Note: This piece is the second in a two-part series where we take a look at current Michigan State forward and future NBA Draft prospect Jaren Jackson Jr. Yesterday, we took a look at Jackson’s work on the defensive end. Right now we’re going to finish the series by examing his versatility on the offensive end.
Back in yesterday’s piece, we noted that Michigan State big Jaren Jackson Jr stood as fantastic defensive weapon. As of this piece, Jackson is averaging 6 blocks per 40 minutes, which places him second behind Minnesota big Reggie Lynch. Looking away from that singular stat, we looked at how versatile of a defender he actually is.
We also used that piece to look at examineJackson’s impact has helped push Michigan State to be one of the finest defensive teams in college hoops. According to KenPom, they’re currently holding opponents to 42% eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage) and 38% from inside the perimeter, which both stand as the lowest averages in college basketball.
Although he’s been a fantastic defensive weapon for Michigan State, most of the intrigue surrounding Jackson as an NBA Draft prospect deals with his extremely versatile skill set. Over the course of the season, he’s showcased himself to be solid as a facilitator, on-ball driver, offensive rebound and perimeter shooter. Among those skills, his work as a perimeter shooter has to be the most appealing part of his overall game. The fact that a 6’11 forward is shooting 44% from beyond the arc on 5 perimeter attempts per 40 minutes seems unimaginable for someone that’s so skilled on the defensive end.
That tremendous perimeter efficiency is due to him having a nice jumper. After receiving the pass from a teammate, Jackson starts his shooting process with the ball paced right under the numbers on his Michigan State jersey and his knees bent with his lower body facing the rim.
Those small steps gives him a quick shooting stroke as he’s able to do that whole process in a blink of an eye. Although his release point might be problematic as the ball is near his eyeballs when it leaves his fingertips, it obviously hasn’t been much of an issue this season.
Jackson’s tremendous efficiency as a perimeter shooter has helped him out in other areas on the offensive end. The biggest example of that is seen from how he works as an on-ball driver. With opponents needing to close in on Jackson when he’s stationed at or near the perimeter, the 6’11 big has a bevy of tricks that he can use to move past the opposition.
The most obvious weapon in Jackson’s disposal is quick acceleration that allows him to move past most bigs that are guarding him. Even if he isn’t able to breeze his way past a defender, he can use his strong 235 frame to muscle his way down the court before he finishes around the basket. A great example of that is seen in the clip below as he makes a strong drive against an Indiana big.
Although those two factors have been beneficial for Jackson, he occasionally shows off some wicked dribble moves that can just make fans jump out their seat in absolute joy. he showed that in a Tuesday game against Illinois. Despite the best efforts of forward Kipper Nichols, Jackson just humiliated the Fighting Illini by hitting an incredible spin move that looked like something you’d see from NBA 2k. The joy didn’t stop there as he switched hands before laying down an absolutely thunderous slam dunk.
In regards to scoring, low-post play sits as the last significant part of his offensive arsenal. At this point in his career, he’s mainly comfortable with working on the right block. That isn’t a concern for Jackson as he shows all the tools to be a capable scoring threat. He does a nice job of using every part of his 235 pound frame to break down the defender before he gets a good look at the rim.
Once he does that, he can either put up a great hook or break away and drive to the rim on his own. Each of those moves bring some level of beauty to eye of the beholder but his hook is probably the most appealing. Just look at the clip below as Jackson moves away from the defender before putting up a beautiful hook that smoothly moved its way down the nylon.
Those offensive skills has pushed him to average 20.8 points on 53% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc per 40 minutes. A part of his game that might intrigue me more than his perimeter shooting would be his skill as a facilitator. Things aren’t impressive when you look at his numbers as he’s only averaging 2.2 assists per 40 minutes.
When you actually watch him play, Jackson’s skills as a facilitator look more impressive than what those stats might tell you. Whether he’s working on the elbow or in the low-post, he does a great job of recognizing his surroundings and knowing where his four teammates are positioned. That awareness gives him the power to quickly find teammates and hit them with a smooth pass.
As we near the end of the NCAA regular season and look forward to the start of March Madness, it’ll be interesting to see if Jaren Jackson Jr can continue to progress as an offensive weapon.
For example, can he learn to work in the left block or be able to drive with the ball in either hand? Or is it too ambitious of a goal at this point in the season? We’ll have to wait and see. However, I still think an NBA team will be ecstatic when they pick him in June’s NBA Draft.