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Justin Jackson failed to cash in on a big opportunity this season

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Once thought of as a possible starter, Jackson spent much of the season relegated to a deep bench role.

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers - Game One Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Season in review

Justin Jackson joined the Dallas Mavericks in 2019 as part of the trade that sent Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings. A season and a half was enough for Sacramento, and they moved on from the former No. 15 overall pick in 2017. In 29 games, Jackson showed repeated flashes, averaging eight points per game, including 37% from beyond the arc, in 18 minutes off the bench.

It was enough for a sizable amount of hype for Jackson who, headed into the 2019-20 season, was considered as a potential starter to accompany Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and whoever else coach Rick Carlisle opted to play. Owner Mark Cuban even went so far as to tell DallasBasketball.com’s Dalton Trigg, “I don’t know why people didn’t see his ability to contribute on both sides of the ball.”

As it turns out, people don’t see the ability to contribute that Cuban mentions because it may not exist. After three seasons, it’s unclear if he’s even a back-end bench player on a NBA team.

In 65 games during the 2019-20 season, the 24 year old Justin Jackson played just over 16 minutes a game, shot under 40% from the floor and 30% from three, while chipping in 5.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and less than an assist per game. All numbers were career lows.

Though he did have an outstanding shooting month in November, Jackson cooled considerably. He even managed to play himself out of the rotation despite all the injuries the Mavericks suffered throughout the season. The Mavericks needed Jackson to show out, particularly once the Dwight Powell and Jalen Brunson injuries deleted their depth. He did not.

Best game

In November Jackson, along with many of the Mavericks, detonated on the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. He poured in 19 on 7 of 11 shooting; this game stands out as a key game when it seemed like Jackson might be figuring out his place with the Mavericks. He also grabbed six boards and was extremely active on the floor in 23 minutes.

Contract status

Justin Jackson will enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2020-21 and earn a salary of just over $5 million per year.

Looking Ahead

The Dallas Mavericks have a bright future ahead and at the moment, Jackson is a part of the 2020-21 roster given his guaranteed contract. However, it’s unclear if he’s a part of the team’s plans moving forward.

In hindsight, it’s somewhat telling that Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle kept telling the media about how hard he worked and how impressive his floater game was. Jackson is a 6’9” player who avoids contact at all costs and has very little power to his game. For example, he dunked just twice all season and there were many occasions where he put the ball up soft when he had a chance to simply slam the ball through the rim. If he cant defend well, can’t shoot well, and does’t do any dirty work then he doesn’t seem to have a long term future in the NBA, let alone Dallas.

This is a brutal assessment and feels unfair even as I’m writing it, because Jackson seems like a good person and a good teammate. But if the Mavericks are to contend, they have to expect more from role players, particularly one that has the pedigree of a player like Jackson.

Which makes it strange to say he’s likely to be a Maverick next season. His contract is in the mid-range and there may yet be a NBA team who thinks they can get more out of Jackson in a different situation.