NBA Draft Preview: Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jackson only spent one season at Michigan State, but he packed plenty of accolades into his brief time with the Spartans.

He joined Greg Oden as the only players in Big Ten history to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season, and was selected to the All-Big Ten third team while helping Tom Izzo’s squad to a 30-5 record. Jackson averaged 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and added 3.0 blocks, which ranked first in the conference and seventh nationally. He also shot 39.6 percent (38 of 96) from 3-point range, an added dimension to his game that sets him apart from most other big men in this draft.

While Jackson’s numbers may not be eye-popping, that has more to do with how he was utilized in college than his ability. Playing alongside projected lottery pick Miles Bridges, Jackson wasn’t a primary option on offense and served mainly as the team’s defensive anchor. Other big men in this draft have received more notoriety, but a case can be made that Jackson is the best two-way player of that group.

A modern big man with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Jackson is a terrific defender with the ability to guard smaller, quicker frontcourt players while still providing ample offense in addition to a nice touch from outside.

Something of a unicorn with similarities to Kristaps Porzingis because of his rare combination of skills, Jackson is a definite lottery pick and should make an immediate impact at the next level. His father, Jaren Sr., played 12 seasons in the NBA and was a member of the 1999 champion Spurs.