We are all drawn to flawed characters, I think it’s in our American DNA. Whether it’s our favorite actors, singers, or athletes, seeking flaws in others is a way that we can relate to those who would otherwise be unrelatable. Why is fun to poke fun at JJ Watt? Well, he’s a perfect physical specimen and also seems to be a perfect human being. Who can relate to that? Growing up, my favorite player was NBA Grant Hill (NOT Duke Grant Hill) and it was because despite all his gifts, he was not a good shooter. I thought to myself, Grant Hill can’t shoot 3’s, just like me! LOL. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a Celtics fan, so I don’t have to tell you about cheering for flawed players. The team’s most accomplished player has arguably the biggest flaw you can have in basketball, a lack of height! This all brings us to no. 4 on the Big (Small) Board, Kansas forward Josh Jackson. Like Jayson Tatum before him, the narrative around Jackson leans towards what he can’t do instead of what he can. What Josh Jackson can do is thrilling; he slashes, dives on the floor, plays hard and makes what Celtics fans know as #winningplays. However, I am not as confident that his shortcomings as a prospect can be overcome and I fear they may cross the line between lovable quirks and fatal flaws. Before we breakdown Jackson, a few quick notes.
- I care way more about basketball character than personal character when evaluating prospects, but Jackson’s incident at Kansas in December is something that she be at least noted. This wasn’t run-of-the-mill college shenanigans. If you are interested in Jackson as a prospect, you should at least read up on it. Whatever happened at Kansas, you have to hope it was a one-time outburst of immaturity and poor decision-making, and not a predictor of future actions.
- Before you read what I have to say, I’m going to warn you, it may sounds like at times that I think Josh Jackson is a 2nd-round pick. I like him, I really do. He’s super fun to watch play, he’s one of those players your eyes are just drawn to. but when you look past his ranking and just at the evaluations, an interesting narrative emerges. DraftExpress, for example, attributes four core strengths to Jackson-Explosiveness, Defensive Impact, Offensively Versatility and NBA Readiness. Then when you then start to progress through his weakness breakdown, it often argues against those attributes actually being a strength at the next level. It’s odd, and I found it be the case in more than one instance.
- My adopted son, Zach Collins, is officially on the Big (Small) Board. For now, he has replaced Lauri Markkanen in the top 8 (sorry Finland!) but things could still change. I think Collins is going to actually keep climbing as we approach June, but that’s a story for another day.
Without further ado, no. 4 on the CelticsHub Big (Small) Board- Josh Jackson
1) Markelle Fultz
Washington~Freshman~Guard~6’4 (6’9.5″ wingspan), 185~23/5.9/6, 28.6 PER~Shooting Splits 50.2/41.7/64.6
Draft Range: 1-2
2) Lonzo Ball
UCLA~Freshman~Guard~6’6 (6’7″ wingspan), 190~1.7/6.1/7.6, 25.4 PER~Shooting Splits 73.1/42.0/67.7
Draft Range: 1-3
3) Jayson Tatum
Duke~Freshman~Forward~6’8 (6’11” wingspan), 205~16.8/7.3/2.1, 22.4 PER~Shooting Splits 50.4/34.2/84.9
Draft Range: 3-6
4) Josh Jackson
Kansas~Freshman~Forward~6’8 (6’9.8″ wingspan), 203~16.8/7.1/2.9, 24.8 PER~Shooting Splits 55.1/38.6/56.7
Draft Range: 3-6
Comp Group: 1st Floor Josh Howard 2nd Floor Gerald Wallace Ceiling Shawn Marion WRONG BUILDING Kawhi Leonard, Tracy McGrady
60 Words or Less: Josh Jackson is a favorite of draftniks for his grit and competitiveness, but the Freshman Jayhawk is not without his flaws. In a relatively quiet year for prospects off the court, Jackson’s incident at Kansas will be put under a microscope, and fair or not, he will be evaluated on more than just his broken jumpshot.
