SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Pacers’ Isaiah Jackson

SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Pacers’ Isaiah Jackson


Isaiah Jackson was barely enjoying. When he did play, the Pacers rookie was having bother staying on the ground. He had 15 factors, 7 rebounds and three steals in a 121-117 OT win over the Warriors on Jan. 20, but additionally dedicated 5 fouls in simply 19 minutes. The pattern continued: 4 fouls in 13 minutes towards the Suns; 5 fouls in 12 minutes towards the Pelicans; 5 fouls in 24 minutes towards the Hornets; 6 fouls in 18 minutes towards the Mavericks. 

On the constructive aspect, when he wasn’t caught on the bench, Jackson was clearly having an affect. A massive affect, particularly for a 20-year-old nonetheless adjusting to the NBA. The versatile ahead was thought of a undertaking heading into the 2021 Draft, the place he was chosen with the No. 22 general choose and instantly traded to the Pacers. At 6-10, with an absurd 7-5 wingspan and elite athleticism, his potential was obtrusive. But Jackson hadn’t put up enormous numbers in his one season at Kentucky—averaging 8.4 factors, 6.6 rebounds and a pair of.6 blocks—and was anticipated to want time to develop, notably on offense.

Still, the Pacers preferred his potential to guard the rim on one finish (Jackson led your complete SEC in blocks per sport) and assault it relentlessly on the opposite (he was an apparent lob menace that would pair nicely with Indiana’s many playmakers). He logged simply 50 whole minutes by October, November and December earlier than his position began to develop. Two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis entered the NBA’s well being and security protocols on the finish of January, main Jackson to obtain his first begin on Jan. 31, in a house sport towards the Clippers. The rook was prepared for the second (regardless of discovering out that afternoon, when he confirmed as much as the world), placing up a career-high 26 factors (together with 4 dunks and a 3), 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and, most significantly, 0 fouls. His efficiency helped the Pacers safe a 122-116 win, snapping a four-game shedding streak. 

“When a guy like him starts getting consistent minutes, when he hasn’t been playing much all year, he’s excited, he’s hyped up and the game is fast,” head coach Rick Carlisle mirrored afterwards. “NBA players do things to make you react. Just the reminders for him over the last several days [were]: stay on your feet, be the second guy off the ground—because with as quickly as you jump, you’ll still be able to get up and contest or block the shot—and play without fouls because we need you on the floor. And, man oh man, he did such a great job in every area tonight. When we talked in the Draft—picked him at 22—about the need for athleticism and a rim threat, this is what we were talking about. Caris [LeVert] threw him some lobs. Justin Holiday threw him one. Two, three other guys got into the fray. And this is a dimension that this team has not had, so it was really great to see.”

Asked about his heightened position, Jackson advised reporters: “It’s helped me a lot. Just getting the experience—that real game experience—has helped me a lot. I think today I took a step forward in my progress, as far as staying down [on defense] and not really [making mistakes]. I made a couple mistakes, but I’m a rookie, so I’m going to make those mistakes, but I’m trying to build off those mistakes as well. I think today was a big step forward in my progress—staying down on defense and just improving my game overall.”

With Sabonis now in Sacramento (together with Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb, the large man was dealt to the Kings in change for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson on the deadline), and Indiana wanting towards the long run, Jackson’s position has solely expanded. He is now a fixture within the beginning lineup, constructing chemistry alongside the brand new backcourt duo of Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon. Since the All-Star break, Jackson is averaging 11.4 factors, 6.3 rebounds and a pair of.9 blocks per sport, taking pictures 67 % from the sector. At this level, the proof is obvious: so long as he can keep on the ground. Jackson is—and can proceed to be—an actual difference-maker.





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