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Houston Rockets Draft Prospect Series: Demetrius Jackson

Jan 9, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) dribbles in the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Purcell Pavilion. Pittsburgh won 86-82. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) dribbles in the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Purcell Pavilion. Pittsburgh won 86-82. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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The arrival of offensive minded head coach Mike D’Antnoi means the Houston Rockets need to think about bringing in an offensive minded point guard. Demetrius Jackson out of Notre Dame could be the long term answer Houston needs.

Demetrius Jackson has a number of offensive weapons that make him an exciting possibility for the Rocket’s front office. Especially with new head coach Mike D’Antoni, who relies heavily on pick-and-roll action, Jackson could provide a traditional point guard approach the Rockets have been missing.

While his defense is an area of concern, it helps to have one of the best defensive pests in the league in Patrick Beverly. Combined, the two could provide a powerful one-two punch. Jackson could eventually start, giving Houston a pass-first point guard strictly responsible for running D’Antoni’s offense, while Beverly could come in and be a hound on the defensive end and still be effective from beyond the arc.

As of now, Jackson is predicted to be a first round draft pick as one of the top point guards offered. He had an impressive outing at the combine after averaging 17.8 points per game on 52 percent shooting in four games of the NCAA tournament. But, he has also been shown to fall as low as the middle of the second round as well. If he somehow manages to fall to the Rockets at the 37th pick, it would be too good to pass up.

The Skills

At 6’1″, Jackson’s flashy play and explosiveness has been compared to former Syracuse product Johnny Flynn. Jackson excels at the pick-and-roll game because of his effectiveness in either passing or scoring the rock himself. He averaged 16.4 points and 4.6 assists per game as one of the veteran leaders for the Irish. Jackson finished in double digit scoring in 31 of 37 games, while scoring 20 or more points eight times.

Jackson has proven to be excellent at keeping defenses on there toes with the pick-and-roll. His decision making in those moments makes him especially dangerous. Jackson also is an effective slasher to the basket, penetrating and slithering through gaps in the defense while staying deceptive with the ball in his hands.

One of the things that should excite the Rockets is Jackson’s ability to take care of the ball. Last year, Houston was in the bottom five in the league with 15.9 turnovers per game, which was actually an improvement from the year before, where they finished tied for second to last at 16.7. Jackson averaged just over two turnovers per game last season for a quality assist-to-turnover ratio. You can also expect it to translate over into the NBA, as he helped run a pro style offense at Notre Dame.

While he may be undersized, his strength allows him to power to the rim and his flashy sense of play also translates into acrobatic finishes that rival those of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. And like Harden, Jackson looks for contact. Through the first three months of the season, Jackson shot 70 percent from the line. The last two months however, he went 53-60 for 88 percent. Jackson set a season high in both free throw makes and attempts on Jan. 13 by going 13-14 from the line in a 72-64 win over Georgia Tech.

Specifics

  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 195 lbs
  • Country: USA
  • Position: Point Guard
  • Age: 21
  • Standing Reach: 8’0″
  • Wingspan: 6’4.75″
  • College or Pro League: Notre Dame
  • Stat line: 37 Games, 16.4 Points Per Game, 3.4 Rebounds Per Game, 4.6 Assists Per Game, 1.2 Steals Per Game, 46.0 FG%, 34.0 3FG%, 81 FT%

Current Rank

Draft Express: 14

NBA Draft.net: 37

NBA.com: David Aldridge ranks Jackson sixth among point guards and says he’ll go late first round or early second round

Sports Illustrated: 17

CBS Sports: 24

The Questions

Size may be one of the top two concerns NBA General Managers have with the discussion of Jackson. Listed at 6’1″, with his shoes on, it’s unclear if Jackson will be able to perform at the same level offensively in the NBA as he did in college.  While he also has quick hands that have a tendency of getting into the cookie jar for steals, his wingspan doesn’t help him out a whole lot. Still, not to say he is a defensive liability, it’s just up in the air if he can hang with the bigger guards of the league.

Scouts have also noticed that in the open court on a fast break, Jackson is the man you want with the ball, which could be another attractive feature for the Rockets. However, in the half court, he struggles. Besides the pick-and-roll, Jackson struggles to get teammates open. And on defense, he often loses focus when guarding off the ball and even tends to be caught ball watching when his man isn’t involved in the play. Sound familiar Red Nation (looking at you Harden).

His dip in shooting percentage is worrisome. In his sophomore year, he shot 51 percent overall and 43 percent from the three point line. This past year, he dropped to 46 percent and 34 percent from downtown. Now, much of this could be the result of two things: more shot attempts and a more emphasized focus on the offensive end. After Notre Dame lost Jerian Grant, much of the offense fell under the responsibility of Jackson. However, if he’s looking to run the point at the next level, he’ll have to do a better job of handling the pressure and getting his teammates involved.

The Fit

Jackson has the ability to come in and make an impact for the Rockets in a short time table. With Beverley as the established starting point guard of the team, Jackson would more than likely start by getting into the lineup in limited moments.

Mar 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (11) reacts after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half in a semifinal game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center. Notre Dame won 61-56. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This would give him time to learn the game, get adjusted and hopefully, build more muscle, which is something scouts looked for him to do.

Perhaps not this next year, but maybe in 2017-2018, Jackson could take over as the new point. Ideally, if he can learn the D’Antoni offense and improve his passing and play making ability, having Jackson running the offense would serve the Rockets best in the long run.

Next year, the offense will continue to run through Harden. But after that, Harden could focus less on running the offense as a whole and more on his individual play.

Again, this is all speculating that Jackson falls to the Rockets in the second round. The Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons are among several teams expected to take Jackson ahead of Houston. But if the Rockets get an early Christmas gift, they can’t afford to pass him up.

Awards and Honors

  • 2016 All-ACC Second team
  • 2015 ACC All-Tournament Second team
  • 2013 McDonald’s All-American
  • One of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award

Next: Houston Rockets Draft Prospect Series: Kahlil Felder

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