With the NBA battling a COVID outbreak that has left five Celtics players in health and safety protocols, Boston will reportedly sign 26-year-old power forward Justin Jackson to a 10-day contract via the hardship exception.
Just one day after Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the team didn’t have any immediate plans to add via the hardship exception, the team prepared to add Jackson with five players remaining in protocol and two others unavailable. (Dennis Schroder has a non-COVID illness and is out Saturday, while Romeo Langford was listed as questionable with a neck injury from Friday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors).
The No. 15 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jackson is a veteran of four NBA seasons. But can he help the Celtics, who play five games over the next 10 days starting with Saturday’s visit from the New York Knicks?
A position of need
The Celtics’ entire stable of power forwards is seemingly in protocol with Al Horford, Grant Williams, Juancho Hernangomez, and Jabari Parker all sidelined. Boston can only lean on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown so much to shoulder the load at the 4 spot, especially against bigger opponents.
Jackson, at 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, provides an available body to pair with big men Robert Williams, Enes Freedom, or Bruno Fernando while allowing Boston to play a little bigger and keep the Jays at wing spots more often.
A proven winner
Say this about Jackson, he’s been on a couple title teams. In 2017, he won an NCAA championship at North Carolina, where he was the ACC Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American. Last year, after joining Milwaukee on a two-way contract, he was part of the Bucks' title run while appearing in five playoff games.
Well-traveled NBA career
Jackson has averaged 6.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists over 19.1 minutes per game in 248 NBA games with four different teams (Sacramento, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Milwaukee). He has an ability to shoot from beyond the arc though sits at a meager 32.1 percent on 2.9 attempts per game over his NBA career. He has the distinction of being taken right after Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo in the 2017 draft.
Started 2021-22 in G League
After being a final cut of the Mavericks, Jackson landed with the Texas Legends of the G League to start the 2021-22 season. In 10 games, he’s averaged 22.7 points over 36.1 minutes per game.
Most notably, he’s shooting a sizzling 42.4 percent on 8.5 3-pointers per game, while adding 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1 steal per contest. The Celtics need some outside shooting at that 4 spot while waiting for Williams (6th in the NBA in 3-point percentage) to return.