2021 Draft Watch: Analyzing Isaiah Jackson
August 31st, 2020
By Alan Lu
Kentucky’s incoming 6-9 freshman forward, Isaiah Jackson is projected to be one of the top prospects coming in to the 2021 draft. He is a very athletic big man that projects to be a rim-running, shot blocking defensive specialist at the NBA level, and he is a player that has been projected to have considerable upside. There wasn’t a whole lot of full game footage of him playing, as unfortunately, I couldn’t find any meaningful full games of him playing online with Waterford Mott this year.
Therefore, I decided to watch Isaiah Jackson play as a high school junior with LaMelo Ball at the SPIRE Academy during the 2018-19 season against Terry Armstrong and Bella Vista that took place on March 10th, 2019, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via The Grind Session. I chose this game because it was a close game that SPIRE Academy played in, and they also played against another solid team in their league. Here are my thoughts on how Jackson played, as well as how his game may project to the NBA.
Isaiah Jackson is a terrific shot blocker that will look to swat everything he sees in his path. He possesses very good length, athleticism, timing, and instincts, and he will often swat shots off the dribble, as he was able to swat one ball to a teammate midway through this game. He is a very active, rangy interior defender that can get many shot blocks in volume, and he will aggressively challenge shots in the paint to force misses. On the downside, he didn’t often swat balls to his teammates, and he would tend to sacrifice defensive positioning to try to block every shot, as his wild attempts to do so would occasionally lead his team to allow opponents to score on scramble situations.
He also will need to improve his on-ball defense, as he can tend to be unfocused on this side of the ball. Jackson tended to be too undisciplined defensively, as he would wildly bite on ball fakes and get beat off the dribble, and he would tend to commit fouls and allow scores around the basket. He also had trouble defending in the post, as he would give up deep position, and would tend to bite on ball fakes. He also carelessly shoved a smaller opponent off the ball that led him to commit a foul early on, and Jackson tended to pick up quick fouls, as he ended up fouling out of this game.
Plus, Jackson did a good job of rebounding the basketball. He was very active in crashing the glass, and he would tend to leap up to collect defensive boards to help his team on the floor. Also, he displayed decent playmaking skills on offense. Jackson is a good passer that tends to make good reads, as he passes well out of the post, and he can find open shooters and cutters to set up scores for them. He also will set solid on-ball screens, which can help get his teammates open shots and driving lanes to put them in prime opportunities to score the basketball.
However, Jackson did not do a great job of scoring the basketball in this game. He didn’t make many shots on offense, and he missed too many shots around the basket. For a player as athletic as he is, it was surprising that he was so bad at finishing plays at the rim in this game. He likely had an off game, but it didn’t help matters that he only was able to make one field goal and several free throws against Bella Vista.
On the plus side, Jackson showed that he can ably score on hustle plays. He scored on a thunderous dunk off of a roll to the rim late in this game, and Jackson can draw plenty of free throws when he would take balls strong to the rim.
Jackson would sometimes take shots from too far away, as he would miss often hook shots or layups when he would attempt it from just outside of the basket area. He also missed on a tip-in attempt as he rushed to try to score after grabbing a quick rebound later on. Other times, he would miss on pull-up threes from beyond the arc, and Jackson just didn’t show a great feel for his shot on offense. He didn’t look to score often, but he also didn’t really show much of an ability to score in half-court sets.
Overall, Isaiah Jackson is a very athletic big man that has elite physical tools, and he has the talent to project to be a solid rim protector in the NBA. On the downside, he will need to improve his skill set on offense, as he will need to add a jump shot and more strength, and he will have to be a more disciplined and focused defender in games. Right now, he may project to go in the late first to the second round range in the 2021 draft, and he could project to be an energetic rotational big man similar to veteran journeyman center, Ed Davis in the NBA.
6-7 point guard, LaMelo Ball also played for SPIRE Academy in his team’s stunning loss to Bella Vista, and he looked to be his team’s best player by far in this game. He consistently made shots down the stretch, he showed off very good playmaking and rebounding skills, and he also played solid defense when he was on the floor. Ball displayed very good all-around skills, as his strong second half performance down the stretch helped keep his team in this contest.
