With the Pistons receiving the number 12 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, they could be looking at North Carolina alum Justin Jackson when draft day rolls around. Jackson, who played through his junior year at UNC, is a seasoned veteran compared to many younger lottery talents, at 22 years of age. Jackson attended the recent NBA combine, hoping to build on his stock after helping lead the Tar Heels to an NCAA Championship. At the Combine he did not play in the five-on-five scrimmages, but did participate in interviews and tests. With his decision to forgo his senior season in college and enter the draft, he also announced he has hired an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
The small forward stands at a lanky 6’8 and around 200 pounds with a lengthy wingspan of 6’11, giving him the potential to be a defensive stopper at the next level. In his junior season at UNC, Jackson showed he can do more than just score the ball, averaging 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists next to an impressive 18.4 scoring average on a very efficient 51% shooting from the field along with 36% from three-point range. Along with his NCAA Championship, Jackson has no shortage of accolades, as he captured consensus first-team All-American, first-team All-ACC, and even won ACC Player of the Year in a very encouraging third year for the athletic wing.
Jackson has shown that he is one of the most complete players going into the draft, with a high basketball IQ, smooth jumper, and all-around athletic ability. However, his lack of NBA-level explosiveness will hinder him on the offensive end, along with his skinny frame, which will make it tough to guard bulkier small forwards. While he’d already have to pack on some muscle to become a successful ball stopper at the small forward position, it’s likely with the majority of the league making shooting a priority at every position that the team that drafts him will look to play him as a stretch power forward in small ball lineups, making his lanky build even more of a glaring weakness.
In the most recent DraftExpress mock draft, Jackson falls to the Miami Heat at the tail end of the lottery with the 14th pick, which shows that is likely that he will still be on the board when Detroit is on the clock. When it comes down to it, the Pistons need as much shooting as they can get in the upcoming draft, as they ranked near the bottom of the NBA in efficiency last season. However, with so many players that can play Jackson’s position in Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson and Tobias Harris, adding another small forward doesn’t seem to be the Pistons’ most pressing need. With that said, being at the end of the depth chart would give Jackson time to develop, possibly getting assigned for a stint in the D-League to give coaches time to evaluate what he can really do at the next level.
Jackson would not only be one of the most talented players remaining if he falls into the Pistons’ lap, but would also be the safe choice for an organization whose future doesn’t seem as clear as it was prior to last season. In the future, Jackson could be a key piece for a Pistons squad that will look to thrive off shooting and versatility on both sides of the ball.
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