North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson, among several players very much in consideration for the Heat’s first-round pick at No. 14 overall, will work out for the Heat on Thursday, according to a source.
Jackson, 6-8, averaged 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists last season and shot 44.3 percent from the field.
He improved his three-point shooting from 29.2 percent as a sophomore to 37.0 last season as a junior, hitting 105 of 284 attempts. Those 105 made threes ranked 20th in the country last season.
“Jackson's stark improvement as a three-point shooter resurrected his draft stock this year, but a late-season shooting slump has some NBA scouts worried that he might have been regressing to the mean,” ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford said. “His ability to guard multiple positions is another plus, though his lack of elite speed and quickness lower his ceiling as a defender. Scouts are all over the place on him. Some have him in the teens. Others in the 30s. His range is really wide.”
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Asked about what Detroit might do at No. 12 on a recent conference call, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla mentioned Jackson, but then said 12 might be too high for him.
“Another guy that really helped his stock is Justin Jackson from North Carolina, who made a ton of threes this year, although he struggled in the last part of the year, ironically, they win the national title, but I think he shot 27 percent from three down the stretch of the season,” Fraschilla said.
But Jackson’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked.
“He became an elite defender,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said in a statement after Jackson turned pro. “His last three defensive performances -- against Kentucky, Oregon and Gonzaga [in the national championship game], against some of the most talented perimeter scorers in the country — were nothing short of spectacular.”
Jackson helped hold Kentucky’s Malik Monk (a projected lottery pick) to 10 points (4 for 10 shooting), Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey to 3 for 11 shooting and Gonzaga’s Jordan Mathews/Silas Melson to nine points on a combined 3 for 10 shooting.
“He did what our coaches and the NBA people advised him to do: get stronger and work on making more shots. He responded by investing a tremendous amount of his time in the offseason and came back to school a bigger, better and more confident player.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino told me that Jackson reminds him of former Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton.
Jackson was named the ACC’s player of the year last season, receiving 24 of a possible 53 votes from ACC coaches and media members, beating out Wake Forest forward John Collins.
“We went through a very difficult ACC schedule and Justin gave our players a lot of confidence knowing that he would consistently be putting up 18-20 points, about five rebounds and some key assists each game,” Williams said.
“He listened to our coaching staff last spring about how to improve as a player and was determined to get better and stronger, which through his hard work and sweat, he is now reaping the benefits.”
Jackson, who measured at 201 pounds, said he’s trying to bulk up and get stronger.
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