Ball showed off strong playmaking skills in this game. He continually made great decisions with the ball in his hands, as he excelled at passing the ball in transition, and he would often find open shooters and teammates on the move to set up scores for them. He showed off very good court vision and ball handling skills, and he could’ve had many more assists if his teammates were to make more threes and shots at the rim. He also took solid care of the basketball, and he only committed one turnover, as he threw a hasty pass on the break once that ended up getting intercepted.
He also showcased a solid ability to score on quick drives to the basket. Ball is quite effective as both a scorer and playmaker out on the break, and he especially excels at driving to his left to score the basketball. He drove in to score on a quick layup, and he also used a crossover to his left to make a fadeaway jumper another time as he managed to get nice hang time and touch on his shot. Plus, Ball is a speedy player that showed a strong ability to draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line often, and he did a good job of making them when he was at the foul line. Sometimes, he would try to be too fancy with his shots as he would occasionally not finish plays at the rim, and he also had a couple of his shots blocked by his opponents.
Plus, Ball also displayed an adequate ability to knock down long-range jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense. He was able to make pull-up threes from well beyond the arc, and his ability to effortlessly connect from long distances off the dribble makes it so that defenders have to be on their toes to guard him, as Ball possesses uncanny range on his jump shot. He also managed to draw three free throws after taking another deep three-point shot. When Ball’s jump shot is falling, he can be really hard to guard, as his opponents would then have to be really alert when defending him. Sometimes though, he can be streaky with his jump shot, and he can sometimes take quick, rushed outside shots that lead to misses.
He also showed a solid ability to score on put backs. Ball was able to use a pivot move to score off of an offensive rebound late in this game, and he also drew and made two free throws on a separate play. However, there was one play where he ran in to get an offensive board, but ended up missing on a quick tip shot that time.
Also, he is a very good rebounder that possesses a keen nose for the basketball. Ball is one of the best rebounding guards in the draft, and he would often crash the boards to help his team get rebounds on both ends of the floor. On one play, he leapt up to get an offensive rebound and immediately found a shooter in the corner to get a quick assist. He does a great job of collecting boards, and he would sometimes push the ball up the court to create fast break opportunities for his team. There was one play though where he committed an over the back foul when going for a defensive board once.
Ball also played solid defense. He would use his length to actively contest jumpers to force misses, and he showed very good feet to apply heavy ball pressure when defending opposing ball handlers. On the other hand, sometimes he would be too aggressive in going for steals, which would lead him to commit reach-in fouls.
In general, LaMelo Ball put forth a solid performance in his team’s surprising loss to Bella Vista. His strong play in this game falls in line with his very high draft stock, as he is a solid, all-around playmaker who may possess one of the highest upsides amongst prospects that are in the 2020 draft. Furthermore, his size, strong playmaking skills, and vast potential to develop as a shooter, scorer, and defender make him a really strong candidate to be picked very high this year.
There are some concerns that he does face though. He can tend to hoist up quick, rushed shots, as his spotty shot selection can hurt his shooting percentages, and sometimes he can be prone to woeful shooting nights that offset some of the really tough shots that he makes. He also hasn’t seemed to give consistent effort on the defensive end this season, though he has shown that he can be a rangy defender that can get his team stops. Right now, Ball is a very talented prospect that could contend to be the top pick in this year’s draft, and in a favorable scenario, he could end up developing into being a very good player in the NBA.
Terry Armstrong is a strong, athletic 6-5 swingman that played for Bella Vista, and he played very well for them to help lead them to get a narrow win over SPIRE Academy. He excelled at attacking the basket to score inside.
He showed a knack for drawing many free throws on strong drives in transition. He is a powerful scorer that would often make his free throws when he would get trips to the line, and he would’ve scored on a thunderous dunk on the break had they not called an opponent for a foul and his team for a technical foul when they went onto the court during the play late in this game. Armstrong also was able to use a quick crossover to his left to make a smooth, pull-up jumper from the mid-range. However, he struggled to knock down jumpers consistently in this game, and he tended to miss more shots when he would take them further away from the paint.
