3D wing, Tall Passer

Josh Jackson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

For as much thought as we put into overanalyzing the draft, we really don’t know anything.

Every year there is a player with jaw dropping physical talent and some skill that suggests he might have superstar potential but who also possesses an undeveloped area that might be a fatal flaw and cap such potential.

If that player can make the sort of substantial improvement that will push him into superstardom tends to depend on things we cannot predict; such as if he will have the work ethic necessary, even though he will be earning a lot money that will afford him other types of time-consuming opportunities, or if he is drafted by a team that knows how to teach him right or puts him in the best position to limit the effects of his weaknesses.

This year, that prospect seems to be Josh Jackson.

I’ve profiled the six-foot-eight combo forward for this website in January and added a note about his hot shooting streak on our look at the top 10 draft prospects whose teams qualified for the tournament but for the tl;dr crowd, here are the basics:

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Shot Creator, Stretch Big, Tall Passer

Josh Jackson Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM.)

CONTEXT

Josh Jackson started the season as the top prospect in Chad Ford’s top 100 but has fallen off the conversation for the number one pick since then. The six-foot-eight wing has a very appealing combination of size and intelligence but hasn’t yet developed an outside shot, which limits his star potential, especially considering he’s older than the average freshman, as he’s about to turn 20 in February.

It speaks volumes to how impressive his athletic ability and skill set are that Jackson remains highly thought of despite this substantial cause for concern, though. Ford currently ranks him third in his top 100, as shooting really is the one thing preventing Jackson from being considered the perfect player for this versatility-driven era of basketball.

ATHLETICISM

He is not a perfect athlete but a pretty great one who effectively translates his athletic ability into production all over the floor.

Jackson can elevate off two feet to play above the rim as a target for lobs on weak-side cuts or filling the lane in transition and going up for some thundering putback dunks or tip-ins. He has strength to maintain his balance through contact off the bounce and can adjust his body in the air to finish around rim protectors.

Defensively, Jackson has no trouble getting low in a stance and impresses with his lateral quickness – as he’s proven himself able to pick up smaller players on switches and staying in front of them in isolation. That said, he is probably not suited for being assigned such guards on a full time basis because he struggles navigating over ball-screens due to his larger frame and would be manipulated in the pick-and-roll with some ease.

Jackson is a much more impactful asset defending bigger players, though. Kansas has deployed him as their second biggest player on the floor almost full time since the beginning of conference play and he can be a real difference maker in this role. Aside from the fact this is working out great so far at the college level, Jackson had already been effective as a big in smaller lineups in high school and with the United States Junior National Team, as I profiled prior to the season.

Jackson has the strength to hold up from a physical-standpoint. He’s proven not to be any sort of liability defending the post and boxing out matching up with true big men – collecting 17.3% of opponents’ misses in his 166 minutes of Big 12 play, according to basketball-reference.

But where he’s impressed the most has been as a rim protector. Jackson’s eight-foot-three standing reach isn’t that big an asset on its own but he has pretty great explosiveness bouncing off the ground off one foot coming off the weak-side in help defense and even off two feet in front of the basket, as he’s averaged 2.1 blocks per 40 minutes.

BASKETBALL IQ

His athletic prowess is impressive but Jackson’s awareness shouldn’t be downplayed. He’s often in position to make those plays at the basket because he’s very attentive to his rotation responsibilities, not just affecting the game by going up to get some blocks but also by doing the little things that go unnoticed in the boxscore like bumping the roll man, crowding the area near the basket and clogging driving lanes to prevent dribble drivers from getting to the rim at all.

Eventually, if Jackson grows even bigger in three or four years, he might be a viable option to play center for stretches of a game. He doesn’t have the length Draymond Green has but could conceivably play bigger than his height in the same manner due to his leaping ability and recognition skills, being able to make plays at the basket or walling off dribble penetration to prevent the need for them in the first place.

There are doubts Jackson will grow much bigger than what he is now, though, given his body hasn’t changed much over the last two years and he doesn’t have the sort of broad shoulders that indicate his frame could fill out some more.

