Second-Round Candidate: Justin Jackson

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

ID CARD: 6-foot-7¼ small forward, Maryland, sophomore, 21 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 40th by ESPN.com, 46th by SI.com, mentioned by NBA.com in a group ranked 20-22 among wings

SCOUTS LOVE: As a Maryland freshman, Jackson – not to be confused with the Justin Jackson out of North Carolina drafted in the first round by Sacramento last season – flashed two intriguing skill sets in great demand in today’s NBA: 3-point shooting and defensive versatility. At 21, the Canadian probably felt a greater urgency to leave for the NBA with two years of college eligibility left than most sophomores – even though he played only 11 games last season before missing the rest of the year due to a torn labrum in his right (shooting) shoulder. His freshman performance saw Jackson hit 44 percent from the 3-point arc in 28 minutes a game. The 3-point numbers were depressed as a sophomore but became less troubling once it was known Jackson was playing through the shoulder injury at the time. He’s also a strong rebounder, averaging 6.0 per game as a freshman and 8.1 as a sophomore in his limited time.

SCOUTS WONDER: Missing much of his sophomore season cost Jackson the chance to show NBA scouts what else he could offer on offense besides 3-point shooting. With ball-dominant point guard Melo Trimble having left Maryland, Jackson was going to have a more prominent role in Mark Turgeon’s offense this time around. Jackson’s early-season struggles through the shoulder injury that shut him down in early December left those questions unanswered. And while the 44 percent 3-point shooting as a freshman was impressive, it came in a relatively small sample size – 105 total attempts – and Jackson becomes a little less attractive if those strong 3-point numbers can’t hold up.

SCOUTS WONDER: Missing much of his sophomore season cost Jackson the chance to show NBA scouts what else he could offer on offense besides 3-point shooting. With ball-dominant point guard Melo Trimble having left Maryland, Jackson was going to have a more prominent role in Mark Turgeon’s offense this time around. Jackson’s early-season struggles through the shoulder injury that shut him down in early December left those questions unanswered. And while the 44 percent 3-point shooting as a freshman was impressive, it came in a relatively small sample size – 105 total attempts – and Jackson becomes a little less attractive if those strong 3-point numbers can’t hold up.

NUMBER TO NOTE: – 7-foot-3 – Jackson’s wing span, bested among small forwards only by Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop (7-foot-3¼). That’s the kind of disruptive length that teams are salivating over, especially in players who can move their feet well enough to switch onto guards yet still have the size to alter shots in the post when switched onto power forwards and centers.

MONEY QUOTE: “A year ago, the 6-foot-7 Maryland forward was considered a guy who could play his way into the first round in this year’s draft. However, his season ended due to a shoulder injury after 11 games and now one NBA executive told me he wouldn’t be shocked if Jackson goes undrafted. But Jackson has signed with an agent, instead of returning to the Terrapins and showing NBA guys he is worthy of a first-round pick.” – ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman on what he called the “biggest mistake” among draft decisions

PISTONS FIT: The Pistons have no bigger immediate need than at small forward, where only Stanley Johnson is a natural fit though both Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard can give them minutes there. As a 21-year-old, Jackson might come to the NBA more physically ready than most two-year college players and if he can defend multiple positions and knock down open corner 3-pointers, he’d be a candidate to press for rotation minutes even as a second-round pick.

BOTTOM LINE: Jackson’s stock is tough to gauge given the circumstances of his decision to enter the draft off of an injury-shortened season. He only attended the draft combine for one day and submitted only to measurements and not to athletic testing. Labrum surgery shouldn’t affect Jackson long term, but it might further limit his ability to work out for teams leading to the June 21 draft. There’s an element of high risk, high reward with Jackson, but when you’re picking 42nd that’s often a good time to go that route.