Atlanta Hawks Potential #1 Draft Pick: Jaren Jackson Jr.

EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 18: Jaren Jackson Jr. #2 of the Michigan State Spartans dunks over Tim Myles #12 of the Houston Baptist Huskies during the second half at the Jack T. Breslin Student Events Center on December 18, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State won the game 107-62. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 18: Jaren Jackson Jr. #2 of the Michigan State Spartans dunks over Tim Myles #12 of the Houston Baptist Huskies during the second half at the Jack T. Breslin Student Events Center on December 18, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State won the game 107-62. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The excitement has ramped up, workouts are in progress, and the rumors are numerous as we move closer and closer to the 2018 NBA draft. Social media and message boards are buzzing with anticipation and ideas for what The Atlanta Hawks should do with the #3 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

GM Travis Schlenk has a difficult and important task on deciding what prospect can best be a cornerstone for the franchise moving forward.

This draft is a pivotal moment for the Atlanta Hawks. The team is hoping to add a centerpiece for the franchise to build around. This year’s draft lottery yielded the highest draft pick the organization has had since selecting Al Horford #3 in 2007. The first player we looked at was Luka Doncic which can be reviewed by clicking here.

Today we look at another candidate for the Atlanta Hawks 3rd overall pick. Michigan State Power Forward, Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jaren is a 6’11 240 lb Power forward who could very well play Center at the NBA level, He has a major 7-4 wingspan. His measurable’s are very similar to those of current Atlanta Hawks Dwayne Dedmond. Dedmond can choose to opt out of his contract and become a free agent after this season. Could “triple J” be his replacement?

Jaren Jackson Jr attended Michigan State University and has declared for the draft after just one season. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the year. He was also named to the high honor of Big Ten defensive player of the year.

Jaren Jackson Jr is the son of former NBA shooting guard Jaren Jackson Sr. Jackson Sr won a championship ring with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. JJJ has openly expressed in interviews, how instrumental his father was in his development. Jackson Jr. also mentioned his father preparing him for the challenges the NBA presents from a mental and social standpoint.

Take a look at Mr. Jackson’s stats below:

(I prefer to address weaknesses 1st.)

Lack of offensive production:

Even though JJJ shows tremendous potential, he played limited minutes. His stats shown above, reflect the lack of minutes Jackson received from Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo. There are several reasons for this reduced playing time. Two of which were a lack of awareness and foul trouble. We will address these issues shortly. Another reason for this lack of production is Jaren was used almost exclusively as a stretch 4 or a cutter. He was given a very low percentage of touches on the low block, so he had a limited ability to show his post repertoire to NBA scouts. Will he be able to utilize that part of his game with more space to operate within the NBA?

Lack of a mid-range game:

Jackson has skill on the low block and perimeter. However, he offers little to no offense from the high and mid post areas. While Jaren possesses the agility to face up his defender, he struggles mightily to make mid-range shots. Even though the mid-range shot is no longer a common weapon in NBA systems, the ability for a big man to make that shot keeps the defense honest. Lacking a mid-range jump shot, when catching and facing, Jackson is limited to making a quick move to blow by the defender or passing the ball.

Lack of Strength:

Jaren Jackson must get stronger. Physical big men have the ability to overpower him, and establish deep post position. Stronger big men are able to score down low, after dislodging JJJ with body contact. This strength deficit also effects his ability to wrestle rebounds away from opposing bigs. This weakness shows on offense too, as it hinders JJJ from finishing through contact inside. He can also be blocked out on the offensive boards by a lesser player and moved around by stronger guys.

Lack of awareness:

Jackson appears to lack offensive awareness on film. There are times when he looks confused at what set the team is running. He’s a great defender but he has lapses of awareness on that end as well. He sometimes loses his man and allows him to slip backdoor to the rim. Many NBA superstars seem to have the gift to be able to think the game 2 steps ahead, even at a young age. J³ has yet to display this attribute. In his defense, he is one of the drafts youngest prospects.