Plus, Armstrong also displayed solid playmaking skills. He is an unselfish player that would find open shooters to set up scores for them, and he also throws good passes off the dribble. Sometimes he had trouble handling the ball in traffic though, and there were a couple of times where it nearly led him to commit turnovers.
He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball. He would leap up to haul in defensive boards, and he also managed to push the ball up the court once afterwards. However, he also tended to commit loose ball fouls when pursuing defensive boards in this game.
Also, he played solid defense in this game. Armstrong was able to intercept a pass that was thrown right to him to get a steal, and he would often contest three-point shots to force misses. He also did a good job of defending Ball in the first half of this contest. Sometimes though, he would struggle to defend opponents on the ball, which would lead him to commit touch fouls.
In summary, Terry Armstrong is an athletic, physical swingman that played very well to help get his team a stunning victory over the vastly more talented, SPIRE Academy. It was thought that SPIRE would run the table with the win, but that did not happen on that day. Armstrong especially excelled as a scorer and defender in this game, and he is a player that may possess considerable upside as a prospect for the next level. At the least, he has solid physical tools that may allow him to project into a defensive specialist role in the association.
On the downside, he did not actually receive much playing time at all in the NBL this season, which would hurt his case as a draft prospect significantly. As a result, it may be tough for Armstrong to get drafted this year, but if he dedicates himself to working hard in the offseason to significantly hone his game, over time, he could perhaps end up developing into being a solid role player in the NBA.
Oregon’s soon-to-be sophomore swingman, Addison Patterson played fairly well to help lead Bella Vista to get the win over SPIRE Academy. He is a versatile scorer that can capably pass and handle the basketball in limited doses, and he is a crafty player that showed a knack for making shots and grabbing rebounds in this game.
He showed an adequate ability to score on aggressive drives to the hoop and to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team. Patterson can use ball fakes and crafty dribble moves to score on layups and floaters, and he also can draw free throws on strong drives to the rim. He also ran the floor to score in transition. However, sometimes he had trouble scoring in traffic, and he would sometimes get his shots blocked or miss on contested layups.
Plus, he also was able to make a deep three from well beyond the arc, and Patterson has a lot of range on his shot. He also drew free throws on a pull-up, mid-range jumper from the right elbow. He had trouble making pull-up threes though, but Patterson showed that he can effectively make spot-up threes off the catch.
He also showed the ability to score on hustle plays. Patterson was able to score on a strong put back off of an offensive rebound, and he also was able to get an extra free throw afterwards. However, he also missed on a tip-in another time, as he can sometimes be prone to rushing his shots that may lead to misses.
On the downside, Patterson was very turnover prone on offense, as he especially struggled to limit his turnovers late in this game. For the positives, he is capable passer and ball handler, and he can find open shooters to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates. He can throw good passes off the dribble, and he also managed to throw a nifty between the legs pass back to a shooter in transition, as he at times displayed solid court vision. However, he often had trouble handling the ball when facing heavy ball pressure, as he would tend to commit traveling calls, or throw hasty, inaccurate passes that would go astray. He also had a ball poked away, and he also committed a 10-second violation in the backcourt that led him to commit turnovers.
Patterson also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would often leap up to get tough boards on both ends of the floor, and sometimes he would bring the ball up after getting defensive rebounds.
Defensively, he looked to be fairly average in this game. For the positives, he was able to poke a ball off of a drive to help his team get a steal, and he would use his length to aptly contest three-point shots to force misses. However, Patterson had trouble defending in one-on-one situations. He would get outmuscled when defending in the post, and he also had trouble defending quicker players off the dribble, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.
Overall, Addison Patterson is a skilled scorer that rebounds the ball well, and he also showed off some playmaking skills, but he struggled to operate as a point forward late in this game. Patterson played well in limited minutes as a freshman at Oregon this past season, and he will need to build off of that moving forward. He may not possess elite physical tools, but his ability to score combined with his defensive potential could enable him to be a 3 and D type of role player if he ends up making his way to the NBA sometime down the road.
