Dallas Mavericks: Justin Jackson is becoming the player we thought he could
By Kohl Rast
The Dallas Mavericks seem to have found their 5th and final starter in Justin Jackson. His growth since joining the Mavs is maybe the first sign of him proving his draft position from 2017.
When the Dallas Mavericks traded for Justin Jackson last year, most people viewed it as a move to shed some money for the upcoming summer. Whether or not that was the entire reason for the trade that sent Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings, it is worth noting that Jackson has had a lot of potential as a role player since he was drafted in the 2017 NBA Draft.
During his collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, Jackson was a three-year starter and a very important player to the program throughout his career. He was the leader and leading scorer for the 2017 NCAA Championship team and made the All-Tournament team. The Sacramento Kings selected Jackson with the 15th pick via a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Despite several opportunities to solidify his spot in the Kings rotation, Jackson never performed to the level that was expected of him and the Kings fans mostly viewed him as a bust. He only played in 120 games with the team, but the expectation is that players coming into the league after 3-4 years in college generally hit the ground running a little quicker.
Dallas decided to take a chance on the sharpshooter when they traded Harrison Barnes for him just before the deadline last year. Jackson did not make an immediate impact as he was stuck learning a new offensive scheme, but his shooting numbers immediately improved across the board and he was scoring more points in fewer minutes.
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Getting Jackson to a new city and a new system may have been the best thing for the young player who just wasn’t clicking with the Kings system. So far in four preseason games, Jackson is shooting 63% from the field, including 40% (6-15) from three. He is also playing a key role on the defensive end with his length and energy.
Jackson looks like he has worked his way into the starting spot at the small forward position to start the season, and honestly, it makes sense. The growth he has made is evident, he is the only wing that can offer a high level of play on both sides of the ball and he offers Luka and KP another outlet as a shooter in the starting five, something that Dorian Finney-Smith doesn’t provide at this point.
The other options of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry would likely be better offensive options, but they don’t offer the defense and the versatility that Jackson do. Playing next to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis will likely help Jackson as well in that he will get a lot of open looks that would not necessarily be there when coming off the bench. Anything that can help his confidence is a good thing at this point.
It may not be a perfect lineup, but the Mavs first unit looks like they will complement each other well. There is good reason to believe that Jackson will thrive this year and could play his way into a nice contract going forward, if all goes well. For now, we just wish him the best this season.