As a pure wing, Jackson has also shown pretty great instincts generating some turnovers. He doesn’t have reach to pick the pockets of the opposing wings defending on the ball and can’t shut down passing lanes on length alone, so the plays he’s making are based on his anticipation skills, which have earned him 2.2 steals per 40 minutes on average.

On offense, Jackson has shown exceptional court vision on the move. He can make thread the needle-type of passes in transition, passes across his body to the opposite end of the court out of playing with pace in the pick-and-roll, lob tosses in traffic, pitch-backs going downhill in the pick-and-pop and drop-offs to his center at the dunker’s spot penetrating the lane in isolation or off attacking a closeout. According to our stats database, Jackson has assisted on 19% of Kansas’ scores when he’s been on the floor this season.

SKILL LEVEL

Jackson could develop into someone who runs offense against a set defense on a full time basis if he improves his handle, which is not very tight at this point of his development, as he’s averaged 3.3 turnovers per 40 minutes.

Aside from the passing skills, Jackson has a couple dribble moves (crossover, between the legs) to change direction with some suddenness and shake his defender off balance to create an advantage to go by him or get separation. According to hoop-math, 43.2% of his field goal attempts have come at the basket and he’s averaged 7.3 foul shots per 40 minutes.

Jackson has shown great touch on non-dunk finishes and flashed a floater to finish from the in-between area, converting his shots at the rim at a 69.6% clip – including 28 unassisted, non-putback makes that average out to 2.2 unassisted makes per 40 minutes.

But Jackson’s scoring is badly limited by his inability to shoot. Opponents can go under screens against him in the pick-and-roll, sag off him a few feet in isolation and not guard him when he’s spotting up on the weakside. He’s missed 76.3% of his 38 three-point attempts, 61.4% of his 83 two-point jumpers and 47% of his foul shots, adding up a below average .529 true shooting percentage.

His mechanics will probably need to be reworked and his confidence will need to be worked, as he’s averaged just three three-point shots per 40 minutes and consistently passed up open looks over the last month.

That inability to make shots is tangibly damaging. Despite the fact he’s a great passer and close range scorer, Jackson has the worst offensive rating on the team among rotation players, according to our stats database.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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7-footer, Post Scorer

Udoka Azubuike Scouting Report

It’s unfortunate Udoka Azubuike is going to the miss the remainder of the season after undergoing wrist surgery. The 17-year-old[1] born in Nigeria posted impressive numbers in his 142 minutes through the non-conference part of Kansas’ schedule and might have remained an active part of the rotation throughout the year, even if in a limited role – as he was averaging just 13 minutes per game and posting a 21.1% usage rate.

Despite his age, the seven-footer managed to dominate low level competition[2] due to his strength and physicality. Kansas lists the teenager at 280 pounds and he right away managed to translate his general size into consistently great position below the foul line and the ability to bully opponents into short attempts near the basket. According to hoop-math, he shot 20-for-29 at the rim and earned 8.2 foul shots per 40 minutes – per basketball-reference.

Azubuike will probably have a size advantage against just about every opponent he faces at the college level but when he eventually makes it to the pros, he’ll need to improve his skill level, which is still in its infancy. There will be players who can elevate out of two feet in a pinch and block his shot, so Azubuike needs to develop footwork for some counters, touch for his hooks, an escape dribble and passing skills against double-teams[3].

Being an ace post scorer should be essential for his odds because Azubuike doesn’t project as much of a finisher out of the pick-and-roll, as he doesn’t have enough explosiveness to play above the rim as a target for lobs. There is, of course, always the chance that he becomes a Tiago Splitter-type of rim-level finisher but Azubuike hasn’t shown that sort of nimbleness in his rim runs.

He also hasn’t yet shown anything in terms of an outside jumper, given he probably never had to work on that in high school, so there is no indication he could one day become a potential pick-and-pop threat years down the line, especially considering he converted just 11 of his 29 free throws this season.

So other than scoring with his back to the basket, the only area Azubuike can make an impact on offense at this point of his development is grabbing some offensive rebounds. He is not a high leaper but can set inside position, should be a pain to boxout if he plays with some energy and has a seven-foot-five wingspan to rebound outside of his area. Yet, Azubuike collected just 10.5% of Kansas’ misses when he was on the floor, which is not quite a disappointing mark but also not a particularly impressive one for someone with his measurements.

