GG Jackson: 2023 NBA Draft Scouting Report
The youngest player in this draft class, Jackson has rubbed some people the wrong way but has a sky high ceiling worth understanding
If you have not read our Ten Commandments of NBA Draft Scouting, it’s worth a read. It’s also an important primer from which to view GG Jackson, one of the most polarizing players in this draft class. So many of the points apply to Jackson in a variety of ways, and when an evaluation gets as tough as this one, we lean on our roots and core convictions for guidance.
The most important (at least for framing my scouting report) in relation to Jackson might be points nine and ten: the most crucial data points are unavailable to the public (myself included) and an investment in a prospect is an investment in that human being.
Over the summer, GG Jackson had a choice: go finish his high school career for the upcoming season, or re-class and head to college early. He did the latter, joining South Carolina in the SEC at the tender age of 17. He turned 18 in mid-December playing not just in one of the most physical leagues in the country but at a time when college basketball is filled with fifth and sixth-year players.
Jackson’s immaturity showed throughout the season, both on the court and off it. Without access to interviews, first-hand information, or understanding how Jackson might not have been ready for the social aspects of joining a college program, it’s really hard to know what to do with the elements of immaturity we saw on screen. Do we see his Instagram Live sessions and chalk it up to immaturity that can be grown out of? Do we see the ball-begging and on-court demonstrations of frustration with teammates continue, or will there be accountability from him that can illustrate growth?
The point is, to take what we’ve seen the past few months and write off Jackson without doing due diligence into his character or what type of person he will mature into feels short-sighted. I don’t know about you, but I was definitely not ready to handle life in a mature way when I was his age, let alone with NIL money and a giant spotlight following me everywhere.
That leads me to another one of the commandment points: context is important, so learn it. What Jackson dealt with at South Carolina was a pretty atrocious group. They were undertalented for the SEC, ill-conceived in terms of how the pieces fit together, and not forced to play in a cohesive, team-centric scheme. The keys were clearly handed to a 17-year-old, which made accountability and productivity tank. Do we blame Jackson for this, or does the blame extend to the adults in the room who put him in that position?
Finally, remember that commandment: understand the value of age. By the end of his second NBA season, Jackson will be the same age as Brandon Miller, Jett Howard, and Paolo Banchero are now. He’ll be 22 when his rookie scale contract expires. He should’ve spent this week playing in the McDonald’s All-American game and finding a tuxedo for prom.
All this introductory rambling might make it sound like I am an ardent GG Jackson defender. That isn’t necessarily the case. What I am, though, is in search of the most accurate evaluation of Jackson I can find. Since I don’t have access to the maturity level, the character interviews, the full context of details surrounding his time at South Carolina, my time is better spent avoiding speculation to answer those questions and simply diving into what the film reveals.
The film is, somewhat predictably, all over the place. There are elite flashes for a 17-year-old in ways that I did not predict he’d showcase. There were trainwrecks and outright disasters that I did see coming.
Jackson is a nightmare of an evaluation for a draft scout. There are so many layers and contextual situations to be aware of, so many natural skills but poorly-formed habits. He’s so hard to peg down because everything at South Carolina was, to be blunt, a shit show and a non-winning situation. How can we flesh out what aspects of his game can be scaled up or scaled down to fit a winning situation in the NBA?
It’s one thing to turn away from Jackson due to the red flags, but entirely another to put him on a ‘do not draft’ list because the on-court eval is really complicated. This scouting report will be my most valiant attempt to make it more simple.
Since he arrived at South Carolina, GG Jackson has held himself like a scorer. It’s a pretty remarkable skill development trajectory he’s been on. During the summer of 2021 (a mere fifteen months before his first college game), Jackson was playing AAU for Team CP3. During 12 games played on the EYBL circuit that summer, Jackson was 0-5 on dribble jump shots and 2-18 on jump shots as a whole. Only 4% of his field goal attempts were dribble jumpers.