Justin Jackson NBA Draft Profile


Justin Jackson, Junior, Forward, North Carolina



Justin Jackson was one of the most improved players in the nation from his sophomore to junior season. Jackson was named ACC Player of the Year and was a key piece in getting North Carolina back to the championship game to earn redemption from their defeat the previous season. He tested the NBA Draft waters last year and returned to school after being informed of what needed to be refined within his game. Jackson made a substantial leap offensively, scoring 18.3 points per game, up from 12.2 the year before. He also elevated his three-point shooting from 29% as a sophomore to 37% on seven attempts per game this season. Jackson isn’t a great athlete and has a thin frame relative to his height, but his skill level and basketball IQ help outweigh his shortcomings. Standing 6-8 with a 6-11 wingspan, Jackson has good measurables for a small forward, but he needs to add bulk to his 200 lb. frame. With his impressive feel for the game and experience at age 22, Jackson should be able to contribute right away in the NBA.

Where Jackson will be relied on the most is with his outside shooting. He shot just 29.7% from three on 212 attempts in his first two seasons at North Carolina. This season though, Jackson shot an efficient 37% on 284 attempts. Jackson is an especially skilled shooter off the catch, using his quick release and sound footwork. He works hard off the ball, running around screens and relocating himself to create open shot opportunities. He has legitimate NBA range on his threes, but there is reason to question if his shooting surge will continue to the next level. Teams won’t forget his shooting struggles during his first two collegiate seasons, and he still had stretches of cold shooting as a junior. Jackson only shot 30% from three throughout March and April, including going 0-for-9 in the championship game.

A major area where Jackson needs to improve upon is his ability to create offense for himself. He is capable of hitting a pull-up jumper in a pick-and-roll scenario, but he isn’t very adept at scoring in one-on-one situations. Jackson has a relatively poor handle and a slow first step, limiting his ability to get to the rim. The best way North Carolina was able to get him inside was by coming off screens and catching passes as he curled into the paint. Once he does get into the paint, Jackson avoids contact at almost any cost. Most times, Jackson is forced to rely on floaters and tough mid-range pull-ups. He is an expert with his floater, hitting them at a high rate using either hand. However, that shot will be much tougher to hit consistently against the length of NBA big men.

Despite his flaws, Jackson should still be a solid contributor in the NBA thanks to his high basketball IQ. He moves the ball well within an offense and doesn’t make many mistakes, as he had 312 assists to just 164 turnovers in his college career. He uses his height to see over the defense and makes impressive passes with ease. Jackson also has improved defensively quite a bit. He doesn’t have great lateral quickness, but he’s consistently dialed in defending the perimeter and uses his length to contest jumpers. He will need to add strength to be able to check the bigger forwards in the NBA. Jackson is a poor defensive rebounder, grabbing just 3.2 boards per game on the defensive end. He’ll need to mix it up a bit more in the paint to be an impactful defender.


Final Projection:

Justin Jackson certainly improved his stock as an NBA prospect during his junior season. Jackson still has numerous questions about his game at the next level, but his feel for the game should help him have a sustained NBA career. The improvement of his jump shot needs to carry over for him to have a useful role offensively. He also needs to add some strength to survive against NBA forwards. Jackson has the size at 6-8 to be used as a stretch four, but he won’t be much of a factor there without some added bulk. Jackson has a relatively safe floor as long as his jumper translates, but his lack of high upside may keep him in the back half of the first round.