Defensively, Azubuike also produced the most close to the basket thanks to his size. He showed decent awareness rotating to the front of the rim when he only needed a step or two, proved himself able to get off the ground well enough for his length to make a difference and looked attentive to his boxout responsibilities – averaging 5.1 blocks per 40 minutes and collecting 25.1% of opponents’ misses when he was in the game.

He fouled a ton, though. Azubuike flashed some ability to jump up vertically challenging shots the basket but was rarely given the benefit of the doubt in his first year, being called for 8.7 personal fouls per 40 minutes on average.

But the real big concern regards his mobility. Azubuike didn’t look as good when he needed to come off the weak-side in help-defense, often unable to get there in time. And he’s not suited to guard above the foul line, which might make him unfit for this new era where more and more ball-handlers are starting to develop a pull-up three-pointer out of the pick-and-roll to punish big men who can’t venture beyond the lane.

[1] Udoka only turns 18 in September, so he’s ineligible for the 2017 draft

[2] Kansas ranked only 37th in strength of schedule through the non-conference part of it, according to CBS Sports

[3] Azubuike had just two assists in 11 appearances and averaged 4.2 turnovers per 40 minutes

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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3D wing

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Scouting Report

CONTEXT

It took two years but Sviatoslav Mykhailiuyk has finally become a more prominent rotation player at Kansas, as he’s averaged 26.9 minutes per game this season.

He still hasn’t been given any opportunity to handle the ball against a set defense, though. His role on this team is as a weak-side spot-up shooter without any sort of shot creation responsibility, posting only a 18.1% usage rate.

The six-foot-eight wing impressed running offense at the Eurocamp last summer and had already shown some potential on the ball prior to joining Kansas. But since it’s unclear how well his skill-set has developed over the last two-and-a-half years, his draft stock has consistently declined over time, despite his size and youth (he’ll still only turn 20 in June).

Draft Express currently ranks him 46th in its top 100.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

58.8% of his shots have been three-pointers this season. His release is not as lightning quick as you’d expect for a specialist like him but he tends to get the ball off comfortably enough before an opponent can closeout and contest his shot effectively.

Mykhailiuk’s flashed the ability to come off screens and hit pull-up three-pointers off side pick-and-rolls but is mostly only used on spot-ups. He’s nailed 42.5% of his 87 three-point shots this season, while averaging 7.6 attempts per 40 minutes. Through his 1,197 minutes in college, Mykhailiuk’s been a 38.5% three-point shooter on 7.7 attempts per 40 minutes.

He can’t turn the corner on dribble-handoffs but attacks closeouts very fluidly and gets all the way to the basket against a scrambling defense a fair amount considering his role, as he’s averaged 3.2 shots at the rim per 40 minutes – according to data researched at hoop-math.

Mykhailiuk lacks lift to get up strong off one foot in traffic, lacks length for reverses or extended finishes against rim protectors and hasn’t shown anything in terms of being able to finish through contact – converting just 59.5% of his shots at the basket and averaging only 1.8 foul shots per 40 minutes.

He’s proven himself to be a very good passer on the move, though. Mykhailiuk has pretty good court vision sucking in the defense and kicking out to a spot-up shooter on the strong side or dropping off to a big man at the dunker’s spot – assisting on 10.8% of Kansas’ scores when he’s been on the floor throughout his collegiate career, according to basketball-reference.

Mykhailiuk is also an asset on baseline cuts, showing very good feel to take advantage of an unaware defender. He can play above the rim as a target for lobs elevating out of two feet and more than half of his 22 makes at the rim have been assisted.

DEFENSE

Mykhailiuk is a decent team defender, always with a foot in the lane when he’s guarding on the weak-side and rotating in to help crowd the area near the basket. He lacks the athletic ability to make much of an impact, though – unable to run shooters off the three-point line consistently, lacking length to contest shots effectively and contributing very little through blocks and defensive rebounds.

Mykhailiuk also doesn’t have much athleticism to do well as an individual defender. He gets on a stance and has decent lateral quickness to stay in front of similarly-sized players but can’t contain dribble penetration through contact and is not a viable option to pick up smaller players on switches, as he’s unable to go over screens that well.

