2018 Pick Number 4 – Jaren Jackson Jr.
Height – 6’11”
Weight – 235 lbs
Age – 18 years, 9 months
Wingspan – 7′ 5.25”
Position – Power Forward / Center
Strengths – Good shooting touch and extremely athletic on both ends.
Weaknesses – NEEDS to put on size and prove he can be a leader.
NBA comp – Jermaine O’Neal on offense, Pascal Siakam on defense
Why it makes sense for the Memphis Grizzlies
At the fourth pick, Jaren Jackson Jr. (JJJ) is the highest upside player available for the Grizzlies, who are in an interesting spot. Next year, they’re projected to have Mike Conley Jr. return to the lineup, to go alongside Marc Gasol down low. Memphis has a lot of needs, and JJJ’s versatility will check a lot of those boxes that Memphis is hoping to improve upon.
In his only collegiate season, which was for Michigan State, Jackson Jr. averaged 10.9 points in 20.8 minutes, shot 51.3 percent from the field, and 39.6 percent from three. He also averaged 3.0 blocks and 5.8 rebounds in 35 career games (as a freshman). He has unreal potential on both sides of the floor, but the kid needs time and if he reaches his potential, the Grizzlies could end up with the best player in this draft.
Assuming Memphis understands that they’ll have dreadful time trying to make the playoffs in the western conference, a slightly loose timeline won’t be a bad thing for Jackson Jr. It’d be interesting to see how Conley Jr. and Gasol would react to a patient approach, being that they’re at the point in their careers where they want to compete for a shot at the title.
The aforementioned stats show you how efficient Jackson Jr. could become in the NBA. He has a smooth stroke and at 6’11”, and he’ll be able to stretch the floor at the power forward or center positions. It will be interesting to see how effective JJJ will be in the post. His 235-lb. frame is not yet suited to bang around with guys like Steven Adams or Rudy Gobert for 30-plus minutes a night.
Early on in his career, we will most likely see Jackson Jr. get most of his looks in the mid range and beyond. That would be ideal for Memphis. Gasol is usually crammed down low and Conley Jr. is all over the place, mostly on the perimeter, with the ability to penetrate. A shooter like JJJ will do wonders for Gasol and Conley. But, he is not just a shooter. His athleticism and bounce will make up for his lack of strength early on and he should be able to cash in some loose change around the rim.
The dude averaged 3.0 blocks in 20.8 minutes. That is insane. JJJ has the potential to be a difference maker on defense, but we don’t know yet what he’ll be like in man-to-man isolations with another big backing him down, like a Joel Embiid. JJJ is about 50 lbs. lighter than Embiid, and would get manhandled in the post. From day one, JJJ needs to work on his size.
Much like the aforementioned Embiid, Jackson Jr. also has the ability to flash out to the perimeter and use his athleticism to stay in front of ball handlers. His wingspan and length is a major disturbance in passing lanes and in traffic. Early on in his NBA career, expect him to get picked on by stronger opponents, but down the road, he should be just fine.
The word potential was brought up a lot, well, because that is what it all comes down to with Jaren Jackson Jr. If he fills it out, we have a star, but there is some bust *potential* here as well. Will he be a leader? Will he put on the necessary size to navigate the paint? There are questions.
What is certain is that JJJ has the length, athleticism, shooting touch, and defensive upside to be a perennial all star. In a few years, who knows what the Memphis Grizzlies roster will look like. Jackson Jr., by that time, could be the centerpiece of the franchise. A two-way, 6’11” forward/center that can run the floor is not a bad franchise player to build around if you ask me.