As March Madness begins to push towards it much anticipated conclusion, basketball fan’s sights will begin to shift towards the NBA playoffs and the upcoming draft. While players like Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball will undoubtedly be fighting for the right to be chosen first, this is turning out to be one of the most loaded draft classes in recent memory.
Todays focus, is on Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Kanas’s Josh Jackson . The goal is to figure out which of the two talented forwards is more NBA ready right now.
The Kansas Jayhawks have been electric this whole season. They are seemingly strong at every position and it shows night after night as they get closer the national championship. Behind their furious style of play is freshmen Josh Jackson. Standing at 6’8, Jackson has the perfect NBA body for the small forward position. Along with his freakish athleticism, Jackson has developed into a deadly three point shooter along with a stingy defender. Jackson has Andrew Wiggins like potential that will do well for any team that drafts him. And if you have questions on why he is maybe (probably) the most athletic player in this draft, just watch this:
With the the great attributes Jackson comes with, there are still questions about some areas of his game. For one, although Jackson is a good three point shooter, he is spotty from game to game. For example, he could hit 5 of 7 threes one game then go 0 for 4 the next. While Jackson still have other great qualities to his game, his three point shooting needs to get more consistent as he enters into a three pint shooting league. Also, while Jackson’s on-ball defense is solid, his help defense in not. Jackson gets lost time after time which leads to easy buckets for a cutting team.
On the other hand you have Jayson Tatum, the 6’8 Duke product that took the NCAA by storm late in the season. Due to injury, Tatum had to miss the first 8 games of the season. And after a rough few games out the games, Tatum quickly showed the world why he was a 5-star recruit. While he does not have the physical strength of most wings, his length (6’9 wingspan) and his quickness makes him a match-up nightmare. Tatum, as well as Jackson, is one of the most athletic players coming out this year (just look at this play).
Unlike Jackson however, Tatum’s leadership has come into question. Even though he is 19 years old, He was never the out right leader of the loaded Blue Devils. Yes, there were night where he could not be stopped, but there was never a time when Tatum was viewed as the driving force of Duke. Yes, players like Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen where both more experienced and had been on the team longer, but Tatum (talent wise) was the hands down best player on the team and should have taken the team leader crown. Jackson is playing alongside Frank Mason III, the potential player of the year, however the Jayhawks only go as far as Jackson takes them. Also, Tatum is nowhere close to the defender that Jackson is. Yes, Tatum blocks more shots, but night after night he gets abused in the paint by bigger players.
While I believe both will have outstanding careers in the NBA, the nod to Jackson as the more NBA ready and higher ceiling. With his length, athleticism, defense, shooting, and strength, Jackson can be The Man right away for any team that drafts him (unless that team has a superstar, which no lottery team has). Jackson has a leadership quality that Tatum has yet to develop, Jackson will transition to the NBA smoother than Tatum will.