Defense: Point-Of-Attack Pest & Off-Ball Deterrent
Jackson knows his strengths, and you can hear him describe his greatest asset during a pre-draft interview with the Indiana Pacers.
His reputation as a defender and tenacity on that end of the floor was likely the most immediately evident part of his game for anyone who watched a UConn game for the first time on their run to a NCAA championship this past spring.
He is able to combine equal parts fluidity and explosiveness to harass players all over the perimeter. His solid frame, 6-foot-10 wingspan, and nimble feet allow him to stick guards and wings, and he should be able to handle some less burly, stretch forwards for spurts as well.
It is impossible to say enough about how special of a defensive prospect Jackson is, so let's not belabor the point; his attributes meet all the requirements for a lockdown defender in the NBA.
Versatility to guard up and down the lineup? Check. Mobility and awareness to navigate screens and recover when initially beaten? Check. Active motor and quick hands to generate deflections and turn defense to offense in a pinch? Check. Instinctual weakside defender with the requisite discipline and pogo-stick leaping ability to be a champion of verticality? Check and check.
One of the traits that's particularly impressive to this writer is how deliberately he's able to time his jump to block a shot when absorbing contact or recovering to ball-handlers. How about his tenacity to grind through two screens and snuff out a well-devised ATO play for a jumbo shooter like Brandon Miller?
In addition to locking down opposing players, Jackson leverages his top-tier athletic tools and motor to fly around the court for rebounds. He showcased this element a bit more as a sophomore before the arrival of 7-foot-2 behemoth Donovan Clingan, but his rebounding should pop again playing at a faster pace with more space to crash the glass as a pro.
If his offense is good enough to keep him on the floor, it's easy to paint a picture where Jackson lands on the shortlist of names vying for an All-Defensive team every season. There is another difficult-to-define quality that adds another layer to Jackson.