With freshman Justin Jackson’s recent declaration, the Big Ten now has fourteen underclassmen who have declared for the NBA Draft. However, by not signing with an agent, Jackson has until May 24th to decide to return to Maryland for his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-7, 225 lbs. forward is projected as a second-round draft pick, similar to fellow Big Ten declaration Thomas Bryant of Indiana. Both players project as long-term NBA projects with a ton of potential.
Who will make the better NBA prospect? Let’s take a closer look.
Justin Jackson (Maryland)
The 20-year-old forward had very strong freshman campaign for the Terrapins. Jackson averaged 10.5 points and six rebounds per game. He had 16 games with double-digit scoring and shot 44 percent from three-point range (46-105) on the season. His highlight was back-to-back 28 and 22 point road games at Minnesota and Ohio State in late January.
But Jackson struggled with consistency and entered the NCAA tournament in a huge slump. He had scored single digits in three of last four games, shooting a combined 10 of 29 from the field. Jackson’s production throughout the season was streaky at best.
Regardless, he was a starter and integral part of a Maryland team that overachieved the preseason prediction. The Terrapins finished 23-9 and Justin Jackson was a major reason for that success. His athleticism, length, and versatility make him an intriguing NBA prospect.
Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
The 6-foot-10 255 lb center has officially signed with an agent and will remain in the draft. Thomas Bryant was selected All-Big Ten third team by both the coaches and media voting writers. The Indiana sophomore averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 73 percent from the foul line.
The main issue with Bryant is that he really did not improve from his freshman to his sophomore year. In fact, despite attempting only 55 shots, his field goal percentage dropped from 68.3 percent to 51.9 percent. In addition, for a 6-foot-10 center in the Big Ten, his 6.6 rebound average is shockingly low.
However, the old adage “you can’t coach size” still holds true, and Bryant brings that to any potential NBA suitor. His 7-foot-5 wingspan and 9-foot-4 standing reach provide a framework that will most certainly get his name called on June 22nd.
Both players have the potential to have sustained NBA careers. Justin Jackson is still only 20 years old, and Thomas Bryant turns 20 at the end of July. Bryant has the longer and more productive college career, but Jackson is the superior athlete. So it begs the question, who is the better all-around professional prospect?
While Thomas Bryant has the size and is ready to make a more immediate impact, Justin Jackson is the better long-term NBA possibility. Even though he has only one year of college experience, the lanky freshman with a 7-foot-3 wingspan brings a ton of athleticism and the ability to score.
Even if he doesn’t get drafted, Jackson will certainly find his way onto an NBA roster as a true small forward and will use his explosiveness and three-point shooting to carve out a robust career in the NBA.
Thomas Bryant had the more accomplished college career but the better NBA Prospect is Justin Jackson of Maryland.