Michigan State’s soon-to-be, 6-2 sophomore guard, Rocket Watts is an athletic, skilled combo guard that could put up points in a hurry, and he is a microwave type of scorer that will often look for his own offense in games. Though he was able to make some good plays at times for SPIRE Academy, he did not play well overall in his team’s loss to Bella Vista. He had trouble knocking down jump shots from the field, even though he was relentless in chucking up long-range jumpers from downtown, and he also plagued with turnovers and defensive woes at times in this game.
Rocket Watts would often look to score on outside shots from long distance. He would tend to dribble around before taking deep pull-up jumpers from well beyond the arc, and he also would utilize quick crossover moves to do so. However, he would often miss the pull-up jumpers he would attempt, though he did make one midway through this game. He showed a better ability to make spot-up threes off the catch, and he has plenty of range on his shot. However, shot selection looked to be a significant issue, and Watts was unrelenting in his will to take three-point shots, even when it seemed clear that he didn’t have his shooting rhythm in this game.
He was able to make a quick, pull-up jumper from mid-range, and Watts has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off. He showed a better ability to make mid-range jumpers, but he didn’t look to take them nearly as often in this match. Watts also showed a decent ability to score on quick drives to the basket. He was able to drive right off of a ball screen to score on a floater, and he also can draw fouls upon his defenders. He had some trouble getting all the way to the hoop when looking to score off the droop, and he would sometimes miss floaters when looking to score off the dribble.
As a playmaker, he looked to be fairly average in this game. Watts is a good ball handler that showed off solid handles in this game, and he was able to throw a nice timely pass to find a teammate ahead on the break to notch an assist. He can throw good passes off the dribble when he looks for his teammates. On the downside, he was quite turnover prone on offense. He tended to throw hasty, inaccurate interior passes that would tend to get intercepted, and he also threw another that sailed out of bounds. Late in this game, he dropped a catchable pass out of bounds that would’ve given his team a chance to tie or win the game if they had been able to get a shot off on that play.
Though Watts didn’t grab many rebounds, he was able to leap up to get a couple of defensive rebounds down the stretch. Watts also played fairly average defense. He would rotate to poke balls away and deflect passes to get steals, and he also would apply considerable ball pressure to make it difficult for his opponents to handle the basketball. Plus, he was able to contest a three-point shot as well as a couple of shots off the dribble to force some misses. On the downside, he would sometimes struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and he was also prone to committing reach-in fouls when going for steals. Other times, he would have lapses defensively, which would cause his team to be caught in a scrambling situation that would lead them to allow scores to their opponents.
Overall, Rocket Watts is an agile, skilled combo guard that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, but he will need to improve his shot selection and decision making skills. It’s uncertain if he will be able to effectively run the point at higher levels as he possesses a very heavy, score-first mindset, but his ability to knock down jumpers and to score could allow him to excel as a complementary scorer for Michigan State. If he improves his decision making ability and defensive skills, and develops into being the shooter and scorer he’s capable of being, he could project to be a second round pick sometime in the future, as he could project to be an effective rotation player for a team in the NBA.
Bella Vista’s then, 5-10 high school sophomore, and Western Kentucky-bound point guard, Zion Harmon played very well to help lead his team to a win over SPIRE Academy. He excelled as a scorer off the dribble, and he showed a knack for drawing free throws when handling the ball, but he also did a good job of making catch and shoot threes to provide floor spacing for his team.
Harmon struggled more to score in traffic when trying to score on drives in transition, and he had trouble making threes consistently, as he would hoist up pull-up threes or spot-up threes from very long distances that would lead to misses, but Harmon’s ability to drive to the hoop enabled him to excel as a scorer and facilitator in this game.
He also displayed decent playmaking skills. Harmon can draw in multiple defenders when taking the ball to the rim, as he would then kick balls out to open shooters to rack up assists. He also was able to split a double team when handling the basketball, and he is an agile, shifty playmaker that can maneuver around to get balls to shooters to set up scoring chances for them. Sometimes though, he would be careless when handling the basketball, as he ended up committing his fair share of turnovers, and he also threw an inaccurate interior pass that was picked off another time.
