Josh Jackson - The Wildcard
While Tatum and Isaac have fairly high floors - albeit for different reasons - Jackson is much more of a wild card. An edgy, explosive, often emotional prospect with an erratic jumper and a mentality that straddles the border of intensity and instability, Jackson is a bit of an enigma. When he's at his best, Jackson looks like a potential #1 pick, a star in the making. On a fairly small sample, the Michigan native shot 39%, 48% and 40% from beyond the arc in January, February, and March, respectively, knocking down jumpers off the dribble and the catch, despite his somewhat untraditional stroke. When he's shooting it well, Jackson doesn't have many holes. More of a 3/2 than Tatum, who is a 3/4, and Isaac, a four who can play occasional three and five, Jackson is explosive, has positional size, can handle in the open floor, has impressive vision on the move, and is the ultimate competitor defensively and on the glass.
There's a lot to like about Jackson, who could very will fill an Andre Iguodala type role as a defend-slash-and-pass style prospect on a competitive team. While not quite as wide shouldered or long as Iguodala, they certainly have some similarities in terms of explosiveness, passing ability, grit on the glass and defensive end, and overall versatility, despite not being the most gifted half court scorers.
Comparing their stats at the same age (Iguodala a sophomore, Jackson a freshman), Jackson was actually a more prolific and efficient scorer, more accurate shooter (small sample), and more productive in terms off ball defensive stat-stuffing, with both playing big roles on very competitive teams. Iguodala, a more gifted passer and ball-handler, appeared to have a more projectable spot-up stroke as well, despite his pedestrian 3-point shooting numbers. Although he's often reluctant from three nowadays, Iguodala is a career 34% 3-point shooter at the NBA level, and if Jackson is able to duplicate that, he could very well follow a similar career path as a high-level role-playing two-way starter who can playmake, attack in a straight line, and make enough spot threes to keep the defense honest.
Playing mostly the four (like Tatum and Isaac), Jackson actually showed a decent amount of shot creation prowess, despite his underwhelming isolation and pick and roll numbers. While not the most polished ball handler, he has good rise on his pull up jumper, and had some excellent moments versus NBA-level combo forwards like Miles Bridges of Michigan State. When Jackson is dialed in, he looks like an elite role-playing starter with considerable upside, especially given the level of intensity and fearlessness he plays with.
When Jackson's jumper isn't falling, however, (which was reportedly often the case during most of his private NBA workouts), he really struggles to score in the half court. He's fairly thin framed, not overly long, a bit rigid in terms of his breakdown off the dribble game, and not full of touch inside the arc. The former Jayhawk likes to live on the wild side, as well, which creates somewhat of a feast or famine product on the offensive end.
Jackson's lack of overall discipline shows up on the defensive end at times as well. While competitive and quick twitch, he likes to gamble or get out of position, and has trouble defending without fouling for stretches. The fact that he's not quite as tall/long as Isaac, or wide shouldered as Tatum may limit his ability to play extended minutes at the four. How does he score versus NBA wings if his shot isn't falling?
Overall, Jackson is going to defend, be athletic in transition, crash the glass, move off the ball, and facilitate at an above average rate for his position. But even with all that, it's hard to predict what Josh Jackson NBA fans will get on a nightly basis on the offensive end. He deserves credit for the clip at which he shot it at Kansas. His 56% free throw percentage (often a great indicator of future 3-point percentage) is alarming, but that shouldn't retract from the number of tough shots he made at Kansas, and prior to his time in Lawrence.
Josh Jackson is truly a wildcard in this draft, apparent by the wide variety of opinions about him among scouts, executives and NBA draft pundits. Some see an explosive competitor with the potential to become a star in his own right, others peg him as a non-shooter with average length and an erratic style of play. Jackson may not be as safe as guys like Tatum or Isaac, but if he can be a passable shooter, and continue to channel his emotion in a positive way, he could be one of the best prospects to come out of this draft.
So who is the best prospect among the three? They're all so different, it really depends on what a team is looking for. If a GM wants a polished scorer and long-time NBA starter who could very well average at least 20 points per game for the majority of his career, Tatum is the guy. If he wants a multi-positional defender who rebounds, protects the rim, switches everything, stays in his lane, and can make a spot three, Isaac is the one. If he wants a ferocious competitor with game-changing athleticism, defensive grit, versatility offensively and a chance to be more than just a role-playing starter, Jackson is the guy.
That's the beauty of these three as a group - they all bring something different to the table. While the guards have gotten most of the attention, and rightfully so, Tatum, Isaac and Jackson all have very bright futures, each bringing something different to whatever NBA team drafts them.