9% were at the rim. He converted at a phenomenal 69% rate.
Mid-range to Long 2: The midrange game is where things get a bit murky. Due to his outward attitude of going into his shot form, he needs more space to create his own shots from midrange. He doesn’t compensate with Tatum’s ability to create space, but rather, brings the ball up more quickly and tries to elevate over defenders. Still, he shoots 38% outside of the painted area, which is fairly good. As the season progressed, he looked more comfortable shooting off-the-dribble from the midrange area.
3-point Range: Josh Jackson’s 3-point shot shows promise. Fortunately, he removed a hitch while gathering up for his 3-point shot, which led to better overall efficiency as the season progressed. In January, he shot 38.5% behind the arc. In February, his 3-point shooting spiked to 47.8% for the month on 2.6 attempts per game. Entering tourney time, he leveled off at 40% for March. A majority of these shots are assisted, as shown by an 85.3% assisted shot rate behind the arc. At either forward slot, his ability to knock down catch and shoot 3-point shots is important. The progression throughout the season has been evident.
Playmaking: What Josh Jackson does best, is playmaking. He operates in the midrange zone and draws in the defense. He sees the floor like a guard and gets the ball moving.
Let’s take a look at a 31-point game by Josh Jackson.
He draws in the defense at the 1:42 mark, and kicks out to a shooter. In this highlight reel, he drives and kicks three consecutive times, demonstrating his aggression, his ability to find the open man, and the shots that are created. The best play by far is at the 2:08 mark, he attacks driving right using a dribble hand-off as a decoy, passes to Devonte Graham on the weak side, then relocates back to the 3-point line for the open shot. The defense is so far behind, that the rotating defender (number #11) starts from the elbow area of the free throw line as Josh Jackson gets the shot up.
Notice, that his mid-range shot is the step back jumper. That shot didn’t come into form until the last month of the season. He was clearly more comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up behind the arc.
Defensive Skill Set
Josh Jackson is expected to be a plus defender at the NBA level, with an ability to switch from power forward to shooting guard. He plays with a level of intensity and heightened awareness on the defensive end. His motor stands out. With a steal rate of 3.1% and a block rate of 3.5%, he’s able to force turnovers while playing solid man defense.
In terms of tools, his motor, wingspan, and athleticism allow a great deal of versatility. While he has a thin frame for defending post players, he compensates with lateral speed and length to attack post entry passes and get into solid defensive position. Defending pick and roll is even easier. He has the physical tools to provide a soft hedge, trap the ball-handler, switch, and recover well defensively. That skill set and athleticism is a premium at power forward, especially with the NBA trending to power forwards that can shoot from 3-point range.
It’s easy to project him as a primary defender at small forward, where he matches in terms of size but has an athletic advantage and motor to really be a pest.
In stints, he can defend both guard positions. Over time, point guards have had a tough issue with defensive players with great length. Whether it was Kobe Bryant in 2000 to Kawhi Leonard defending Chris Paul in more recent years, the added length simply blocks off passing lanes, and height combined with standing reach, alter shot trajectory from the point guards after they create space. Jackson can do more than just be a versatile defender but can be a plus defender at multiple positions as well.
Josh Jackson rebounds at a 13.3% rate, which is solid, but not great. While he is able to mix it up with bigger players due to his motor and length, I don’t expect him to be a great rebounder at the next level. It’s possible that Josh Jackson may play a wing position in the NBA where his size and athletic tools give him the most advantage early on. He does chase down and grab a few rebounds out of his ordinary space, but playing power forward for Kansas had him underneath the basket setting screens for wing players. He was always in the painted area.
He does have a big advantage in terms of offensive rebounding from a wing position. When opposing teams miss the box-out, he will crash the offensive glass and follow up the shot. He has a knack for the ball and knows he can get it.
Josh Jackson is a swiss army knife at the NBA level. Every NBA GM would love to have a player that can play both ends of the floor, be unselfish, defend multiple positions, and have a great motor to back it all up.