Plus, he also rebounded the ball well, and he would tend to get defensive rebounds to help his team on the glass. Also, Harmon defended well. He was able to run back to intercept a pass to get a steal, as he read the play and showed off solid anticipation skills and leaping ability to get the basketball. He also was able to deflect a pass, and he would aptly contest three-point shots to force misses. On the downside, he would occasionally commit touch fouls when defending his opponents, but he mostly did so to prevent opponents from getting easy scores on fast breaks.
Overall, Harmon is a skilled playmaker that played a solid game overall, and he may be one of the more underrated players in his recruiting class. Though he may not possess ideal size or foot-speed to play the point, he is a crafty player that can score and distribute the basketball, and he is an agile player that handles the ball well. He is a talented player that could be an impact player in college basketball, and he could end up being a solid backup point guard at the NBA level if things break his way.
UC Irvine’s soon-to-be, 6-3 sophomore guard, Jeron Artest also played well for Bella Vista, and his ability to shoot, score, and defend helped get them a tough win over SPIRE Academy.
Artest is a good shooter that can knock down threes and mid-range jumpers both off the catch and dribble. He didn’t look to take the ball all the way to the rim very often, but he was able to use a crafty ball fake and hesitation move to score on a patient right-handed drive to the hoop.
He also showed off solid playmaking skills. He is a crafty player that passes the ball well off the dribble, and he can find open shooters and teammates on the break to set up scoring chances for them. He also handles the ball well, and he can maneuver around and probe defenses to get the ball to his teammates. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, Artest was able to get a couple of boards when he was on the floor. However, he would sometimes be get called for committing loose-ball fouls when going for rebounds in this game.
Plus, he also played solid defense. He was able to swat a pass and steal the ball away from Watts to get a steal, and Artest would often contest threes and shots off the dribble to force misses, as he is a rangy defender that played with some verticality. However, sometimes he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.
In all, Jeron Artest is an athletic, skilled combo guard that showed off solid all-around skills to help Bella Vista get the win. He didn’t seem to have a great freshman season at UC Irvine though, as he really struggled to make shots consistently for them this year. Still, he could be a player that may be worth keeping an eye on, as his ability to knock down shots and defend could enable him to be a potential second round pick if he works hard to improve as an overall player.
Saint Louis’ soon-to-be, 6-10 sophomore center, Jimmy Bell Jr. had a fairly solid game, as he excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder for Bella Vista to help them get the win over SPIRE Academy. Bell is a strong, physical big man that can consistently score in the post, and his strong interior play on both ends of the court definitely helped his team get the victory.
Bell excelled at scoring in the post in this game. He would back his man down and use power dribble moves to get strong scores at the rim, and he would often barrel his way to the hoop to draw fouls to get to the free throw line. He would use a power dribble move and a ball fake to draw his defender in the air, and then he would go up strong to score and get free throws around the basket.
He also managed to score on a tip-in after leaping up to get an offensive board, and he was quite active at crashing the offensive glass. He also ran the floor and received the ball, as he then used a ball fake to get to the free throw line. However, sometimes he would occasionally miss shots around the basket, and there were times where he would not always show much lift on his shot.
He also was able to set a good on-ball screen, which enabled his teammate to get an open driving lane to take a pull-up jumper on offense early on. However, Bell did commit one turnover, as he had caught the ball past mid-court, but then carelessly threw the ball into the backcourt, which led his team to commit an over-and-back violation.
Plus, Bell did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would often leap up to get boards on both sides of the ball, and he was able to get many rebounds in this game. He also played decent defense. Bell was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive in transition out of bounds, and he has good length and timing, as well as solid mobility to do so. He also would use his length to contest shots out on the perimeter and in the post to force opponents to miss shots. Sometimes though, he would be late on his rotations, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.