At his height, Mykhailiuk could be considered an option to spend some minutes at stretch four on smaller lineups but lacks strength in his 205-pound frame hold ground in the post or boxout true big men.

According to basketball-reference, he has the second lowest defensive rating on the team among rotation players.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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3D Point Guard, Shot Creator

Devonte’ Graham Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Devonte’ Graham spends the vast majority of his minutes alongside Frank Mason. So he’s used to not having the ball in his hands at all times and being matched up with bigger players. That makes him an appealing prospect for teams that have wings who handle the ball and only need their point guards to supplement them with shooting and defense.

The flipside is the soon-to-be 22-year-old has never had as much shot creation responsibility as most of his position peers, posting only a 17.5% usage rate throughout his college career. Though he’s shown some creativity handling the ball in pick-and-roll and shot making ability out of isolations, it’s unclear what caliber of point guard Graham really is.

Taking that into account and also the fact he’s not a particularly impressive athlete, Draft Express only ranks him 44th in its top 100.

SPOT-UP SHOOTING

With Mason running the show and eventual lottery pick Josh Jackson also involved in the shot creation process, Graham’s role on this year’s team is acting as a credible weak-side threat, as he’s taken 60.5% of his shots from three-point range this season.

Graham has an easy release on catch-and-shoot opportunities, deep range and can get his shot off before opponents can closeout to him and contest his shot effectively. He’s nailed 38.3% of his 107 three-point shots, while averaging 7.5 attempts per 40 minutes. 82.9% of his makes have been assisted.

Through his 2,326 minutes in college, Graham’s been a 42% three-point shooter on 5.5 attempts per 40 minutes.

SHOT CREATION

When he’s handled the ball against a set defense, Graham has shown he offers potential as more than someone who can only get a decent look off late in the shot clock.

He is a very polished ball-handler in the pick-and-roll – able to play with pace waiting for driving lanes to clear when he’s hedged or shown hard against, split double-teams at the point of attack and change speeds.

Graham doesn’t have lift to attack the basket with a lot of explosiveness but can finish through contact and has nice touch on floaters to finish over rim protectors – converting 72.2% of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.

He’s flashed pretty good court vision passing on the move as well – able to make the pocket pass or a drop-off curling off a screen to a big man diving down the lane and pass across his body to the opposite end of the court – assisting on 21.5% of Kansas’ scores when he’s been on the floor this season, according to basketball-reference.

In isolation, Graham doesn’t have an explosive first step and can’t blow by his man on speed. He’s taken just a fifth of his shots at basket (those often coming in the pick-and-roll and with him curling off a pindown screen or attacking a closeout) and averaged just 2.2 foul shots per 40 minutes.

But Graham has displayed a diverse arsenal of dribble moves to get separation and fairly impressive shot making ability off the bounce. He has a hesitation move, a crossover and an in-and-out dribble to shake his defender off balance and can make step-back jumpers – nailing 40.6% of his 160 mid-range shots over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

DEFENSE

Graham guards mostly off guards in college but figures to lack strength and length in his six-foot-two, 185-pound frame to defend wings in the pros regularly. He also lacks athleticism to make plays at the basket in help defense, contributing very little through blocks and defensive rebounds.

Graham is best suited for defending on the ball. He gets in a stance, has lateral quickness to stay in front in isolation and uses his reach to pick the pockets of similarly-sized opposing ball handlers – as he’s averaged 1.8 steals per 40 minutes in college.

But there are questions regarding his pick-and-roll defense. Graham has proven himself able to get skinny, navigate over ball screens and use his length to contest shots or deflect passes tracking his man from behind but lately has gotten stuck on picks and exposed his big man to being attacked downhill quite a bit.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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3D wing, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Josh Jackson Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)

CONTEXT

Josh Jackson enters the season as the top-ranked prospect in the 2017 draft, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford.

There is some skepticism of that status due to his age. At 19 years old with a birthday in February, he’s barely three months younger than Devin Booker, who is already about to enter his second year as a pro while Jackson is about to enter his first year in college.

