Jaren Jackson Jr: Not Your Average Big Man

A look at former collegiate superstar Jaren Jackson Jr. and his potential to become the next great (modern) big man.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is the result of a tanked season for the Memphis Grizzlies in hopes of finding a franchise cornerstone. Taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, Jackson was a superstar forward at Michigan State whose play style matches that of the ideal big man in today's NBA. A rim protecting, physical presence in the paint who can also stretch the floor and knock down some threes. However, can he lift a franchise out of complete mediocrity and into a new, brighter future?

Time At Michigan State

At Michigan State, Jackson was a clear man among boys. Playing against collegiate competition, Jackson was at all times out-performing the opponent's big man due to his size, athleticism, and versatility. Not only was he one of (if not the) best defender in the country, Jackson was able to establish his offensive dominance in both the paint and on the perimeter, where Jaren proved his worth as a stretch four. Jackson would even display his ball handling skills at times when facing a clearly inferior opponent. As Michigan States star player, Jackson averaged 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game while leading Michigan State to a round of 32 appearance. Obviously, the offensive stats don't jump out to you, but his defensive impact was unmatched and his offensive versatility proved lethal in many big games.

Here are my first impressions:

Not afraid to take defenders in the post

Through four games, Jackson has taken 34 shots in the paint (8.5 per game) and has scored on 56% of those attempts. For a rookie in the infant stages of their first season, that's not only a lot of aggression he's shown but a good amount of shots he's made. 

Doesn't shy away from the perimeter

Thus far, Jackson has taken 12 shots from behind the arc and made just two of them. Terrible efficiency, but it's a promising sign that Jackson is willing to stretch the floor and could develop into a great pick & pop big-man. 

Great rim protector

Currently averaging 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, Jackson's defense is what originally made him such an enticing prospect entering the NBA. His length and athleticism provide him with a Rudy Gobert-esque ability when it comes to protecting the paint.

Doesn't need the ball

Jackson ranks 104th among all NBA players in usage percentage at just 21.9%. This is especially surprising when considering that he's on a team that features no superstars and possibly not even any all-stars. A young, unselfish lottery pick is rather rare to find. 

Ceiling

Jaren Jackson Jr. is the reason Memphis threw away an entire season. They're relying on him to lift their franchise out of mediocrity. They feel that Jackson's ceiling is good enough to lead their franchise to an eventual championship run. But will he reach that ceiling? 

At this point in time, I don't think Jackson will ever be good enough to lead a team to an NBA championship. With the way the league is heading, a championship team is going to need a dominant guard or small forward who can handle the ball and consistently score 25+ every night. However, that doesn't mean Jackson can't become a top-tier big man in the NBA. By the end of his career, there is a very real possibility Jackson walks away with one or more defensive player of the year awards. And although his scoring will likely never reach astronomical heights, I feel his offensive ceiling could reach around 18-20 points per game on 55% shooting from the field.

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