Overall, Bell played very well in this game, and he outplayed Isaiah Jackson when they would be matched up against each other, as Bell’s solid post-up skills would cause Jackson to bite on ball fakes and end up foul trouble. Bell is an interesting player who may have the skills to be a solid player at the collegiate level, as his low post scoring skills and rebounding ability combined with having above average athletic gifts and superb strength could allow him to thrive in college. However, he will likely need to add a jump shot and show that he can effectively guard opponents out on the perimeter to effectively transition as well to the NBA. If things pan out for him, Bell could end up being a solid, rotation-level big man in the association.
Other Notes, Part II, The Curious Case of Myron Gardner:
Former Georgetown player and 6-6 swingman, Myron Gardner played exceptionally well for SPIRE Academy, and he absolutely dazzled in this game by showing off superb scoring skills in his team’s tough loss to Bella Vista. From a talent perspective in terms of watching this game, he looked like a player that may have the upside to be a first round pick, as he is an athletic, powerful wing player that can score the basketball. However, his freshman season at Georgetown turned out to be quite sub-par, as he barely played this past season, and then he ended up being embroiled in a serious off-court incident. He faced off-court legal troubles as a result, and Gardner later transferred away from Georgetown to South Plains College.
Gardner showed off a very good ability to score on strong drives to the hoop. He can finish plays using either hand, and he has a good set of dribble moves that allow him to consistently get to the rim. He has a good first step off the dribble, and he also managed to score on a couple of acrobatic layups at the rim. Plus, he also has good strength and balance that allows him to effectively take on the contact to draw extra free throws after gets scores around the basket. Also, he was able to use a crossover move to his left to score on a thunderous dunk late in this game.
He also was able to get a strong score in the post, as he was able to also get an additional free throw. However, there was another play where after he used a quick shoulder fake, he ended up getting his shot blocked by an interior defender.
Also, Gardner showed an adequate ability to score on hustle plays. He managed to score on a strong baseline cut, and he also drew a foul after getting an offensive board another time. However, he also rushed a shot after getting an offensive board later on, which lead him to miss a put back.
Plus, Gardner also did a good job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team. He was especially effective in making spot-up threes off the catch, and he can ably knock down long-range jumpers when given the time and space to do so. However, he struggled to make pull-up jumpers, and there were a few times where he would miss badly on pull-up threes from beyond the arc.
However, he also looked to be quite turnover prone in this game. For the positives, Gardner can throw accurate outlet and entry passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates. However, he also would sometimes go too fast and out of control, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers. He was called for traveling a couple of times, and he also over-dribbled into traffic on another drive in transition that led him to getting the ball poked away to lose it to a defender.
He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball. Gardner was quite active in leaping up to crash the glass to get boards on both sides of the ball, and he would occasionally push the ball up the court to create early offense for his team. However, he was called for an over the back foul when going for an offensive board on one play late in this game.
Gardner played adequate defense in this game. He did a good job of collecting steals, as he was able to intercept passes and poke a ball away to force turnovers and get deflections. He also would actively contest jump shots to force misses. Sometimes he would struggle to defend opponents out on the perimeter, which would lead him to get beat off the dribble and lead his team to commit fouls. Other times, he would over-help in the paint and sag too far off his man, which would cause him to allow opponents to score on jumpers.
In summary, Myron Gardner did have a terrific basketball game against Bella Vista, but he would go on to have a pretty bad 2019-20 season overall. He didn’t play much at Georgetown, and he then ended up getting into legal trouble in which he faced pretty serious accusations from an off-court incident. While he was cleared of charges, Gardner ended up transferring to South Plains College, as he will now play basketball in junior college. In assessing Gardner on and off-court, he will most likely have to answer questions about his character stemming from that incident, as he would likely pose as a character risk to NBA teams. Now that he will be dropping down in level of competition to play in junior college, the level of competition he’ll be facing could pose as another obstacle in his pathway to try to get to the association.
Gardner is an unlikely bet to be drafted by an NBA team anytime in the near future, and he will probably need to field questions as to what happened in his time in Georgetown, as he will need to prove himself to teams that he can be a helpful addition to them on and off the court. The incident he was accused of was a pretty serious allegation, and he will likely be facing a significant uphill battle if he were to try to make it to the NBA someday.