The Washington Wizards are picking in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether they trade up, down or stay firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects whom the Wizards could consider selecting.
2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Isaiah Jackson
2020/21 stats: 25 G, 8.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.6 bpg, 54.0 FG% (3.0/5.5), 0.0 3PT% (0/2), 70.0 FT%
Player comparison: Nic Claxton
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 21st, Ringer 23rd, NBADraft.net 37th, Bleacher Report 15th
5 things to know:
- Jackson is one of the most athletically gifted players in this draft. He has great size at 6'10" with a 7'2 wingspan, can jump out of the gym and run the floor like a forward. As of now, he uses those physical tools to block shots and deter opponents away from the rim. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game in his freshman season at Kentucky, and once he figures out how to play within an NBA defense, he could turn into a game-changing defensive presence.
- Jackson also spent a little too much time playing power forward for John Calipari's group last season. The lineup decision was based on the personnel they had at the time, but once he gets to the NBA, Jackson needs to play center exclusively. The spacing issues that come with playing two non-shooters in the front-court inhibited Jackson's upside as a roll man. Playing the five all the time should maximize his skill set on both ends of the floor.
- The fundamentals need work and a lot of it. Jackson is a naturally gifted athlete with good shot-blocking instincts, but his inconsistent feet and tendency to bite for shot fakes get him into foul trouble more times than not. He averaged nearly six personal fouls per 40 minutes last season. This isn't new for young bigs in the NBA, but he'll need to improve the smaller parts of his game to get consistent minutes.
- Jackson isn't much of a jump shooter yet, but he has a decent stroke that could get stretched out to the 3-point line in due time. He shot 70% from the free-throw line in college and has a relatively compact release. Still, he only took two threes in college and will need to work on his shot quite a bit at the next level if he wants to be a floor spacer. Bigs that can't stretch the floor like Jackson typically need to be dominant rollers to the basket, and he's not exactly that either.
- Don't expect Jackson to make solid, decisive passes once he gets the ball around the rim. He doesn't seem to have much of a feel for playmaking and commits some bad turnovers from time to time if the defender can shut down his initial move to the basket.
Fit with Wizards:
Jackson is an intriguing center prospect with a ton of two-way potential if he can polish off a few of the rawer aspects of his game, so it's not a huge surprise to him getting mid-to-late first-round buzz.
However, there's an inherent risk with taking a player like Jackson, and the Wizards aren't a team that's in a position where they should feel incentivized to use a first-rounder on him. If everything pans out, Jackson could be a more athletic version of Clint Capela, but if he doesn't, and there's a good chance of that happening, he won't even be someone who demands a rotation spot.
The Wizards have Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant on the roster, two young bigs with plenty of promise and a track record of production in the NBA. They don't need to use a valuable resource like a top-15 pick on someone that won't give you anything different than those two already do.
Jackson's still an intriguing talent who could make some team very happy in a few years, it just probably shouldn't be Washington.