If an NBA general manager could mold a modern-day NBA swingman, Josh Jackson would fit the bill.
Perhaps that’s why all the early NBA mock drafts have the talented, two-way swingman as a potential top-five pick. NBADraft.net has him mocked at second overall, DraftExpress.com fifth, and Chad Ford third.
After committing to Kansas in April, it’s possible there isn’t a place better-suited for him to shine as a freshman. The departures of key upperclassman in senior forward Perry Ellis and junior swingman Wayne Selden leave a usage gap Jackson should be thrilled to fill.
Even Bill Self knows of his capabilities — he recently called the five-star freshman the greatest athlete of all-time. While he might have been joking, it certainly goes to show Self knows what he has in Jackson. He loves his competitive nature and compares him to a former Kansas one-and-done swingman.
“He is probably as highly thought of as any recent player to come out of high school because of his competitive nature. He is very similar to Andrew Wiggins,” Self said.
“He’s a tall guard that can do a lot of everything. We feel his impact on our program next year will be as much as any freshman will have on any college program. He’s extremely athletic but more importantly extremely competitive.”
The stud swingman might have the highest two-way potential in a loaded 2016 recruiting class, and he’s showed his talent ever since a breakout sophomore campaign at Detroit Consortium in 2013-14. Jackson averaged about 28 points, 15 rebounds and six assists that season while leading Consortium to its first-ever Class C state championship, which led to numerous awards and attention nationally.
But then Jackson and his family opted to leave and transfer to Justin-Siena High School, where he finished his high school basketball career at Pacific Prep in California.
Jackson continued his solid play throughout high school and globally. He’s earned three gold medals already — at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Maldonado, Uruguay, the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship in Heraklion, Greece.
Jackson finished high school ranked first on 247Sports and Scout, and second on ESPN’s Top 100 and the hype continued throughout this summer. He was named to the 2016 McDonald’s All-American game and earned Co-MVP of the event after scoring 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting in leading the West team to a 114-107 victory. Jackson then played in the 2016 Nike Hoops Summit where he led team USA to a 101-67 win over the World team.
Jackson is known to have a complete game but has the physical and athletic qualities to become a lockdown defender at any level. At nearly 6”8’ and 205 pounds with a near 6”10’ wingspan, Jackson has good size for either wing position. He has NBA-level laterally quickness, speed and leaping ability which allow him to be a game-changing defensive player.
“Defensively, I adjusted our scheme this year because of Josh,” Pacific Prep coach Billy McKnight said. “We literally didn’t help off other players when Josh was guarding 1-on-1. He guarded 1-5 for us. He’s so quick off the ground. His ability to block shots and rebound will make a huge impact.”
Defense is a good place to start with Jackson, and the NBA is always looking for two-way wings. But Jackson has a high ceiling offensively as well, with the ability to attack the rim and score from the perimeter and a healthy dose of playmaking ability in his arsenal. Jackson is an underrated passer and is rather unselfish from the wing.
That's the thing that's underrated about Josh Jackson (unless you listen to @jerrymeyer247). He's an outstanding and underrated passer.
— Kevin Flaherty (@KFlaherty247) March 31, 2016
What are the biggest concerns for Jackson as he shows off his skills this season at the college level? Well, his 6”10’ wingspan is below-average for an NBA small forward, which might make shooting guard his best long-term position at the NBA level. But Jackson needs to gain more consistency as a shooter to thrive in today’s NBA — he has some mechanic issues that might need to be worked out in time.
Jackson is also already 19 years old, seven months older than Brandon Ingram, the 2015 second overall pick, and much older than a lot of the 2016 recruiting class. This does limit his upside to an extent, but his two-way talent and NBA-level athleticism and size are undeniable.
I expect Jackson to have a successful freshman season with the Jayhawks despite coach Self’s reputation of leaning on veterans despite having top freshmen available to him on regularity. Jackson is too good defensively, with too much natural talent to sit on the bench. With a standout inaugural season in college, expect Jackson to be a top-three pick in the 2017 NBA draft.