In terms of style of play, there is a similarity to Andre Iguodala and Aaron Gordon. Josh Jackson does similar things in different ways, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim, his 3-point shot, and his approach to defense. Where Andre Iguodala and Aaron Gordon were straight-line drivers out of Arizona, Jackson has better footwork with his euro-step and ability to change direction off the dribble. He has more of a knack for finding the open man cross court and hitting him with the proper pass and even has a more developed 3-point shot than both players coming out of the NCAA level. Andre shot 31.5% on 2.4 attempts per game during his sophomore year. Aaron Gordon shot 35.6% behind the arc on just 1.2 attempts per game. Jackson shot 37.8% on 2.6 attempts per game.
Aaron Gordon transformed his shot after his rookie year. It’s possible that Josh Jackson will do the same at the NBA level. Gordon had timing issues with his shot release. Jackson, though improved, has issues gathering up and shooting a flat shot. Gordon isn’t a great NBA 3-point shooter just yet but now shoots 44.6% from 10’ to 16’, great for any NBA player. That’s tremendous improvement after just two years.
While there is concern about Josh Jackson’s free throw shooting at 56.6%, he also shot 37.8% behind the 3-point line on 2.6 attempts per game. Three months of continued improvement is a testament to his work ethic, willingness to change, and led to proven results. More importantly, he doesn’t hesitate on that 3-point shot. If he hits just 33% behind the arc without hesitation, he can draw in defensive gravity to the perimeter, which only opens up the floor for the entire team, as well create more playmaking opportunities in the half court.
It’s difficult to see a floor with Josh Jackson. It’s easy to just watch him as a 3-and-D player at PF/SF, only, he has far more advanced court vision, playmaking ability to simply just be a role player. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him as a starting point forward at the NBA level, especially when guard scoring is so prevalent. In that sense, it is easy to see him as a natural fit as a Los Angeles Laker. While he would be physically outmatched at power forward, Ingram has tremendous length and can help out. In an NBA world leading to perimeter play, post up opportunities may be more limited.
Offensively, Josh Jackson would allow Ingram, Clarkson, and Russell to do what they do best, score the basketball. While these guys aren’t elite scorers just yet, they are all three-level scorers that specialize in different aspects. Ingram is growing to a devastating straight-line slasher. Clarkson still has an underrated floater and mid-range game. Russell is more of a natural playmaker with an easy three-point shot. Jackson is the kind of guy that can bring those talents together, just like he did for Devonte Graham, Frank Mason, and Mykhailiuk.
The Lakers have a history of running small forward types at power forward. James Worthy did it during his rookie year. Robert Horry did it during the championship years with Shaq and Kobe. Lamar Odom did it during the championship years with Kobe and Gasol. While it took Horry and Odom a few years to add weight to their frames, their defense, rebounding, the ability to push in transition, and 3-point range were critical to championship success.
Josh Jackson, can be that kind of role player too, only better.
By: Mike Garcia
Source: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jayson-Tatum-7249/ ©DraftExpress
Size comparison: Aaron Gordon.
Aaron Gordon was listed at 6’8.75” with shoes, 220 lbs, with a 6’11.75” wingspan and an 8’9” standing reach at the 2014 NBA draft combine. While Gordon was roughly 15 lbs. heavier at the time of measurement, they do have similar frames, wingspan, and standing reach.
General Athleticism: I like to breakdown athleticism into multiple categories: directional quickness (first step), lateral quickness, sprint speed, vertical ability, reflexes/timing, and strength.
In terms of athleticism, Jayson Tatum is a slightly above average athlete. He doesn’t have breakaway speed or quickness. When he attacks the basket off the dribble, the defender is right there at his hip. Whether it was a PF or SF matchup in the half court, he uses a skill move to gain an advantage on the defender, instead of relying on a great first step. In terms of explosiveness, it only shows in breakaway space, as Tatum is the classic “smooth” athlete in the open floor, but also quick in tight spaces when it comes to using jab steps or a combination of triple threat/isolation fundamentals.
