The Hawks played host to former Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. on Wednesday for a pre-draft workout. He probably will be available when the Hawks are on the clock with the No. 3 pick, assuming they keep it and don’t trade down.
Jackson is an elite defensive prospect because of his length, production as a shot blocker and ability to guard smaller opponents on the perimeter. On offense, Jackson’s game needs polish — he wasn’t a primary scoring option for the Spartans — but he has showed promise as a 3-point shooter (39.6 percent on 96 attempts) and can score around the basket with both hands.
Click here for Hawks assistant general manager Jeff Peterson’s recent thoughts on Jackson. Peterson noted that Jackson could have a lot of room for growth because he doesn’t turn 19 years old until September. Jackson also has an NBA lineage: His father played 431 NBA games over 12 seasons for nine teams.
Below are some lightly edited excerpts from Jackson’s availability with Atlanta media following his Hawks workout:
Q. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was involved in Trae Young’s workout yesterday. Was he involved in playing you one-on-one or anything?
A. There was some one-on-one. It was fun. He stripped me (of the ball) a little bit. We got it in, though.
Q. When did you get to your current height? I ask because you’ve got some perimeter skills.
A. Probably sophomore year of high school. I was like 6-4, maybe, my freshman year. And then I grew a lot. (Jackson measured just over 6-foot-11 at the combine last month).
Q. You were a guard back then?
A. No. I was just on the bench. I tried to do some things, but I was never a guard guard.
Q. So in some ways you are still growing into your frame. How do you feel physically?
A. I feel a lot better. I’m getting a lot more comfortable every day just playing stronger and playing with my size and using my ball-handling to my advantage instead of doing it for no reason. Not wasting dribbles and being efficient with it.
Q. There was a report that you had a great workout with the Suns. How do you think this workout compares?
A. I think this was a great workout. It was probably different. We just did different things. I thought I shot well. Got up and down a little bit. It wasn’t nothing too taxing but it was an hour and we focused on a lot of things, like more intricate parts of he game, like where I would get shots instead of a normal camp-type workout.
Q. You got in foul trouble often at Michigan State. What do you think were some of the factors behind that and how do you think you can improve with playing defense without fouling?
A. Just making sure I don’t gamble and try to block everything. I’ve got to understand you can make somebody miss without blocking it. Don’t go over somebody’s back and stuff like that. And a lot of the fouls were offensive, so being more under control when I drive. We get six fouls now, so that’s better, but don’t want to get that too early.
Q. Is it your goal to gain weight? (Jackson weighed 229 pounds at the combine.)
A. Yes. Not necessarily just gain weight, but play stronger, get stronger, get to a weight where I can be mobile and be able to move around as well as play strong.
Q. The NBA style fits your game. How excited are you to show your potential?
A. Very excited. It’s kind of the right timing with the way the game is going, the way my game kind of relates to it. I’m blessed for that.
Q. How much do you know about Lloyd Pierce and this roster?
A. After interacting, you learn more every time you talk to them. You are not here that long, so you don’t really get everything. But you learn about play style, how you would fit. You learn about their plays. All of that helps you get more comfortable when you are on your visits.
Q. Decision-making with the ball is a big part of the game for NBA bigs. Where do you think you are with that?
A. I always can improve it. In terms of decision-making, I think I see the floor pretty well if I can catch it and make reads. Definitely I want to improve the delivery, the passing. At State I had some turnovers I didn’t have to have if I’d delivered it better.