Kansas has had its fair share of one and done disappointments, but one player who probably exceeded expectations was Josh Jackson. After a rough season opener against Indiana, Jackson reeled off 11 straight double digit scoring efforts, including 15 points on 6-7 shooting in a win over Duke in the Champions Classic.
Most surprising about Jackson was his outside shooting. Despite his messed up shooting motion (that is a technical term), Jackson shot 37.8 percent from three on 90 attempts. He was also efficient inside the arc, shooting 54.9 percent from two. But he struggled from the free throw line, shooting just 57 percent, which suggests that hot three point shooting was just a mirage. Still, in this countdown Jackson gets credit for what he actually accomplished rather than being second guessed regarding how accurate those stats were.
What stood out to me the most regarding Jackson were his versatility and his willingness to sacrifice for the team. As a guy who had mostly been a backcourt player for his career, Jackson slid down to the small ball four at a time when people were understandably skeptical as to whether a Bill Self team could properly utilize a small ball four.
Of course, one could argue playing the small ball four allowed Jackson to maximize his versatility as he added an offensive rebound rate of 8.7 percent and a defensive rebound rate of 17.4 percent, along with an assist rate of 18.2 percent to go with the aforementioned scoring. He was also versatile on defense, racking up block and steal rates over 3 percent. Since 2010, Jackson is the only Jayhawk rotation player with block and steal rates over 3 percent (Hunter Mickelson also did it in both of his seasons at KU).
Jackson is also the only Jayhawk since 2010 with his rebounding (defensive rebounding percentage over 17, offensive rebounding percentage over 8) and passing numbers (assist rate over 18 percent). The permutations of those types of stats are endless thanks to the versatility Jackson showed during his year in Lawrence.
On the negative side, Jackson had a penchant for turning the ball over, and although he does get more credit for his high 3-point percentage than skepticism, the fact that his shooting hasn’t translated as a pro and his poor free throw shooting as a Jayhawk does admittedly make me downgrade him slightly. Yes he gets credit for his hot streak, but that streak should probably be placed in context and given less weight than a guy who showed that ability over a larger sample size. And, for all the handwringing over how much to weigh his percentage, Jackson made just 34 threes in college.
I also tend to think his defense was overrated, although it is important to note that isn’t necessarily backed up by the advanced stats, which have him 5th in the Big 12 in defensive win shares and 4th in defensive box plus minus in 2017. Even though defensive catch all statistics are notoriously unreliable, and doubly so for college basketball, I do give those numbers some weight in evaluating Jackson’s defense, and even though I watched every possession of his college career, it’s pure hubris to state I would be better able to evaluate his value than objective numbers. But it still sticks in my mind how much Kansas got torched by every 4 man they played pretty much all season.
Another problem with Jackson’s defense was his penchant for committing fouls, about 4 per 40 minutes. And with Bill Self’s tendency to take guys out after 2 first half fouls, Jackson’s fouls hurt doubly so. It certainly hurt in the Elite 8 loss to Oregon, when he picked up 2 quick ones and finished with 4 fouls en route to a 3-8 from the field effort with 5 turnovers.
Originally I had Jackson a bit lower, and while I do generally favor guys who score efficiently over guys who are more versatile with their boxscore contributions, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how much Jackson impacted the game on offense. And hey a guy who has Kawhi Leonard as his second most similar KenPom comp can’t be all bad.