Tatum does have good lateral agility, and it shows when he switches onto wings defensively. However, because his footwork and stance aren’t consistent, he is still prone to being beaten off the dribble by quicker wings.
His footwork and coordination are underrated aspects of his athleticism, and while that, unfortunately, doesn’t show on the defensive end, to his credit, he doesn’t trip over his own feet when using his best skill on offense: creating shots in isolation.
Tatum has solid speed in the open court. He is able to explode up for a dunk when he sets his mind to it and chops up his steps. When he uses longer strides, whether it’s in transition or the half court, he loses a lot of ability to generate explosiveness, but perhaps that could be helped with NBA training.
His strength is average at best. He does get pushed around a touch by NCAA power forwards, and that’ll be further exposed at the NBA level. Still, Tatum does have a frame that should be able to support added weight fairly easily.
Offensive Skill Set
Painted Area: Despite Tatum’s lack of “elite” athletic ability, one-third of his total shots are at the rim, where he converts at a 62% rate. Only 29.3% of his shots at the rim are assisted, which gives an indication about his shot creating ability.
He tends to finesse shots at the rim, especially considering that his attacks come from different angles, not straight lines down the middle to the hoop.
Mid-range to Long 2: This is where Tatum excels. If there is one absolute NBA translatable skill in his arsenal, it’s his Isolation footwork to create a shot. 34.8% of his total shots are from 3’ to 21’. While it’s regarded as a low PPP shot, he shot better than fellow Duke guards Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson from this range, converting on 39.4%. Perhaps even more impressively, only 12% of these shots are assisted.
While those are good numbers to think about, what is even more impressive is how he creates those shots. These aren’t typical catch and shoot or pull-up shots off the dribble. Jayson Tatum finished in the top 99th percentile at the NCAA level for post scoring. His operating spaces on the floor are the exact same spaces where Kobe Bryant used to operate. The midrange areas along the baselines, the corners, and around the top of the key, all look like his go-to spots.
Two games stick out for me when it comes to Jayson Tatum. There’s his game against Florida, where we see a snippet of some great footwork with a midrange fadeaway jumper against Canyon Barry, and another shimmy, left-hand dribble, pull up shot from midrange. This is Tatum out of high school for a December 6, 2016 game.
Then, there’s his game against Virginia. Here he played a more modern style of basketball with more catch and shoot opportunities behind the arc. He hit 6 of 7. But, when Duke needed him to create shots behind the arc, he was their #1 option, and hit 2 dagger shots off of Iso creation.
3-point Range: Right now, he is a streaky shooter. For roughly about a month, from February into March, he was getting different looks at the hoop, especially in terms of catch and shoot volume. At one point, his 3-point percentage rocketed from 34% to 39% in a short string of games. Unfortunately, he finished at 34.1% for the season. Like I said, he’s streaky, but if free throw percentage is a future predictor of 3-point shooting, he has great potential. He has a high release point, a comfortable shot form, and shot 84.9% for the season.
Playmaking: Earlier in the season, Tatum played as if there were no other teammates on the floor. It was only Jayson Tatum and the hoop. As the season progressed, Tatum added subtle playmaking skills, usually in the form of 1-2 dribble drives to draw in the defense, and kick out to Luke Kennard or Grayson Allen. In January, he averaged 1.75 assists on 3.375 turnovers per game. In February, it jumped up to 2.8 assists to 2.25 turnovers per game. While it’s not the most outstanding number, it is a reflection of how his style of play adapted midseason, and he showed tremendous improvement with it.
Defensive Skill Set
Right now, he’s getting by on physical tools and some fundamentals. Defending post players is a bit out of the question, especially at his listed 204lb. weight. Unlike Aaron Gordon, he doesn’t compensate with great footwork or defensive motor.