An alarmingly high foul rate:

Jaren Jackson Jr. was called for an astounding amount of fouls. He averaged a whopping 3.2 fouls, in only 23.8 minutes per game. He averaged an astonishing 5.9 fouls per 40 mins. A player only gets 5 fouls in an NCAA game. This means if Jaren were to attempt to play a full game, it’s highly improbable that he would make to the end without fouling out. This also makes it very difficult to extrapolate his numbers on a per 40 minutes basis. The reasons for this foul trouble are multiple. For one, Jackson Jr. is aggressive in a good way. He hustles all over the court and attempts to block every shot in his vicinity. His lack of strength also causes fouls. When a big man “bodies Jackson up”, he’s often forced to reach in and foul, to prevent an easy basket. Jaren is very mobile, but he is still perfecting his footwork when chasing smaller players after defensive switches. Overall JJJ’s aggressiveness is a positive thing, yet in order to stay on the floor he must cut down on the fouls.


His physical attributes:

Jaren Jackson Jr is a high-level athlete, with an outstanding lateral quickness. This makes him adept at switching the pick and roll. He’s able to switch onto wings, and to lesser extent point guards, and contain them off the dribble. When perimeter players do get by him, he has the length and quickness to recover and block the shot. He’s not the quickest jumper, but Jackson gets up high above the rim to finish. He runs the floor like a gazelle. This leads to many easy dunks and layups. J³ is also an ideal roll man and lop target. Jackson Jr’s natural athleticism is the main reason he’s considered to be one of this year’s prospects with the highest upside. The sky is the limit for triple J.

He displays good footwork and skill in the post:

Even though Jackson Jr’s post touches were limited due to his role in Tom Izzo’s offense, Jaren showed good footwork inside. He also displays a soft touch, particularly when not affected by contact. JJJ has a nice drop step. He’s also able to pivot in space and has the ball-handling ability, and 1st step, to make a quick move by his defender and throw it down at the rim with authority. Could he develop into a go-to option with more touches and advanced development?

His shooting ability:

Jaren Jackson Jr. has a strange looking push shot. He doesn’t extend his arms high above his head to fully take advantage of his length. With that being said his jump shot is extremely effective. Triple J shot 51.3% from the field. He shot 59.6% from 2 point range, most effective at the rim. JJJ shot a wonderful 39.6% from behind the arch. He also shot a very respectable 79.7% from the charity strip. These shooting numbers make him an ideal prospect, to become a stretch big that teams covet, in today’s modern era of pace and space offense.

His Shot Blocking:

As previously mentioned, Jaren Jackson Jr. is a good on-ball defender due to his lateral quickness. However, make no mistake about it, His calling card is in his shot blocking ability. The Big 10 defensive player of the year averaged 3 blocks in only 21.8 minutes per game. JJJ averaged an NCAA high, 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes. However, as stated prior, that number is skewed due to the fact that he averaged more than 5 fouls in that time span. Jackson Jr. possesses great timing, and an incredible feel for when to block an opponent immediately, or wait, and go up to swat the ball at its apex. He’s generally good at not going for fakes and is even able to block smaller guards without jumping. J³ is able to block shots as a weakside help defender, as well as on ball. Triple J could be a perennial NBA defensive player of the year candidate, with added strength and proper development.

His fit with the Atlanta Hawks:

Jaren Jackson Jr would immediately be slotted next to All-Rookie Team member John Collins, as the Atlanta Hawks starting Center, if taken #3 overall. No one is sure exactly what type of offense new Head Coach Lloyd Pierce will run. It’s safe to assume Jackson Jr’s main role would be that of a stretch 5 and defensive anchor. He would provide spacing for The Hawks guards to penetrate. This would also allow room for John Collins to operate inside, and as a roll man. JJJ can also operate as the screener in the pick and roll. He offers versatility in that he can roll to the basket and finish at the rim. At the same time, he can also knock down long jumpers, in a pick and pop scenario. Jaren also should be useful as a dive man, and a lob target on backdoor cuts. On defense, he would serve as the rim protector, and offers scheme versatility for coach Pierce, with his previously noted ability to switch. FanSided NBA powered by Stepback’s Rucker Haringey listed the Hawks as the best fit for Jackson Jr in this article.

