3D wing, Pure Shooter

Justin Aaron Jackson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Justin Aaron Jackson was perceived as a potential mid-second round pick by this time last year. He disappointed as a shooter in his first couple of seasons at North Carolina but possesses the sort of height and length that permits teams to envision him as an eventual 3D wing in the pros. Nonetheless, Jackson opted to return for his junior year after doing poorly at the Combine.

And that decision has paid off nicely. The just-turned 22-year-old not only improved his three-point rate and the overall efficiency of his spot-up gunning but also developed some versatility to his shot and enjoyed a bigger role in last season’s team – with his usage rate rising up from 21% in 2015-16 to 25.7% in 2016-17[1], thanks to the departures of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.

The six-foot-eight sharpshooter won ACC player of the year, North Carolina avenged the previous year’s heartbreaking loss to Villanova with a victory over Gonzaga in the national championship game and he is now perceived as a borderline lottery pick – as Draft Express currently ranks him 13th in its top 100.

READ MORE: Jayson Tatum | De’Aaron Fox | Lonzo Ball

SHOOTING

Thanks to the improvements in his footwork, elevation and mechanics, Jackson’s proven himself an excellent open-shot shooter spacing the floor away from the ball, as he nailed 37% of his 284 three-point shots (at a clip of 8.9 attempts per 40 minutes) and averaged 1.15 points per possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers over the first 31 games last season[2], adding value with his mere existence on the court.

Jackson also impressed with his intelligence working the second side, constantly relocating off drives or offensive rebounds to get himself open and cutting hard to create a second passing lane when a defender successfully denied him a catch or a teammate missed him in the first window.

But he is so highly rated right now because he’s also shown to be the most valuable type of shooter, that chess piece who can be moved around the floor and stress the defense with his movement. Jackson sprints hard around staggered screens, plants, adjusts his feet in a pinch, rises up with great balance and has a quick release to let it fly before the contest can be effective.

And if the defender can negotiate screens well enough to keep up with him and stay close on the catch, Jackson can take an escape dribble to readjust and then launch a one-dribble pull-up over him.

READ MORE:  Markelle Fultz | Frank Ntilikina

SHOT CREATION

North Carolina put his shooting to use in the post here and there, trying to take advantage of a particular matchup, and Jackson proved himself able to make the eventual turnaround jumper over a smaller defender but nothing substantially impressive came out of it often. There is no diversity to his post game and he didn’t do so well that opponents rushed to double team him there and leave someone uncovered.

Most of Jackson’s shot creation came on straight line drives when he curled around pindown screens. He did not get all the way to the basket often — as just 22.1% of his attempts were at the rim[3], but converted stop-and-pop mid-range pull-ups and underhanded toss-ups from the in-between area over length reasonably well — as he nailed his 180 two-point jumpers at a 39.4% clip, with just a third of them assisted.

Jackson also flashed some decent passing on the move when he attacked closeouts, reading collapsing defenses well off dribble penetration — assisting on 15.8% of North Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor and turning it over on just 9.5% of his possessions last season.

However, Jackson didn’t do much of anything against a set defense. He has enough of a handle to get a pull-up three-pointer off a middle high pick-and-roll if he gets a good screen and the big man drops back and can run a side pick-and-roll against a bent defense to keep the offense moving but for the most part can’t assist with the shot creation process from the top when he is on the ball.

He doesn’t have an explosive first step, doesn’t have a lot of quickness to shake his defender side-to-side, hasn’t yet developed his handle to deal with pressure or manipulate his way into wherever he wants to get on the floor and doesn’t have a lot of strength in his 201-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact.

READ MORE: Lauri Markkanen | Jonathan Isaac

DEFENSE

When evaluating players with Jackson’s height, one point of emphasis is trying to notice if he is versatile enough to defend bigger players on four-out lineups. Due to his lack of strength, Jackson does not figure to check that box in the immediate future.

But Jackson has shown he can offer flexibility on defense with his ability to guard smaller players, not just picking them up midway through the shot clock on switches but also cross-matching on ball handlers for entire possessions.

His thin frame should be a weakness against bulkier wings but has helped him navigate staggered screens trailing shooters as they sprint from one side of the court to the other and navigating over ball screens at the point of attack in order to beat them to the spot on the other side, stay in front and contest shots with his eight-foot-eight standing reach, though he could be more effective if he got into the pull-up shooter’s personal space some more.

If Jackson can translate that sort of on-ball defense to the pros is vital because he doesn’t offer a lot of value as a weak-side defender. Despite his six-foot-11 wingspan, Jackson didn’t use his length to make plays in the passing lanes or act as a shot blocking threat rotating to the basket area in help defense – with marginal contributions in steals and blocks.

He was also a below average for someone his size, collecting 9.3% of opponents’ misses in his 3,430 minutes on the floor during his three seasons at North Carolina.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

[3] According to hoop-math

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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Pure Passer, Pure Shooter, Shot Creator

Marcus Paige Scouting Report

(Orginally posted at Upside & Motor)

North Carolina closed its non-conference schedule on Tuesday with a 22-point victory over William & Mary at home. The Tar Heels enter ACC play with a 10-3 record that features decent wins over California Los Angeles, Florida and Ohio State and a couple of head-scratching losses to Butler and Iowa, aside from getting run over by Kentucky. As currently developed, this team is expected to end the season with a high win total due to its collection of impressive athletes but doesn’t look like much of a title contender unless Marcus Paige starts scoring more efficiently.

