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Is Jaren Jackson Jr. the best big in the draft?

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The big man class this year has revolved around DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, and Mohamed Bamba for good reason. However, the best of the bunch could end up being Jaren Jackson Jr. of Michigan State. The freshman has been rightfully climbing up draft boards recently. With an incredibly athletic frame at 6-11 and 242 lbs, Jackson has played mostly the 4 for Michigan State but has the ability to slide to the 5 especially in the modern NBA. For the season, he is averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. His versatility is his calling card in college and will be the base of his game in the NBA.

TS%

3PAr

FTr

BLK%

BPM

Jackson

67.6%

0.429

0.636

14.9

17.2

Jackson’s versatility is put on display by his combo of 3-point attempt rate, free throw rate, and block percentage; something that no NBA player is currently doing or has ever done in the history of the league. His 3 point rate is comparable to Kemba Walker, Luke Kennard, and Jamal Crawford. His free throw rate would rank 4th in the NBA this season behind only Dwight Howard, David Nwaba, and Alex Len, and is significantly higher than James Harden who lives at the line. Jackson’s block percentage would rank 1st in the league, nearly double that of second place – Salah Mejri at 8.7%. He doesn’t just do these things often, but he does them well. He is a 60% shooter inside the arc, 44% shooter from 3, and a 79% free throw shooter.

Jackson’s ability to do whatever is needed will make him invaluable as an NBA player, especially as a big. Draymond Green innovated the PF/C position by playmaking while also shooting 3s and locking down on defense. Young players like Jordan Bell and Bam Adebayo are recreating that formula that Green built and have been very effective for their teams. The NBA is moving towards big men who can do a little bit of everything and Jaren Jackson will certainly be that once he enters the league.

Jackson’s stats being a little depressed has hurt his stock and leaves questions as to whether he can shoulder a heavier load and maintain his efficiency. He is often times the 4th or 5th offensive option at Michigan State and so we will likely won’t see him featured too often this season. This affects the projection for Jackson as it is hard to see him being a heavy usage star at the next level. In that way, Ayton, Bamba, and Bagley could all end up averaging significantly more than him in the league when it comes to points and rebounds but Jackson will likely be the better overall player and on the better team.

As it currently stands on tankathon.com, the Kings have the 5th pick and tankathon’s mock has them taking Jackson. Jackson is so versatile that he could fit perfectly with the Kings. His ability to step outside and shoot 3s will allow him to play next to any other big. Next, to Cauley-Stein, Jackson would form a hyper-athletic duo that can protect the rim at an elite level, while switching everything if needed. Next, to Koufos, Jackson allows Koufos to guard the slower bigs and Jackson can take the more athletic scorer. Jackson can also play 5 in Lineups with Harry Giles, Skal Labissiere or Z-Bo. Given Hield, Bogdanovic, and Fox, a big man that needs the ball all the time would take it out of the hands of the Kings’ best playmakers. Jackson wouldn’t do this and would fit right into to the offense, scoring where there are openings and laying back when he needs too.

Jackson’s ceiling might not be as high as the rest of the other prospects, but he arguably has the highest floor. If everything goes right he could become a more offensively dangerous version of Draymond but with the same defensive prowess. Jackson should be on everyone’s radar; because come June, he might be the best player and labeled the steal of the draft.

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