When Tatum switches onto other wings or guards, especially on pick and rolls, it seems like there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll be successful. He has the athleticism to contest shots, but that athleticism goes to waste if he doesn’t play as engaged, carries an upright stance, or properly moves his feet laterally.
What catches players off guard is his ability to contest jump shots. Down the line, he may be a bit more foul prone, as he is surprisingly adept at blocking a few shots from the perimeter, and in the paint. He’s not the most disciplined defender, and like most young basketball players plays defense with his wingspan and reach instead of position and footwork.
Considering his athletic tools, he is capable of being a solid team defender. He may surprise with the occasional steal or blocked shot, but it doesn’t come naturally to him. What is critical is the foot speed to keep up with small forwards and some strength to keep up with some power forwards, while maintaining the ability to switch defensively on pick and roll. That would be enough to keep him on the floor without being a total liability.
Rebounding: In terms of rebounding, he is solid at best. He’s not the type to chase down rebounds, however, much like Julius Randle, he has a solid defensive rebound rate (19.7% to 24.7%), and loves to push into early transition after a rebound. His offensive rebound rate is below average, at just 4.8%. Some of that has to do with his isolation shot creation, and some has to do with shot selection, with 1/3rd of his shots coming behind the arc, and another 1/3rd from midrange.
When I watch Jayson Tatum, I think of three words, “Paul George touches.” When I watch PG13 highlights against Tatum’s highlights, I can’t help but see the similarity in shot creation and shot selection. George is certainly smoother off the dribble and a better finisher at the hoop, while Tatum is just more advanced in terms of footwork. Ideally, he would become a legitimate scoring option, a go-to-guy, as he has shown for Duke throughout the season.
There are some issues that he’s a tweener, and that he lacks a degree of athleticism to play small forward. He’s still young, and while he lacks tremendous twitch, he is able to make plays on both ends of the floor. That’s a testament to his skill level and IQ. He’s certainly not a slouch, and frankly, I don’t see how his athleticism is too far different from Caron Butler in his heyday or Trevor Ariza now. The difference is, there’s still room to grow.
Some may think of him as Markieff Morris or Tobias Harris. These comparisons surprise me, but while I see some similarity in terms of athletic ability and size, I don’t recall either guy being a great shot creator. Markieff Morris shot insanely as a junior; 62.5% 2-point and 40.4% 3-point at Kansas. Tobias Harris, on the other hand, never really showed off-the-dribble Isolation shooting or step-back fadeaways during his tenure at the University of Tennessee. If anything, I think these are worst-case scenarios.
So, what is the best-case scenario? Tatum could be a 4/3 that could defend pick and roll solidly, provide a limited level of rim protection and defensive rebounding, but become an absolute nightmare on the offensive end. He can push into early offense off of a defensive rebound. He can spot up behind the arc off of guard creation. He can go to his corners and create a solid percentage look in isolation. His offensive abilities lean-to a guy that should be a 20-point per game scorer for his career. His most underrated ability is the guard-like skill of shooting off the dribble at a frontline position. The fact that he showed success in a modern NBA style while being a 2nd or even a 3rd option on offense behind Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard shows that his talent can be flexible into different styles as well.
There’s tremendous value in a 20 ppg player at a front-line position who can score at all three levels.
Markelle Fultz Scouting Report – Offense: In this video, Pete takes a look at the offensive game of Markelle Fultz, who is considered by many to be the best player in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Josh Jackson Scouting Report – Defense: In this video, Pete Zayas takes a look at Josh Jackson’s strengths & weaknesses on the defensive end.
Getting to the Rim
Josh Jackson possesses a level of athleticism and physical superiority that would be a welcome addition to a team that’s used its last two 1st Round picks on D’Angelo Russell & Brandon Ingram, both of whom are lacking in this respect. This is most evident in transition, where he’s fantastic at both filling a lane or cleaning up as the trailer. When he is able to collect his feet and get on the runway, he can tear the rim off of the backboard.