NBA comparison:

Ceiling: A combination of Serge Ibaka and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

JJJ looks eerily similar to Serge Ibaka, a 4-time league leader in blocked shots, by physical stature, as well as defensive abilities. He also stretches the floor like Ibaka. Jackson appears to have even more range than Serge. Triple J should be an All NBA Defender, and a defensive player of the year candidate year in and year out, with proper guidance.

Though Abdur-Rahim, the former Wheeler High School, and Atlanta Hawks star, was much more polished in the post than Jaren Jackson Jr. as a draft prospect, JJJ displays similar footwork when given the opportunity. He’s able to face up and drive, a lot like Abdur-Rahim did. Both players are 2-foot jumpers as well. The difference is Jackson Jr is much quicker, with a quicker shot release. My guess is that Jackson Jr will be closer to Ibaka on both ends of the floor. If J³ is able to be a combination of Serge on defense, and Shareef on offense, he will be a perennial All-Star.

Floor: A taller Marvin Williams.

The worse case scenario for JJJ is he never develops into a complete offensive player, and struggles with physical and mental toughness. His motor is also known to run low and high, and he has admitted to struggling with confidence and has to be conscious of playing hard at all times. In the worse case scenario he takes a long time to develop, and later in his career, settles into being a useful role player. That’s not the worse thing in the world, but it would be a huge disappointment for the Atlanta Hawks at the #3 pick.

Expert Rankings:

Sports Illustrated NBA Draft expert Jeremy Woo has Jeren Jackson Jr. ranked 3rd on his big board.

Woo offers this analysis this about him:

"With a projectable frame, above-average mobility and a fast-developing skill set, Jackson put his considerable potential on display over the course of an inconsistent but nonetheless impressive freshman year. His shot blocking numbers (5.5 per-40) were off the charts, and teams are intrigued by his ability to protect the rim and defend in space. He shot 39.6% from three, though his mechanics leave a bit to be desired, and has nice touch around the rim with either hand, continuing to develop perimeter skills at an impressive rate. Jackson is more lanky and agile than he is bouncy, but some of his issues keeping up with physical opponents in traffic and committing too many fouls should be mitigated as he gets stronger. His statistical case isn’t as strong as his peers in this range, but contextualized with his age and development curve, it’s easy to project him evolving into a plus on both ends of the floor who contributes heavily to a successful team."

Jackson is one of the players most projected to be drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, and’s Jeremy Woo does so in his mock draft here.

My Rank:

I currently have Jaren Jackson Jr. 7th on my Top Pick for the Hawks, small board rankings. My ranking for J³ is much lower than many experts. I admit that he has a tremendous upside, but after the Atlanta Hawks drafted Marvin Williams #2 overall in 2005, raw, unpolished players scare me. However the old saying goes, no risk, no reward. It will be intriguing to see if Travis Schlenk takes the risk.

My current rankings for the Atlanta Hawks top pick are:

1. Deandre Ayton
2. ‎Marvin Bagley III
3. Michael Porter Jr.
4. Trae Young
5. Mo Bamba
6. Luka Dončić
7. Jeren Jackson Jr.
8. Wendell Carter Jr.

In the meantime stay tuned to ATL All Day via for all of the latest breaking news and extensive information on The Atlanta Sports teams you love. Follow the ATL All Day team on social media for interactive discussion.

Next: Braves News

Please your comments below.
Please give the squad a follow on Twitter as well.

Jordan Jackson – Contributor