Prospect Profile: Josh Jackson

Leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, we will be diving into what our Draft Models tell us about this year’s top prospects. Our Draft Models include the PNSP Model, NBA Role Probability Model, and Similarity Scores which each provide unique ways of evaluating college prospects. Our Prospect Profiles will look at which stats positively/negatively affect NBA projections, unique data points from a player’s stats, and relevant comparisons to current NBA players. You can find links to all of our Prospect Profiles in the header menu above (NBA –> NBA Draft –> Prospect Profiles). In this article, we take a look at KU Freshman Josh Jackson.

Josh Jackson | SF | Kansas | Freshman

Draft Express #3 | Model 284 PNSP #16
Physical Measurements: 6’7.75″ | 203lbs | Wingspan: 6’9.75″
Top Player Comps: Jayson Tatum, Tyler LydonJustise Winslow

School Age PTS/40 TRB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40
Kansas 20.3 21.2 9.6 3.9 2.2 1.4
Model 284
Ratings
PNSP All-Star % Starter % Bench % Non-NBA %
72.0  34.9%  51.9%  4.7%  8.5%

At first glance, Josh Jackson’s PNSP rank of 16th seems awfully low when comparing to his consensus top-4 rank among experts. Before we dump him in the “the models think he sucks” bucket, let’s consider a few factors.

First off, one of Jackson’s most intriguing attributes is his fiery competitiveness, something that is not easily captured in the data used by our PNSP model (or any data, for that matter). Sam Vecenie has discussed on his podcast that Jackson would always take it upon himself to shut down other top prospects when he faced them – and that he frequently succeeded in doing so. With that said, this aspect of Jackson’s mental makeup has also manifested itself negatively, with him failing to control his emotions on the court from time to time. It is also worth mentioning that Jackson was involved in multiple off the court incidents in his one year at Kansas.

Secondly, in agreement with public consensus, 2017 is a very strong draft class by PNSP. There are 16 players in the 2017 class with PNSP scores above 70 compared to just 9 players in the 2016 class (Jackson’s PNSP score of 72.0 would have ranked 9th in the 2016 class). So, Jackson would likely be ranked higher if not for a strong class.

Third, our NBA Role Probabilities for Jackson are more optimistic than his PNSP score, with his All-Star probability of 34.9% ranking 6th among 2017 draft-eligible players, and his Starter probability of 51.9% ranking 7th. These numbers point to both his high ceiling and high floor – Jackson’s chances of being a bench player or non-NBA player come in at only 13.2%, the 3rd lowest among 2017 draft-eligible players. In other words, there is a very small chance he is a bust. When discussing Jackson’s upside, it is noteworthy that Jackson was actually the #1 High School recruit of 2016 (by RSCI), ahead of Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, and everyone else. Looking at some players whom our models had similar predictions for, here are the college prospects from the last 5 years with a PNSP score between 70-80, an All-Star probability of at least 15%, and a bench+non-NBA probability of less than 30%:

Player Yr Pick PNSP All-Star Bench +
Non-NBA
Jabari Parker 2014 2 77.8 15.3% 21.1%
Andrew Wiggins 2014 1 77.7 24.3% 27.3%
Anthony Bennett 2013 1 74.5 24.9% 13.6%
Josh Jackson 2017 72.0 34.9% 13.2%
Victor Oladipo 2013 2 70.6 30.2% 20.9%
Royce White 2012 16 70.6 54.8% 14.5%
Denzel Valentine 2016 14 70.1 27.8% 29.6%

As further comps, here are Josh Jackson’s top 10 most similar players via our Similarity Score tool:

After considering all of the above factors, the models are still somewhat low on Jackson as a prospect, and there are certainly reasons for that… Mr. Jackson is relatively old for a Freshman at 20.3 years, making him the oldest prospect among the current DraftExpress top 10. Although Jackson is an explosive athlete, his frame and length are not physically imposing for an NBA forward, and it is worth questioning whether he can thrive at the small-ball 4 in the NBA (a spot where he spent many of his minutes at Kansas). Looking at specific in-game weaknesses, Jackson did not have elite production in any one area, and perhaps the biggest flaw in Jackson’s game is his shooting (which is kind of a big deal – did anyone watch the Warriors this year?). Jackson struggled mightily from the free-throw line in his freshman season, shooting just 56.6% on 173 attempts, and was a streaky 3-point shooter (though he did finish at 37.8% for the year).

By our models, Jackson projects near average in most areas as an NBA player. However, Jackson does project extremely poorly in free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage. The two areas where he projects above average are 2-point FGs and assists, and the one area where he projects extremely high is steals. Steal and block %s have been shown as good predictors of defensive potential in the NBA. Here is how Jackson’s college block and steal %s (marked with a black dot) stack up against other college forwards:

Though he projects as an elite turnover producer at the NBA level, our models project Jackson slightly below average in terms of blocks due to his average size and length (for a rim protector). That said, given Jackson’s competitiveness and high steal projection, I’d say there is potential for Jackson to develop into an elite, versatile perimeter defender in the NBA. It should also be noted that our Draft Models have the potential to undervalue defense, as a player’s defensive contributions are less clearly defined by traditional box-score statistics.

Conclusion

Overall, Jackson’s ridiculously low bench/non-NBA probability coupled with his competitive personality make it easy to buy into him as a solid prospect with a high floor, even considering the flaws discussed in this article. NBA coaches are going to love an unselfish guy who wants to win and goes all-out on the defensive end of the floor. That said, if I am picking at the top of the draft and am looking for a franchise cornerstone player, I’m not sure Jackson has the elite upside I would be shooting for.

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