In half court situations, he’s capable of overwhelming an overmatched defender with his physical advantages rather than always having to rely on technical expertise. He frequently uses the motion of the offense — often in Weave situations at Kansas — to gain a step on his defender. From there his physical gifts kick in on straight line drives, where bigs are too slow to stay with him, and guards are too small to not get bumped off of their spot.
When he needs to change direction, he has a crisp crossover dribble that he’s capable of using left-to-right or right-to-left with near equal proficiency, which is an encouraging attribute for a wing, although he’s much better at finishing with his right hand than his left.
Despite the beautiful inside out + crossover combo above, the vast majority of Jackson’s ventures to the rim are straight line drives that don’t involve changes of direction, which can separate a decent scorer off of the dribble from an excellent one. If Jackson’s initial penetration is thwarted he will generally shoot a pull-up jumper while going right, with limited success, or a step-back jumper while going left, with a bit more accuracy. That type of shot is a win for the defense.
Over the course of the 7 games I watched while evaluating Jackson, I didn’t see him utilize any jab steps or other triple threat moves to create a shot opportunity, nor did I see him as the ball handler on more than a couple of pick & rolls. To be fair, Kansas doesn’t really put him in the position to run either of those actions. He is most frequently used as the screener on pick & pops and in the aforementioned Weave scenarios. Neither situation lends itself to triple threat opportunities, and unlike most NBA teams, Kansas’ Weave doesn’t usually end in a ball screen, at least not at Jackson’s position. These are areas I would heavily emphasize in any pre-draft workout with him. You can be a high-caliber scorer in the NBA without a deadly 3-point jumper (Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade), but you need to excel in the pick & roll and/or out of triple threat position in order to get there. If I had to guess based on his footwork in other scenarios, Jackson won’t be that kind of guy, but that’s admittedly speculative on my part.
The Truth About His Jumper
Jackson has steadily improved his 3-point percentage throughout the season, shooting a respectable 35.3% on 2.6 attempts per game. Yet even Jackson’s most ardent supporters concede this is a relative area of weakness, and this notion is furthered by his 56.3 FT%, a figure that is typically more predictive of NBA 3-point percentage than NCAA 3-point percentage and doesn’t bode well for him going forward.
Almost all of his 3-point attempts are spot up jumpers, with his feet set. I charted 59 of his 71 3-point attempts on the season, with an emphasis on the closest defender. Please note that the following chart consists of my estimates, and are NOT as exact as the SportsVU data on nba.com that this information mimics. With that “grain of salt” disclaimer:
These stark results can be read in one of two ways. The optimistic version is that while he may not be a knockdown shooter overall, opponents will have to at have at least a modicum of respect for his jumper, otherwise, he’ll make them pay. The more skeptical interpretation is that he’ll be open for shorter windows of time at a longer distance on the NBA level, spotlighting his relative inability to make contested jumpers.
The reasons for this discrepancy could be answered 5 different ways by 5 different shooting coaches (which I do not claim to be), but my observation is that Jackson is consistent with his feet on nearly all of his shots, and the problem is with his shooting stroke, which he speeds up in an effort to get his shot off against closeouts.
The fixability of that is debatable, and the cause of that flaw is likely related to shot mechanics that are beyond the scope of this scouting report, but I don’t think it would be wise to draft him under the presumption that this will change. If it does, it’s a pleasant surprise.
How Does He Fit Alongside Brandon Ingram?
Unlike the offensive fit between Lonzo Ball & D’Angelo Russell, a Josh Jackson/Brandon Ingram pairing is questionable on the offensive end due to their limited shooting ability. In Ingram’s case, he is merely a theoretical shooter at this point, with Laker fans hoping that his college success behind the 3-point line (41% on 5.4 attempts per game) translates long term in ways that it hasn’t during his rookie season (30.2% on 3.0 attempts per game).
