Josh Jackson appears to be in line to be chosen in the top 3, as there are both rumors that the Lakers are interested at #2 as well as the Celtics trading down to #3 for him. Let’s discuss what he brings to the table.
Josh Jackson Scouting Report
Jackson is 6’8″, extremely athletic, and excels at playing within the scope of a team. He stuffs the stat sheet in every category, as he excels at rebounding, defense, passing, and also moves well off the ball and is a great finisher, as he has excel touch on short shots in the paint. He also is a tremendous competitor with excellent intangibles.
His big flaws are that he is a poor shooter, making just 57% of his FT’s and also struggles to create off the dribble. Even though he led Kansas in usage rate, his most efficient scoring came on cuts, putbacks, and (ironically) spot-up shooting.
Per synergy, he struggled badly in both PnR handler and isolation situations, ranking 16th and 23rd percentile respectively. This is because he struggles both to shoot off the dribble and get to the rim and finish because his handling ability is weak. He can adequately attack closeouts, but this inhibits his ability to play point forward.
And even though his tools are overall great, they are not perfect as his slight frame, small hands, and 6’10” wingspan are underwhelming and limit his ability to play as a small big.
What Does This Amount To?
The best case scenario for Jackson is that he becomes similar to Shawn Marion, Andre Iguodala, Ron Artest, or Gerald Wallace as they were all extremely valuable role players.
But the trouble is that all of these players were much stronger and longer than Jackson. Because of his slight frame and short arms, he may not become an elite defensive force as he is too small to regularly defend PF’s. He is likely miscast as a LeBron James stopper without strength or length on his side, even if he is better equipped for the task than most.
And this is for a sophomore aged player who can neither shoot nor get to the rim. There is a serious risk that he is just an MKG or Justise Winslow on offense while being a merely good but not great defensive player.
As attractive as his role player strengths and intangibles are, Jackson is essentially a more athletic Marcus Smart who trades strength for height. That is a useful player to be sure, but pales in comparison to prospects with star upside such as Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz.
An Alernate Choice
Jonathan Isaac is an intriguing prospect as he is remarkably similar to Jackson, except with the bonus of being 3 inches taller and longer:
Otherwise their tools are similar, as Isaac shares Jackson’s quickness and athleticism (although Jackson is slightly more explosive) and both have small hands and slight frames. But the extra height, rebounding, and rim protection gives Isaac an extra dimension on defense while being nearly as good as Jackson on the perimeter.
It is incredibly rare for a player to have Isaac’s ability to switch onto perimeter players and the size to protect the rim, and it gives Isaac a unique defensive upside that Jackson lacks. Further, Isaac should prove exceptionally valuable in a heavy switching defense that is becoming increasingly popular.
What about offense?
Isaac is also strikingly similar to Jackson offensively. He struggles to create off the dribble even more than Jackson, as he almost never attacks as a PnR handler or in isolation situations. This is likely why he has failed to garner top 3 hype– he is virtual guarantee to be a non-creator. Like Jackson, Isaac thrives off cuts, putbacks, and spot up situations.
Isaac’s key advantage is that while he shot 34.8% from 3 compared to Jackson’s 37.8%, he had a slightly higher 3PA rate and a vastly better FT% at 78% vs 57%. At 8 months younger, Isaac is much more likely to become a viable threat from NBA 3.
Jackson counters with more than double Isaac’s assist rate. This balances out Isaac’s shooting advantage, but without the handle to become an elite point forward this does not give Jackson any significant overall advantage on offense.
Isaac’s inability to create will prevent him from being an offensive star. But he ability to shoot, move off the ball, avoid mistakes, and finish should enable him to be efficient in a low usage role. This pairs well with his elite defensive profile, as he has all of the traits to be a super role player.
Isaac and Jackson are similar in that they have good role player skills but are limited offensively and project to make their best impact on defense. Given that Isaac has the height to protect the rim and the quickness to guard the perimeter, he has more versatility to play as a 4 or 5 as well as more upside. It naturally follows that Isaac is the better prospect.
Jackson is a good prospect who is falls in a cluster of reasonable choices at #4 overall along with Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, and De’Aaron Fox. But at #3, Jonathan Isaac stands out as the best bet, as he projects to be a uniquely special role player.