- Positional Flexibility. Jackson played the 4 full-time at Kansas, which is an anomaly in Bill Self’s traditional high-low motion offense. At the 4, Jackson used his athleticism and size to create mismatches that are common in the college game. By combining his great motor with his open court vision, Jackson can turn defensive rebounds into fast-break opportunities for his team, especially if a traditional big-man is trying to run with him. As a willing passer who finds creative angles, he does have some point-forward in his game and think can can keep the ball moving in a modern NBA offense. At Kansas, he found himself guarding primarily wings, but is lateral quickness and toughness allowed him to hold his own in the post and on smaller ball-handing guards. He is really is the perfect combo forward for the college game. And that’s the problem, the college game. When compared to elite NBA small forwards, he is just average in terms of height and weight and slightly below average in terms of length. He will certainly get stronger in the NBA, but his narrow frame will limit is effectiveness defending post-up bullies and in reality, he is probably best suited to chase the JJ Redicks of the world around screens and off-ball action. Before we start switching him all over the court, Jackson needs to prove he can guard his own position at the next level. What about the offensively versatility you ask? Well, that starts and stops with our next topic…
- Shooting. Josh Jackson’s potential as an effective NBA player starts and stops here. His shooting is bad. Not only is it bad, it’s broken and needs a complete rebuild. His footwork, timing, release, and feel is all off. I know I am shooting-will-improve cynic, but Celtics fans are now in year three of watching Marcus Smart trying to get right and his technique was never this bad. All of the things that Josh Jackson is good at, the cutting, passing, offensive rebounding, attacking, will be completely neutered at the next level by his inability to shoot. Jackson’a best bet is to use his current form and shoots 2500 corner 3s per day, until you can say “it’s ugly, but he’ll make some.” To make matters worse, he will turn 21 years old by the all-star break. He’s young, but when it comes to rebuilding muscle memory, every year counts. In the end, unless Jackson can pull off a complete jumpshot reconstruction, his ceiling is going to be very limited.
- Rebounding/Rim-Protection. Again, probably not the year to fill this need through the draft. Jackson rebounds well very for his position and will make plays because of his energy and competitiveness, but his lack of length and elite explosiveness limits him defensively around the rim.
- Crunch Time Scoring. The logical thinking is that if you can’t shoot, you probably won’t be an effective crunch-time scorer. That is true with Jackson, but there have been some glimpses of hope of where he has shown a mid-post face-up game or has aggressively attacked close-outs. I can’t see him ever being closely guarded in the NBA and if he wants to be any sort of a 1-v-1 threat, he’ll have to tighten his handle and have immaculate footwork in the post. Both of those things are much more likely to happen than a change in his jump shot. Ultimately, it is unlikely Jackson fills this role for any team in his NBA career.
- Star Potential. Josh Jackson can be a star in the way that Marcus Smart or Tony Allen is a star. His team’s fans will adore him for his toughness and attitude, he will make plays that help the team win. He has a higher ceiling that the junk yard dog types, but his destiny as a high-end role player is pretty well set in my mind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, you need those guys to win at high level, but if you’re taking him in the top 5 of the draft you expect more. He isn’t the type of star the Celtics have been searching for and he’s actually the type of player they have to many of. I can’t see Boston taking him if they slip to 3rd or 4th in the lottery, there just isn’t a fit. Knowing the type of player Ainge & Co, like, I can see them being Josh Jackson fans, but the flaws are just to much for the Celtics to look past at this point in their building process.
5) De’Aaron Fox
Kentucky~Freshman~Guard~6’4 (6’4.5″ wingspan), 171~16.1/4.0/4.6, 22.2 PER~Shooting Splits 51.9/23.4/72.8
Draft Range: 4-9
6) Malik Monk
Kentucky~Freshman~Guard~6’4 (6’3.5″ wingspan), 197~20/2.5/2.4, 21.9 PER~Shooting Splits 50.0/39.3/83.0
Draft Range: 4-9
7) Zach Collins
Gonzaga~Freshman~Forward~7′ (7’2″ wingspan, unofficial), 230~10/5.9/.4, 31.5 PER~Shooting Splits 67.2/47.6/74.3
Draft Range: 6-10
8) Jonathan Issac
Florida State~Freshman~Forward~6’11 (7’1.3″ wingspan), 205~12/7.8/1.2, 25.6 PER~Shooting Splits 59.3/34.8/78.0
Draft Range: 6-10