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.