4. Jaren Jackson Jr, C, Memphis Grizzlies
Jackson was viewed as a high-floor, low-ceiling pick by some in draft circles, but he has the potential to show that he’s the best rookie in this class right away. Even though he’ll presumably be playing out of position next to Marc Gasol in Memphis, Jackson has real star potential that could start to play itself out this season.
Jackson’s primary value should come on defense, where the combination of his agility and length could one day make him one of the best defenders in the league, able to both protect the rim and switch out to the perimeter. Gasol will still likely be handling primary anchor responsibilities in Memphis’s defense this year, but Jackson could find a niche as a primary pick-and-roll defender.
Expecting him to be consistently good this early is likely a poor bet, but enough positive steps in development and highlight plays could swing things in his favor, especially if his offensive game comes as good as advertised. Jackson hit eight 3s in his first Summer League game, and his ability to attack face-up situations and handle the ball in the halfcourt could make him very interesting as a tertiary ball-handler for Memphis, especially as Gasol and newcomer Kyle Anderson’s passing should help find him a great deal of looks at the basket. That combination of defensive and self-creation potential with success from beyond the arc and improved rebounding numbers could propel Jackson to the Rookie of the Year award, especially if healthy Memphis surprises in the win/loss column.