This will be the first of four (for now) posts about Sixers potential first round targets. I’m starting with Josh Jackson because popular conjecture has him going to the Sixers and he’ll likely be the best player available at three. The sum total of thoughts are based on YouTube wormholes, scouting reports, general observation, and other articles on each player.
Who is he?
Josh Jackson is a Kansas freshman who will be a classic athletic wing in the NBA. He’s projected to go in the top 5, and most mocks currently have him pegged to go to the Sixers.
What to like
He’s a freak athletically, and not in that he has raw ability way, but in a holy shit he’s a freak with skill way. I’d say he resembles a street ball player if that wouldn’t be doing a disservice to his effort and ability on the defensive end of the court. He is deadly on the fast break and prefers to play above the rim. His dunks give me a stiffy. His handle is OK, but he appears to have the ability to get into virtually any lane to get off a high-percentage shot. His point of shot separation equivalency (POSSE™) actually resemble’s Allen Iverson’s a little bit, both around the rim and especially on his jumper, which is somewhat off-balance with a short-arm release. Only, he’s much taller than AI and can play the game at a different flight level. He’s also a dynamic passer– maybe not a pure playmaker, but someone who can create off the drive.
Defensively, he’s very active and quick and gets his gangly arms into passing lanes (also AI). He can and will easily create his own fast break attempts.
What not to like
He’s not a good shooter. Through the first half of the year he had historically bad shooting numbers – free-throw and three-point – for a wing projected to be taken in the top 10, as detailed in this excellent Jonathan Tjarks article about Jackson. He improved throughout the year, but his release and free-throw ability are poor enough to indicate he’ll never be a great shooter at the pro level. He’s not a good pick-and-roll shooter, shooting only 28% in that situation. Part of the reason his three-point percentage went up as the season went on was because teams played off him and he got wind open looks. That won’t fly in the NBA, where better defenders will need to give him less space to adequately defend his drive and dish game. He’s also super skinny and doesn’t have a particularly long wing span for someone who is 6’8. He’s like one of those slightly misshapen NBA 2K created players who has all the tools but can’t shoot and gets gobbled up and pushed around inside because you could only use so many points on fundamentals so you could spend them all on athleticism and dunking. So what you’re left with is a super athletic player who got by in the half-court offense in college due to his superior athleticism, which will be somewhat neutered against NBA competition.
Would he fit the Sixers?
I’m eventually going to talk myself into Jackson because I think Bryan Colangelo will draft him, but there may be better options. By drafting Jackson, the Sixers will give themselves three freak players in Embiid, Simmons and, of course, Jackson. They would be super hard to defend, no doubt, but they’d be even harder to defend if the person they drafted could step behind the arc, or at least keep defenses honest and open up more space inside. I just hate the concept of having two lottery pick wing-ish players who can’t shoot.
Why would the Sixers draft him?
My gut tells me Colangelo will draft Jackson and then try to address the shooting need through free agency or a trade. He continues to talk about not only wanting to bring a vet in, but also bring one in who can accelerate the process. That sounds a lot like Kyle Lowry. As he ages, the Sixers could transition Lowry to more of an off-ball guard and spot-up shooter, which is sub-optimal for a short, somewhat pudgy fellow who would be making upwards of $38 million per year. The other problem with this, as someone who has watched a ton of Kyle Lowry over the years and once bought a Memphis Grizzlies warmup shirt to show his support, is that Lowry, while he is much improved as a three-point shooter and actually shot better than Steph Curry from behind the arc this year (with more than two fewer attempts per game), is not a pure shooter. He doesn’t put a high-tracjectory on his shot, and tired legs – the kind of thing that happens in the playoffs and with age (Lowry is shooting a career 31% from three in the playoffs) – will lead to a lot of front-rim clanks that some more traditional shooters can negate with a better arc. But, again, Lowry is an All-Star guard who just had the best season of his career and there are certainly worse options.
The Sixers could also trade for D’Angelo Russell.
Why wouldn’t the Sixers draft him?
He can’t shoot and both Malik Monk and Jayson Tatum better address their scoring need.