Jaren Jackson Jr. has declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, ending his career after one season at Michigan State.
The Spartans’ big man will be a lottery pick in April’s draft, so this decision was expected. Jackson is hiring an agent, meaning he is not eligible to return to college.
DEAR SPARTAN NATION…❤️ pic.twitter.com/iZaijMnfL0
— Jaren Jackson Jr. (@therealjnari_) April 2, 2018
While Jackson was expected to leave East Lansing after one season, this was his first public statement about the process since Michigan State’s season ended in a loss to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the season ended that he would meet with Jackson and Jackson’s family to discuss the decision.
“I appreciate you asking the question, but no I’m not thinking about that,” Jackson told reporters after that game.
Now that he’s had some time to decide, Jackson’s decision was a straightforward one thanks to his performance this season. He’s the second MSU player to declare for the draft and hire an agent, joining Miles Bridges.
Jaren Jackson Jr. made himself a surefire lottery pick this season
Jackson was the No. 22 player in the 2017 recruiting class, per 247Sports composite rankings, when he committed to Michigan State. That ranking was eventually upped to No. 8, which more properly reflects his potential.
Jackson is showing NBA scouts exactly what he can contribute. He won’t need years of development as a scorer the way Bamba will; he doesn’t have any glaring weakness like Bagley on the defensive end; and he doesn’t lack the shot-blocking prowess of Ayton.
Jackson isn’t without flaws, but he’s already a competent scorer who defends better than most college players. Most of the criticisms of him entering the draft stem from playing on a team with too much talent. Aside from his lack of touches, there’s little unknown about Jackson’s game, and it feels as if we already know the player he will become. The pipe dreams of Bamba developing a consistent 3-point range, or Bagley and Ayton becoming rim protectors, will be a bit more enticing for teams willing to take risks.
There’s reason why Jackson’s labeled as the safest pick among bigs in the draft with the highest ceiling. A shot-blocking, long-armed shooter whose proved himself in a power conference on a winning team is almost certainly going to make it at the next level. It’s hard to imagine he’ll bust.
Don’t let Jackson’s per-game stats fool you. He’s a star.
Jackson only averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game in his one season at Michigan State. Those numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, but you shouldn’t worry. Michigan State didn’t have a role for Jackson that would make him a high-volume scorer. Not with Miles Bridges and Nick Ward requiring significant time with the ball.
Jackson still shot 39 percent on 3-pointers while playing excellent defense. He still hammered down mean dunks. He’s still 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan.
Jackson also rarely, if ever, played at center this season. Ward, Gavin Schilling and Xavier Tillman occupied the 5 spot instead. Jackson could play center in the NBA if he puts some more muscle on his lanky frame to give teams fits with his shooting ability.
Jackson is exactly what the NBA is looking for in a modern big man, and that’s why he’s projected as a lottery pick.