As free agency heats up it is easy to be caught up in all the players that the Dallas Mavericks can bring in and forget about the players that we already have. A prime example of this is the 24 year old, two year veteran Small Forward, Justin Jackson. It may not be as exciting as adding an All-Star in free agency but let us look at the past, present, and future of Justin Jackson to see why he can be a key contributor the the Mavs for the next few years.
Justin Jackson was the 9th ranked prospect coming out of High School in Tomball, Texas right outside of Houston. He then went to UNC to play for one of the best college coaches, Roy Williams, for three years.
In his first year at UNC Jackson had a big role. playing 27 minutes per game in 38 games for the 26-12 Tar Heels. He was pretty productive but was by no means considered a strong NBA prospect, averaging 10.7 points on 47% shooting to go along with 3.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Good enough to be named to the ACC All-Freshman team.
Fast forward two years later and Justin Jackson was the most productive Small Forward in College Basketball, averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 32 minutes per night for the NCAA Champion Tar Heels. Jackson was ACC Player of the Year over players like Dennis Smith Jr, Donovan Mitchell, Luke Kennard, and John Collins. He was also a consensus All-American 1st team and named to the NCAA All-Tournament team.
In his first two College seasons Justin Jackson shot 30% from three point range. He came back in his Junior season and made the most threes in a season in UNC history while knocking down 37% of his attempts.
I love this clip from Roy Williams describing what it took for Justin Jackson to become an AP All-American in the 2017 season. Williams says that Jackson put in as much work in the offseason as anyone he has ever coached and earned his status “the old fashioned way,” by outworking everyone else.
Jackson is now on a similar trajectory in the NBA. After being the 15th overall pick in 2017 by the Sacramento Kings, Jackson had a bit of an underwhelming Rookie season, averaging 6.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 22 minutes per game while shooting 30.8% from three point range.
In typical Justin Jackson fashion he put in the hard work in the offseason and came back a much better shooter, knocking down 35.5% of his threes across 81 games with the Kings and the Mavericks.
In 29 games with the Dallas Mavericks Jackson averaged 8.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1 assists in 18 minutes per game while shooting 37% from downtown. On a per 36 minute basis that equates to 16.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists, quality production from a 2nd year player.
Jackson has already shown that he can be a very efficient and productive scorer when given the opportunity. He has great shooting form and a very quick release but he is more than just a shooter. When defenders close out on him at the three point line he has a long first step to sneak around them and then score with craft finishes in the lane and around the hoop.
Justin Jackson wears #44 in honor of smoothest and best scorers in NBA history, George “Ice Man” Gervin. Know for his unstoppable finger role and silky smooth touch around the rim, Gervin could get buckets at will. After being compared to Gervin in High School and watching some of his film, Jackson made the decision to model his offensive game after the Ice Man. When Jackson gets into the lane and starts dropping unorthodox floaters, the time he has spent studying George Gervin pays dividends.
Just take a look at a few of his top games for the Mavericks and you can see the full repertoire of scoring ability.
Now going into year three I believe Jackson has a great opportunity to have a sizable role with the Dallas Mavericks going forward. The Mavs are desperate for outside shooters and given his work ethic and history of improving year after year, I believe Jackson can help fill this role.
The Mavericks offense under Coach Rick Carlisle is strongly predicated on spacing, ball movement, and player movement. Being a three year College player under Roy Williams, Jackson learned how to play effectively within an offensive scheme. He knows when to shoot, when to drive, and when to cut. Carlisle isn’t always looking for the most talented players to be one the court, as weird as that sounds. He likes players who are smart, run the offense, and continually make the right decisions.
Aside from his offensive production, hard work, and high character, another benefit that Justin Jackson brings to the Mavericks is his favorable contract. Being the 15th pick in the draft, Jackson is scheduled to make $2.8M this coming season, then $3.3M in 2020 and a $5M Team Option for 2021. This means that the Mavericks can groom Jackson to be a key contributor for the next 3 years without having to break the bank.
As we go out into free agency and likely have to overpay to bring in high level talent, it is crucial to be able to have productive players on favorable deals, and that is what we have in Justin Jackson.