As Kentucky and North Carolina square off for a trip to the Final Four, much of the NBA Draft attention will center around Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox. Jackson has quietly had himself a nice NCAA tournament and could slip into the lottery come June.
Jackson is somewhat of an anomaly, a top NBA prospect that is not a college freshman. The junior forward entered the 2016 NBA Draft and attended the Combine. He did not sign with an agent and decided to withdraw his name last summer to return to Chapel Hill.
The consensus was Jackson needed to improve his shooting. During the 2015-16 season, he shot just 29 percent from behind the three-point line. To Jackson’s credit, he spent the summer improving his game and shot 38 percent from behind the arc this season.
Roy Williams spoke about the improvement in Jackson’s game as the Tarheels prepared for their Elite 8 matchup.
We spent quite a bit of time talking last spring after the season was over, after the Combine, of what he needed to do, and I would just check with him during the course of the summer: How’s it going, what are you doing? But then when wegot to July, we practiced once a week for an hour and a half, four straight weeks, and I thought I saw a different Justin then because it was pretty easy because the ball kept going in as opposed to rimming out and that kind of thing. Then when preseason practice started, or pre-conference, before we started playing games, schedules changed so much, we started like the first weekend, October 3. And those first three or four weeks it was just so much more confident a player, and I think that carried over right into the start of the season.
The UNC swingman is 6’8″ and 210 pounds. Draft Express has Jackson inside the lottery at 12 while NBADraft.net has him all the way down at 24. Jackson’s strength is in his versatility. He contributes in so many different ways to North Carolina’s success.
Everyone knows about his ability to score, but Jackson has games like he did against Arkansas where he gets eight rebounds and five steals to go along with his scoring contribution. Jackson averaged 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.
Jackson had 34 points and five rebounds in North Carolina’s last outing against Kentucky. He has an opportunity to showcase his skills once again against Kentucky’s three projected first round prospects.
NBA teams will ponder long and hard about selecting Jackson in the 2017 NBA Draft if he decides to declare. He represents a player who may not have some of the upside of the younger players but gives a team a very high floor.
Heavy breaks down Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and all the top college prospects in our latest NBA mock draft.