Sacramento Kings: What to expect from Justin Jackson

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 30: Justin Jackson
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 30: Justin Jackson /

What can the Sacramento Kings expect from Justin Jackson in his sophomore year?

Coming off a hot summer league, Justin Jackson looked like a guy who had NBA experience under his belt. He had multiple 20+ point games and wrapped up the summer league with a 26-point performance against the Miami Heat. He showed his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter consistently and also blew past his defenders and finished in the lane with soft floaters.

At 6’8″, Jackson has a great offensive skill set. Defensively, we have yet to see him be a consistent defender, but with a year of NBA experience under his belt, we should feel confident he improves.

What can we expect from Jackson this year? I break down how Jackson could play a key role in the Kings’ versatility and how he could fit with different lineups.

The Positives… and Negatives

Jackson started 41 games as a rookie last year for the Kings. In those games, he averaged right around 25 minutes per game, 8 points, and 3 rebounds. He shot the ball really well, posting a field goal percentage of 48% and shot 31% from three. His three-point percentage is not where it needs to be, but again he is a rookie and we should expect that number to increase with more experience. He looks really comfortable shooting the ball from the perimeter. He has a quick smooth release and his mid-range game and ability to finish in the lane with floaters is what really stood out.

When Jackson was moved to the bench is when he really started to struggle. Playing with the second unit, he was not given the same opportunities to score as he was with the starting unit. He averaged less than 5 points per game and shot 36% from the field and 29% from three. Jackson is not a guy who consistently creates his own shot, so when he was asked to do more of that with the bench unit he did not succeed.

It was not all bad for Jackson though. The Kings organization and fans should be excited about the way he finished off the season. Pre All-Star break, Jackson was averaging right around 19 minutes, 6 points, and 2 rebounds per game. He was shooting the ball at a 45% clip from the field and 30% from three.

During post-All-Star break, Jackson saw improvements all across the board. Averaging just under 27 minutes a contest, his scoring went from 6 to almost 8 points per game, and his shooting percentages improved as well. He went from 43% to 45% from the field, 30% to 31% from three, and 65% from the free throw line to 84%. Jackson started to get more comfortable with the physicality and speed of the game as the season went on and that is what the Kings want to see from a rookie.

Jackson’s Potential

After an up and down rookie season, capped off with a hot summer league, Jackson seems to be NBA ready entering his sophomore season. When Jackson has bigger defenders on him, the ability to use his quick first step really gives him the advantage to get to the paint easily. When being defended by smaller defenders, Jackson has the ability to shoot right over them. Offensively, he all the tools to be a great 3-and-D player for Sacramento which is something the Kings desperately need.

Defensive Ability

Defensively, Jackson needs improving. He may never be a lockdown defender but he brings a high IQ to the game which allows him to understand defensive assignments.

Justin reminds me a lot of Kyle Anderson. Anderson has great size and length for an NBA wing but lacks the explosiveness like some of his counterparts. Yet, Anderson also brings a high IQ to the game and that shows in how well he played defensively last season.

Last year, Anderson finished sixth in defensive rating, third in defensive box plus/minus, and 13th in defensive win shares. Most people are surprised when seeing those numbers, but should not be. If one watched Anderson defend last season, they would understand why he played defense at an elite level. He understood defensive schemes, seemed to always be in position off the ball, and understood how to use his length to his advantage.

I would not be too worried about Jackson’s defense yet. More times than not, rookies have a harder time adjusting to playing defense than they do on offense. Once again, Jackson does not need to be a lockdown defender but just be someone that the offense does not pick on when he is on the floor.

Final Thoughts

The Kings have the ability to run many different lineups. If Jackson develops the way I expect him to, he could find himself in those lineups more times than not. For example, if the Kings choose to go small, they could put out a lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, Jackson, and any one of their bigs. If they choose to go big, they can have a lineup of Fox, Buddy or Bogdan, and  Jackson at the three. Jackson could end up being the Kings’ most versatile player when it is all said and done.

I have high hopes for Jackson going into his second year. I really think he can develop into an excellent 3-and-D guy but has the ability to be even better offensively than just a spot-up shooter. The Kings have a ton of young talent and it will be interesting to see who takes big strides this season. Hopefully, Jackson is one of them.