During his junior season at North Carolina, Justin Jackson flashed some of the characteristics that Phil Jackson values. NBA talent evaluators say he displayed good floor vision, a willingness to pass and an ability to cut off the ball in UNC’s offense.
Jackson also improved on the defensive end and boosted his 3-point field goal percentage from 29 percent as a sophomore to 36 percent. Couple that with strong court awareness and a grasp of the game, and it makes sense that Jackson is one of the players the Knicks have their eye on as they try to acquire an additional first-round pick, according to sources.
The club got a firsthand look at Jackson on Tuesday when he worked out in a group setting in Tarrytown, New York. (Jackson’s workout included Louisville’s Jaylen Johnson, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes and Oregon’s Dillon Brooks.) It was Jackson’s seventh pre-draft workout. He also has workouts scheduled with Indiana, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Portland before the June 22 draft.
Jackson, who is projected as a first-round pick in the teens, took some time to discuss his workout Tuesday evening. Here is some of what he had to say:
Q: How was the workout?
A: I thought it was a success. I thought I shot the ball really well, picked up on all of the things they tried to teach us pretty well, and I felt like it was a really good workout.
Q: How has the process been?
A: It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed it. Going to all of these different cities, meeting all these different organizations -- I’ve loved it. For me, I try not to put too much stress on myself. These teams have watched me throughout my whole career, especially last year. So from here it’s just trying to go in and have the best workout I can and try to put myself in the best position I possibly can.
Q: What do you want to show teams in workouts?
A: For me, I just go out there and I try to shoot the ball really well and try to play good defense. And then other little things, whether it’s pick-and-roll, maybe showing them things that we might not have done a ton of at North Carolina. Just showing them I’m pretty good at that stuff, too. Other than that, just trying not to play outside of myself. Just play how I know I can play, and hopefully, that’s enough.
Q: Do you think you can have an impact on both ends of the floor in the NBA?
A: I hope so. For me, as I continue to get stronger I think that will help a lot as far as being able to take bumps or try to fight with guys that might be stronger than I am. But I think using my length and being able to use my smarts and things like that, I think I’ll be able to do some things on the defensive end.
Q: Is adding strength a goal of the offseason, regardless of where you are drafted? (Jackson is 6-foot-8 and 193 pounds.)
A: Definitely. That’s every day. And then just working on every aspect of my game. Trying to fine-tune my shot. Work on my ballhandling. All the little things, everything about my game, I’m just going to try to continue to get better at.
Q: Other players the Knicks have worked out said coach Jeff Hornacek ran the workout and Phil Jackson interjected at times with some teaching points. Was it the same for you?
A: It was the same thing. Coach Hornacek ran everything and Coach Jackson would step in and say if he wanted to see a certain action, or if someone wasn’t doing something right then he would tell us how to do it correctly and things like that. But for the most part, it was Coach Hornacek doing it.
Q: Was any of the workout focused on the triangle offense?
A: Yeah. We did a lot of that, and we did a lot of different reads off of it and just trying to get used to that type of game.
Q: Was that new for you or had you played in the offense before?
A: I haven’t necessarily played in the triangle offense. But I’ve played in an offense that was a lot like that as far as making reads and making cuts off of your man and trying to figure out different ways to get open. Once they kind of told us what the setup was, it was kind of easy for me to pick it up.
Knicks to work out Cameron Oliver, T.J. Williams: Nevada's Cameron Oliver has workouts scheduled this week with the Nets (Wednesday) and Knicks (Thursday), per league sources. Oliver, widely projected as a second-round pick, has an intriguing game and frame. He is 6-8 with a 7-1 wingspan and a vertical of nearly 40 inches, and he has flashed an ability to knock down perimeter shots at the college level. Oliver averaged 16 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game last season at Nevada and has worked out for several teams ahead of the draft. The Knicks own two second-round picks, Nos. 44 and 58; the Nets own the 57th pick in the second round and the 22nd and 27th picks in the first round.
New York will also workout Northeastern’s T.J. Williams, per sources. Williams, the CAA Player of the Year, led the conference in scoring and was second in assists. The 6-3 point guard averaged 21.4 points, 5.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. He also led the conference in minutes (38.2 per game). The last CAA POY from Northeastern, by the way, was JJ Barea. Williams projects as a late-second-round pick or an undrafted free agent. He has also worked out for the Jazz, Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, Timberwolves, Raptors and Nuggets. The Knicks had workouts scheduled with Kentucky’s Malik Monk and Duke’s Luke Kennard this week and have a workout before the draft scheduled with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, per sources.