While cap space and flexibility were the main prizes of the Harrison Barnes trade, the Dallas Mavericks were able to acquire a former top 15 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft in Justin Jackson.
The former University of North Carolina Tar Heel played three seasons in Chapel Hill. In his junior season, Jackson averaged 18 points while shooting 51 percent from the field and 37 percent from three which earned him ACC Player of the Year honors as the Tar Heels won the 2017 NCAA championship.
Jackson’s NBA career hasn’t been as storybook as his college tenure. In his rookie season, on a bad Sacramento team, Jackson played 22 minutes per night and averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 41 percent from the field and only 33 percent of this threes. In 53 games this season, Jackson’s raw numbers look nearly identical, only he’s canning 35 percent from behind the arc, a welcome progression for a player billed as a 3 and D wing.
Maybe Jackson has benefitted from a breakout Kings team, but the forward has looked more comfortable in his second professional season. In a much quicker, faster paced offense, Jackson has effectively increased his assist percentage (7.2 to 8.1) assist-to-turnover ratio (1.85 to 3.09) and true shooting percentage (52.1 to 54.6) per nba.com stats. While other Kings have taken the league by storm, Jackson has quietly improved his game in year two.
Jackson’s biggest strength is his size. At 6 feet, 8 inches, the Houston native has the prototypical size on the wing and can guard the three and four effectively. And while Jackson has yet to put together a consistent shooting stroke, he projects as a quality floor spacer. Interestingly enough, Jackson is shooting only 34 percent on catch-and-shoot triples but connects on 46 percent of his pull-up threes (albeit on only 13 attempts). Jackson’s shooting numbers won’t strike fear into defenses, but he shoots it just well enough to keep defenses honest.
Other than being a respectable shooter, Jackson’s game is limited. As the past two years have have shown, Jackson’s game can progress in the right scheme, but he won’t thrive setting teammates up or breaking defenses down with a dribble-drive game. And for Jackson’s size, he is a poor rebounder. He’s collected five or more rebounds in a game only 10 times this season, a number that won’t cut it for a player who will play the four more and more.
Fit with the Mavericks
Jackson’s fit in Dallas is clear with Barnes’ departure. Barnes was a staple in the Mavericks’ rotation for the past few seasons, and Dallas needs to continue to stockpile depth at the three and four positions. With the roster being flipped upside down, and Rick Carlisle promising to tweak rotations in the final few months of the season, Jackson will get his opportunity to earn his keep. Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. will absorb most of the minutes on the wing, but Jackson could easily push Ryan Broekhoff for minutes down the home stretch of the season.
The best case scenario is Jackson represents another reclamation project of sorts for the Mavericks. Only 23, his game still has room to grow, and he should be afforded the opportunity in Dallas.