The Bulls will enter the draft likely looking to address their holes at small forward and center, but Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. could be “best player available” option, or a non-traditional option at the center position for the Bulls.
Jaren Jackson Jr., or “JJJ” is a massive six-foot-eleven power forward who played his one and only collegiate season with the Michigan State Spartans this past season.
At six-foot-eleven, 242 pounds, Jackson Jr. could easily play the center position in a day and age where the league is adopting more athletically gifted big-men at the five than the traditional back to the rim center.
Jackson Jr. logged 11 points, six rebounds, an assist and three blocks per contest for the Spartans during the 2017-18 campaign, and displayed excellent explosiveness, shooting and creating ability, as well as staunch rim protection at Michigan State.
On the offensive side of the ball, Jackson Jr. can move for a big man, displaying the ability to run the floor and create for himself with a solid burst off the dribble. In the clip below, Jackson Jr. carries the ball across half court, before displaying that deadly burst around the free throw line on his way to an easy two points against Northwestern.
For a six-foot-eleven, 242-pound power forward, this kid can really shoot the ball, evident by his 39.6 percent clip from range this past season. His range is best suited for spot-shooting, but the form is excellent, as seen below.
Jackson Jr. works well on the perimeter shooting out of the pick-and-pop play, but he can also put the ball on the floor and get the to rim on his own. The clip below shows Jackson Jr. creating his own shot once again inside, and powering down an explosive jam off the feed on the ensuing play.
With all of the offensive upside that Jackson Jr. possesses, he’s got a ways to go on the defensive side of the ball. His biggest pitfall by far is his over-aggressiveness, which leads to turnovers (1.8 per game) and foul trouble (3.2 per game). I got a first hand look at that this past February when I covered Michigan State’s visit to Rosemont to take on Northwestern.
Despite the Spartans wiping away a 27-point Northwestern lead in the second half, Jackson Jr. was not very good on this particular day. He scored 11 points in the game, but was nearly nonexistent in the first half, getting into foul trouble early and forcing too many things.
Jackson’s turnover issues stem from him just being out of control at times, playing with a reckless abandon. If Jackson Jr. can harness that aggression and limit his fouls and turnovers, he could be quite the rim protector at the NBA level.
Jackson Jr. averaged three blocks per game during the 2017-18 campaign, using every bit of his massive seven-foot-four wingspan to torment opponents at the rim. In the video below, Jackson Jr. repeatedly denies six-foot-eight Indiana forward, Juwan Morgan, blocking a pair of shots and outworking Morgan for the possession.
Jackson Jr. played power forward at Michigan State, but with the Bulls having Lauri Markkanen entrenched at the four, Jackson Jr. would likely play the center position if drafted by Chicago.
During his freshman campaign at Michigan State, JJJ posted a 27.4 PER, which would be 12.4 better than league average at the pro level, and ranked fourth in the country in defensive rating and blocks per 40.
Jackson Jr. fits the mold of the new-age center, with his size, wingspan, athleticism and agility, and would fill one of the two immediate needs for the Bulls if he was there for the Bulls at No. 7.
As I highlighted in the film study portion of this scouting report, JJJ possesses worldly athleticism, elite post scoring ability and a three-point shot that can stretch defenses in a way that would fit perfectly in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive scheme. His defensive ability, while lacking discipline, mirrors that of a staunch rim protector and shot blocker, and would be a welcomed addition in Chicago.
I don’t see Jackson Jr. being available for the Bulls at No. 7, but if he is, he’s a very intriguing selection.
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