Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates his made basket in the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers at Breslin Center on January 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Draft Q&A: Hawks assistant GM Jeff Peterson on Jaren Jackson

Part of Jeff Peterson’s responsibilities as Hawks assistant general manager is to oversee the team’s scouting process. That’s a particularly important role this year as the Hawks own the No. 3 draft pick in addition to Nos. 19, 30 and 34. 

I recently sat down with Peterson to get his thoughts on eight top prospects in the 2018 draft: Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Trae Young. Over the next several days I’ll post some lightly-edited transcripts of those conversations. 

Previous entriesDeandre AytonLuke DoncicMarvin Bagley III.

Jaren Jackson Jr., C, Michigan State 

Height/weight: 6-foot-11.25 inches, 226 pounds (measured) 

Age: 18 (Sept. 15, 1999) 

Hometown: Indianapolis 

ESPN draft projection: No. 3 to the Hawks. 

(Click here for my take on Jackson vs. Bagley.)

Q. (Cunningham) I like Jaren Jackson Jr. a lot. He’s very good defensively and seems he has good potential as a scorer around the basket. What’s your opinion on that? 

A. (Peterson) He’s intriguing because he’s so young. It’s almost like there is a lot of room to mold and to help grow him. He’s obviously been coached well with Michigan State and (Tom) Izzo. I do think he’s pretty good with both hands around the basket. Good touch. And with him it’s pretty neat because he’s not only capable of scoring on the interior, but he can also step outside and shoot the basketball. He shot at a very high clip this year (38-for-96 on 3-pointers, 39.6 percent). He’s confident in his shot. He’s an unbelievable rim protector. Very good on the defensive end. Just instincts and plays hard and doesn’t give up. He blocks shots, challenges shots. It’s very exciting when you are watching him. 

Q. Can he defend in space on switches? 

A. Yeah, I think he’s pretty good in that area. But the thing is, with all of these guys, they have to get better. When you are going against the guy from Iowa vs. you are going against John Wall, it’s a little different. But I think he can. I think in time he can get there. Some guys, nobody can guard. You are not staying in front of John Wall; it’s probably not happening. The length and the willingness will help Jackson. 

Q. His jump shot has a quick release, but the form is a little weird. Any concern with that? 

A. It’s a tough one — I will say again, I’m not a shooting expert by any means — but it’s tough because it’s unorthodox but it goes in. One of those things, do you mess with it or just leave it alone. If he comes in the league and shoots it at a high rate early on you may just leave it alone. But if he comes in and struggles a little bit with the increased distance, maybe that’s an opportunity to tweak it a little bit. 

Q. He’s kind of thin but he’s young, so do you think he can get bigger? 

A. Yeah, he can put on more weight. I’m not a strength and conditioning expert, either, but you look at his frame I think he will be able to put on pretty good strength which obviously will help him at this level.

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