The Sacramento Kings will be looking to take a step forward in the 2018-19 season. In order for that step to take place, the Kings will be relying on the development of the young players on their roster. Of that group of players, second-year forward Justin Jackson is primed to claim a significant role in coach Dave Joerger’s rotations.
Jackson should see the majority of his minutes at small forward. Sacramento’s current squad is flush with shooting guards and power forwards, which puts the former North Carolina standout’s services in demand. After averaging 19 points per game in the Las Vegas Summer League, it appears that Jackson is well on his way to fulfilling those duties.
With his rookie season in the rearview mirror, NBA Analysis Network’s Steve Dewald spoke with Jackson about how he is preparing for his second year in the NBA.
Fine Tuning From Distance
Jackson shot 30.8 percent from beyond the arc in his first year with the Kings. The Texas native is focusing on all aspects of his game, but it is clear that three-point shooting efficiency is getting extra attention this summer.
When asked about building upon his three-point shooting numbers from last season, specifically from the corner, Jackson explained the importance of earning the defense’s respect.
“I think overall, shooting the ball better is something I’m focusing on. On all parts of the floor. Whether it is in the corner, or wherever it is. But at the same time, with the corner, that was were my spacing rule was last year. [I was] making plays out of the corner, or being spaced in the corner, if someone found me I would be able to knock down that shot.
For me it’s just trying to shoot [better] overall from three. I think the corner [shooting] will definitely pay off. Being able to focus on shooting the ball better from the top of the key and from the wing, that will just make the corner shot even easier.
At the end of the day you always have to make them [defenders] respect it. If I can get to the point where I’m a knock-down shooter, then that will be when the driving lanes will open up, or they will try to run me off the three-point line, and other things can happen off of that. I think a lot of things will open up if I shoot the ball better from three.”
Along with outside shooting, Jackson is targeting other parts of his game that will be crucial for him to be a multi-faceted threat. From ball handling to adding muscle, the 6-foot-8 forward is staying busy this offseason.
“Ball handling is one thing. Being able to handle the ball a little bit more. I might not be used in a ton of ball handling situations, but when push comes to shove, I need to be able to handle the ball. Having the confidence and the ability to handle it without having the coaches having to worry.
Then honestly, working on all aspects. I’ve been in the weight room quite a bit this summer, trying to get stronger. I’ve never really been a guy who goes into a summer and just works on one part of his game. That’s just not who I am. I think there are parts of my game that I will focus on a little bit more, but I try to focus on all aspects so I can be a good all around player.”
Evolving From A Rookie
Like any young player making the jump to the NBA, success is captured when the action on the court slows down. Jackson averaged 22.1 minutes per game as a rookie and benefited from having two veteran mentors on the perimeter. He described how he is getting more comfortable on the court, and touched on the roles that Vince Carter and Garrett Temple played in his development.
“It is about [the game] slowing down, and a confidence level thing. It happens in college as well. You go in your first year, you’re learning a ton of new things, you’re trying to find your spot, and find your role on the team. [All] while still trying to play the way you know you can. But there are a lot of different things that as a freshman, and being a rookie last year, that your mind is trying to focus on. There are so many different things you’re trying to pay attention to, trying to learn. Obviously I still have more to learn. But already having a year under my belt, and seeing different aspects of the game, whether it is on the court or off, whatever it is, it is definitely a different feeling going into this year than going in as a rookie.”
Jackson went on to describe the important role the Carter and Temple played in his progress as a first-year player.
Those [two] were some of the closest guys I had on the team. Which is kind of crazy, coming in as a rookie, and having the two vets be my closest friends on the team. But at the same time, they were great as far as my growth throughout the season. Like I said before, all that learning about the NBA doesn’t come from just yourself. A lot of times on flights, I would talk with GT, I would talk with VC. [I would] talk to them, talk about whatever. A lot of time talking about basketball. I might be watching film, and VC or GT might help me out with a certain play. They were huge for me making it through that first year, and learning as much as possible.
I’m definitely going to miss those guys. Obviously they had to make the right decision for their career, and I’ll be cheering on guys that I’m close with.
Jackson’s targeted development should pay immediate dividends in the 2017-18 season. Sacramento has a deep roster of potential options for the small forward position, but Jackson is the only one that fits the position naturally.
If Jackson’s offseason regiment bears fruit on the court, it will put the Kings in a much better position to increase their win total from last year. Without a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Sacramento will be banking on internal growth to translate positively to the win column.