The combination of two wing players who are subpar 3-point shooters relative to other wings around the league is untenable and further exacerbated by the fact that neither of the PFs in the young core (Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr.) are 3-point threats as well. Most functional offenses in 2017 have a bare minimum of 3 players who can at least pose a credible threat from 3-point range on the floor for most of the game, and in many cases, they have 4.
Zooming out a bit to look at the young core as a whole, the Lakers only have one player (D’Angelo Russell) where you could make a credible argument that he will eventually be an above average shooter relative to his position. Jordan Clarkson, Ingram, Randle, Nance, Jr, & Tarik Black don’t fit that description, and you have to cling to a 4-11 performance from behind the arc in the D-League in order to convince yourself that 3-point proficiency is in the cards for Ivica Zubac.
Drafting for need is folly in the first place, but while you can make a decent argument that Brandon Ingram will one day be a good shooter, Josh Jackson’s shooting deficiency would be stacked upon an existing Laker weakness. That would ultimately need to be addressed if the Lakers drafted him, where it would be wise to move a couple of those players in exchange for players who are more effective at spacing the floor.
What Offensive Position Does He Play?
Jackson is not a SG by any stretch of the imagination, at least within the context of the Lakers’ offense. Beyond the questions surrounding his spot up shooting ability, he has almost no experience running the types of action that would be required of him at this position. Think about how Nick Young & Jordan Clarkson get their points, often navigating off-ball screens, catching & firing off of kickbacks, or utilizing drag screens in transition. Jackson doesn’t run any of these actions — nor does Ingram, for that matter — and it’s a stretch of the imagination to believe that either will be able to do so anytime soon. If they struggle on spot up 3’s, they’re nowhere near being capable of being functional shooters without their feet set.
Jackson actually starts at PF for Kansas, alongside a three-guard lineup of Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham, & Svi Mykhailiuk, playing the majority of his minutes at that position. He’s often used in pick & pop situations and as a high post/low post option against zone defenses, where the 4 & 5 positions are interchangeable. I believe that Jackson primarily projects to be a SF in the NBA, but his secondary position will likely be a small ball PF rather than SG.
Basketball Intelligence & Court Vision
Freak athleticism and basketball IQ are often antithetical. Gifted athletes can be prisoners of their own talents, dominating on lower levels via sheer physical supremacy, never learning how to do things the “right” way because they could achieve results without doing so. Conversely, middling athletes need to understand the game on a deeper level if they ever hope to compete on the NBA stage, where they start from a deficit that most cannot overcome.
Josh Jackson is the rare exception to this rule, demonstrating a degree of spatial intelligence that rivals his physical tools. He’s not only bigger, faster, and stronger. . . he’s smarter too. This is most evident in his ability to drive & dish or drive & kick, where he’s able to read help defenders and move the ball accurately with either hand.
This attribute also manifests itself when he’s the recipient of the pass, as he’s fantastic at both relocating on the perimeter and cutting from the weak side to exploit available passing lanes.
I usually loathe player comparisons as they relate to incoming draft prospects, as their accuracy rarely survives superficial scrutiny, but Josh Jackson reminds me quite a bit of a bigger and younger Andre Iguodala. He’s a phenomenal athlete with a good deal of intelligence and ball-handling ability, but also a questionable jumper and skill set as an individual scorer. Yet the book is hardly written on Jackson in these respects, as those are skill-based weaknesses, which can be developed over the course of time at the NBA level. This scenario would take him out of Andre Iguodala territory and into the Kawhi Leonard stratosphere, with Leonard being a shining example of someone with similar attributes coming out of college, who was able to drastically improve his game in the exact areas where Jackson is weak.
But the road to retrospectively foolish draft analysis is paved with faulty assumptions of improvement, so proceed with caution.