But there’s some merit to the idea. Whether Bill Self is the right coach to unlock his potential and give him the proper opportunity to look worthy of being picked number one overall is a different matter, but at the high school level and as a part of the United States Junior National Team, Jackson has shown to be the sort of versatile player NBA teams are looking for in this Era of basketball.

DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY

Standing at six-foot-eight with a 203-pound frame, Jackson has prototype size for a wing.

As a weak-side defender, he lacks length (average six-foot-nine wingspan for someone who is six-foot-eight) to be a disrupting force playing the passing lanes for steals and deflections but is attentive to his help-defensive responsibilities rotating inside, not just to take up space and crowd driving lanes but also elevating out of two feet explosively to play above the rim as a shot blocker.

Jackson struggles navigating traffic chasing shooters around staggered screens but has tremendous closing speed to recover and run them off the three-point line, though at times he sells out to do so and gives up an easy escape dribble.

But what truly stands out is his ability to guard bigger and smaller players.

In order to defend point guards, Jackson can bend his knees to get lower in a stance, has lateral quickness to keep pace in isolation and strength to contain dribble penetration through contact. He struggles navigating through ball-screens as well, often getting stuck on picks, but can recover to contest shots and passes from behind as a trailer.

Jackson impresses the most guarding true big men, though. He is scrappy enough to front them in the post, strong enough to hold ground when he can’t prevent a post entry and tough enough to box them out on the glass. The United States Junior National Team often played him as a power forward at the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19 and Prolific Prep had no issue playing him at center at times.

And Jackson has proven his skills as a big man defender against high profile competition too; successfully fronting seven-footers Thon Maker in a game Prolific Prep visited the Athlete Institute in Canada and DeAndre Ayton at the Nike Hoop Summit, boxing out six-foot-10, 225-pounder Konstantinos Mitoglou in the semifinal of the Worlds U19 against Greece and holding ground in the post against Marko Arapovic in the title game of that tournament.

SHOT CREATION

On the other end, Prolific Prep had Jackson running offense from time to time. Nothing advanced, mostly simple high middle and side pick-and-rolls, but on those, he flashed some appealing court vision creating good looks for others.

His handle is not that tight and he’s at times reckless trying to thread needle through a crowded passing lane, making him rather turnover prone.

But Jackson has proven able to play with pace around a ball-screen, stop on a dime and make crosscourt passes across his body to shooters spot-up on the weak-side or high-low type of passes to a big man diving to the basket diagonally out of side pick-and-roll. He can also scan the defense from the top of the key, spot cutters diving to the basket and deliver alley-oops.

Jackson is just as adept at creating a good look for himself, though scoring is a different matter. He can dribble side-to-side to navigate through traffic and has a spin move to maneuver his way to the rim but lacks burst to attack length at the basket with a lot of explosiveness often and his touch on non-dunk finishes against rim protection is only so-so.

Jackson is also a lousy pull-up shooter at this point of his development. He’s able to get separation and elevate with good rhythm but doesn’t have much touch on his jumper and his release looks almost like a push-up shot at times.

WEAK-SIDE OFFENSE

That’s also the case on his jumpers out of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Jackson can make an open shot from the corner, as his six-for-12 three-point shooting at the Worlds U19 attest. But it doesn’t seem that sort of percentage would hold up over a longer sample size.

He’s a bit mechanical, as elevating and releasing look like almost two separate motions. Jackson turns his body in the air like most good shooters do but doesn’t have much touch in his delivery, with his release also looking like a push-up shot off the catch as well.

He has a good first step to get by most of his opponents attacking a closeout or off a live dribble and has strength to maintain his balance through contact against those who can stay attached to his hip.

Jackson is a very willing passer on the move against the defense collapsing to his dribble drives and does have explosiveness elevating out of one foot unimpeded on a straight-line path.

He’s flashed some ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs filling the lanes in transition but hasn’t shown to be a particularly instinctive cutter in the half-court yet.

His most impactful skill, as of now, off the ball is his offensive rebounding. Jackson has second-jump-ability to fight for tip-ins, 50-50 balls or pursue the ball and then rise up again for putback attempts without needing to gather himself. According to RealGM, he collected 13.4% of the United States’ misses when he was on the floor at the Worlds U19.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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