2018 Potential NBA Draft Bust: Jaren Jackson

Synopsis: I watched Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson several times during the 2017-18 college basketball season and remember thinking that he was a “beast” who could excel at the next level. When preparing for this post, I was shocked to learn that he only averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game last year. Jackson averaged 3 blocks per game during the season and had seven games with at least 5 blocks so perhaps I based my impression on a limited sample size. As someone who finds truth in numbers, I give Jackson an above-average chance of becoming a bust.

2018 Potential NBA Draft Bust: Jaren Jackson

As part of my 2018 Mock NBA Draft, I offered the following prediction regarding the 4th overall pick.

On the cusp of greatness a few years ago, the Grizzles have fallen on hard times. Doncic should help turn around the franchise’s misfortune assuming the Mavericks don’t jump in and steal the pick. If so, Memphis will have to “settle” for Jackson.

Despite reversing the 3rd and 4th overall picks, I accurately predicted the situation that would cause the switch. Don’t worry, I realize that and $4 will get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Based on his college stats, Jackson draws comparisons to 6x NBA All-Star Jermaine O’Neal. 

Player    PPG   RPG   APG   BPG   SPG  Excess Value
Jaren Jackson Jr. College (2017-18) 10.9 5.8 1.1 3.0 0.6  
Jermaine O’Neal NBA Career 13.2 7.2 1.4 1.8 0.5 1.1x

Note: “Excess Value” indicates how much more productive the comparable player was relative to production from an average draft pick. In this case, Jermaine O’Neal was 1.1x (i.e. 10%) more productive than the average #4 overall pick. 

I predict that the first three picks will either fall short of (Ayton and Bagley) or surpass (Doncic) their NBA comparisons. In contrast, Jackson comes closest to having a projected value that matches the career of O’Neal. As support, I offer Jay Bilas’s observations of the former Spartan.

  • Long arms and huge hands.
  • May be best all-around defender with respect to shot blocking, rim protecting, and guarding the pick & roll.
  • Chance to be as good as anyone.
  • Good shooter who hit over 40% from three.
  • Terrific mobility.
  • Mild concern: OK with his back to the basket, but can get better. 

Billups made a comparison to a better offensive version of Joaquin Noah with similar defensive intensity. As a quick reminder (for myself as much as for you), Noah once dominated on defense and even earned the 2013-14 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. Jackson may surpass Noah’s offensive stats, but there’s no way he’ll match Noah’s defensive accomplishments. Despite averaging an impressive 3 blocks per game, the 6’10” power forward only averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game against fellow college players.


At this point, I am conflicted by what I saw (the “eye test”) and what I think (the “numbers test”). With respect to current NBA players, the best example of someone who aces the eye test without having supporting numbers is Draymond Green. Over the last four seasons, Green has averaged an underwhelming 12 points and 8 rebounds per game. At the same time, he’s the heart of the team that has won 3 of the last 4 NBA titles.

I truly believe Golden State would be four for four if Green had not been suspended for Game Five of the 2016 Finals against Cleveland for attacking LeBron’s groin.

Draymond Green – Up Close and Personal
While this foul didn’t deserve a suspension on its own, Draymond Green earned it for his cumulative behavior.

While Green’s suspension for Game 5 had a huge impact on Cleveland’s ultimate victory in seven games, the injury suffered by Warriors center Andrew Bogut in that game played a big part as well. Having lived in the Cleveland area for almost a quarter century, I don’t care why it happened. I’m simply glad that it did.

Going into the 2018-19 NBA season, Draymond Green will be viewed as the fifth best player on the Warriors (after Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, and Klay Thompson, in that order). However, I view him as the glue that keeps it all together. Green clearly is not Golden State’s best player, but I would accept an argument that he’s the team MVP.


Despite everything I just wrote, my T10B Spidey senses tingled when assessing the selection of Jaren Jackson. Overall, I give Jackson an above-average 30% chance to become a bust (i.e. in the bottom quartile of all comparable picks) and a 15% change to become a Top 10 Bust candidate (i.e in the bottom decile of all comparable picks). Playing alongside Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in Memphis, Jackson may be able to offer value beyond his individual production. If not, I expect to be revisiting this post.

2018 Potential NBA Draft Bust: Jaren Jackson
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