Paige remains a prolific shooter. He hit his 221 three-point attempts at a 39 percent clip last season and through these first 13 games, he’s hit a slightly below average 35 percent of his 86 tries but while maintaining his average of makes per-40 minutes about the same. The lefty still gets great elevation off the ground and has a quick trigger off the catch. Most impressively, Paige is able to hit well contested shots by lengthy defenders, as he showcased against Kentucky and Ohio State.

North Carolina is a little less codependent of him to generate all their spacing than they were a season ago but he remains by far their most reliable source of outside scoring. Paige has 30 three-pointers in his 394 minutes while his teammates have combined for 32 in their 2,206. Perhaps because of that, Roy Williams has moved him off the ball full time, even when Nate Britt II isn’t the on the floor. He’s taken almost 60 percent of his shots from three-point range, having been assisted on 22 of his 30 makes.

North Carolina will swing the ball from side to side multiple times per possession and Paige still has opportunities to create off the bounce, but J.P. Tokoto is more often the one bringing the ball up the court and initiating offense. That’s not to say Paige hasn’t been able to flash his high basketball IQ constantly; he is still passing ahead in transition, quickly moving the ball around the perimeter to keep the offense moving when he doesn’t have a shot and assisting out of dribble penetration when it’s needed of him to attack a set defense. His assist rate is only marginally down in comparison to last season, too. Nevertheless, he has struggled mightily scoring off the bounce.

As I mentioned in his offseason profile, Paige is unable to get separation against high level competition in isolation or turning the corner off a ball-screen and that’s been a little more evident this season. Paige showcased his floater in a couple of instances against Kentucky and Ohio State, and that remains a vital part of his arsenal. But he lacks explosion to attack length with much speed and can’t finish in traffic – missing 11 of his 18 attempts at the rim, according to Hoop Math.

Paige relies heavily on his savviness when setting up defenders to create just enough space off the ball-screen for his pull-ups but hasn’t shot well on such attempts this season, hitting only 37.2 percent of his 43 two-point jump-shots. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his shot, though, and he’s expected to raise that percentage back to its normal mid-40s as the season progresses. But despite his struggles creating his own interior scoring, North Carolina still scores more efficiently with him on the floor thanks to the power of his three-point shot.

On the other end, the issues remain the same. Paige does look to play with effort; getting on his stance, with active hands and making plays in the passing lane. But he lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of more athletic guards in isolation or navigating screens well enough to stay alive if opponents attempt to turn the corner. Paige doesn’t have much strength to contain dribble penetration through contact or speed and length to effectively contest shots in the perimeter. Simply without the physical profile necessary to contribute much in score prevention, Paige has the lowest defensive rating on the team among rotation players, per Basketball Reference.

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

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Pure Passer, Pure Shooter, Shot Creator

Marcus Paige Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

North Carolina was an underrated team last season. They didn’t look as good as Virginia, Syracuse and Duke but still won a very respectable 13 games in the ACC, ranking 21st in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and 48th in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. Their performance on offense was particularly surprising considering Leslie McDonald was suspended for a quarter of the season and PJ Hairston was eventually dismissed from the program. The reason for their success was the emergence of second-year guard Marcus Paige.

The six-foot-one combo guard accounted for almost 60 percent of North Carolina’s three-pointers. His shooting was very important not just because the Tar Heels had only one other deep threat to provide spacing but because he shared so many of his minutes with Nate Britt — a volume ball handler, which pushed him off the ball some. As a result, he took 90 more three-pointers in comparison to his freshman season in just 190 more minutes.

Paige has a quick trigger off the catch and gets great elevation with his feet set. Like most lefties, he doesn’t angle his body straight towards the basket but rather on a 45 degree angle. The arc in his shot isn’t particularly high but steady. Three-point attempts accounted for 51 percent of his shots and he hit his 221 tries at a 39 percent clip, with two thirds of them assisted, according to hoop-math.com.

Paige does not possess an explosive first step to attack closeouts or generate separation in isolation against top competition. He flashed a nifty crossover at times but generally lacked quickness off the bounce, particularly when forced right. Paige struggled to maintain his balance through contact due to his thin 175-pound frame, but that in part led to his productive 4.8 free throw attempts per 40 minutes.

What he did very well on the ball was utilize screens to create space for his pull-ups, hitting his 167 two-point jump-shots at a 45 percent clip, with only 20 percent of them assisted. Paige elevates for his step-back jumpers off the dribble with good balance and also possesses a floater to finish against length, which he converted with good success last season – as the shot chart courtesy of Austin Clemens attests.

He showed decent instincts passing out of dribble penetration, assisting on 22 percent of North Carolina’s possessions when he was on the floor, and has the underrated skill of passing the ball ahead in transition. His floater and his passing are particularly important because Paige struggles to finish against quality rim protection due to his lack of explosion. He took 21 percent of his shots within five feet of the basket and made them a borderline average 59 percent clip.

But the biggest skepticism about his transition to the next level regards his defense. Paige plays with a good deal of effort but doesn’t have the athletic ability to be an impactful defender. He showed good lateral quickness to stay in front of similarly built athletes in isolation but lacks the strength to contain bulkier players in dribble penetration by not being able to navigate through screens and contact. Paige was active crashing inside to help, closed out on shooters with urgency and was active playing the passing lanes, ranking eighth in the conference in steals. But overall North Carolina still defended significantly better the few minutes he sat, allowing 102.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in comparison to 98.9 overall.

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

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