With about a week to go before the annual NBA draft, point guard Demetrius Jackson’s ultimate destination remains not only up in the air but all across the board, according to Irish head coach Mike Brey.
“I think it could be anywhere from 15 to 28,” said Brey Tuesday, June 14, nine days before the June 23 event in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center where Jackson helped lead the Irish to first- and second-round NCAA tournament victories over Michigan and Stephen F. Austin in mid-March.
“It really floats.”
Once considered a near certainty to go within the 14 picks of the lottery, Jackson is projecting in some mock drafts just outside of that group and perhaps even as low as within the first 10 picks of the second round.
The organization most consistently linked to Jackson is Memphis with the No. 17 overall pick, largely in part to the free-agent status of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley.
Jackson also has been projected to the Indiana Pacers with the 20th pick and even as low as the seventh pick of the second round (37th overall) to the Houston Rockets.
“Size,” said Brey of one of Jackson’s limiting factors in the draft at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds. “Sometimes they come back to size and get a little nervous about that. He’s had to overcome that, but with his physical testing in Chicago, he laid a lot of that to rest.”
As a sophomore with a distributor like Jerian Grant on the floor, Jackson focused primarily on the defensive end. Jackson’s responsibilities grew exponentially on offense during his junior season after Grant moved on to the NBA.
“For him, it’s also going to be about being more engaged defensively,” Brey said. “In his defense, he couldn’t always do that at a high level because we asked so much of him on the offensive end. He needed to steal a blow sometimes. But if he’s a backup point guard and he’s coming off the bench, he’ll do it. He can do it.”
Jackson is in competition with point-guard candidates such as Kris Dunn (Providence) and Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt), both of whom measured at 6-foot-4. Combination guards Dejounte Murray (Washington) and Jamal Murray (Kentucky), both of whom measure 6-foot-5, also could go ahead of Jackson.
Jackson is fighting the label that has been even more limiting for Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis, who is listed at a generous 5-foot-10. Ulis is behind Jackson in virtually every mock draft on the table.
“Kris Dunn and Wade Baldwin are big guards,” Brey said. “They’re sexier than him and Ulis right now.”
Jackson has done the little things that endear him to NBA organizations that are looking for stability from their point guard. Brey has been impressed with the way Jackson has handled the process.
“His frame of mind has been great,” Brey said. “He tested off the charts at the combine. His interviews were so impressive, which we’re not surprised.
“He comes across as gracious and classy and thoughtful and smart. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from teams where he’s done that and continued to be himself in that department.”
Jackson wore Under Armour – Notre Dame’s long-term partner -- at the Chicago combine in May, but has yet to sign with a company. According to an Under Armour rep, Jackson was the only prospect to wear their gear at the combine that made a point of texting a thank you for the opportunity to be considered for a contract.
“The guy said, ‘I want to sign him just for that,’ and I said, ‘That’s who he is,’” Brey said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, only 13 players had been invited to the NBA’s Green Room at the Barclays Center, and Jackson was not one of them. Brey said Grant – the 19th overall pick a year ago – was a late addition to the Green Room in the final days leading up to the draft.
“He’s right on the edge,” said Brey of Jackson’s inclusion in the Green Room.
Organizations generally seen to be in need of a point guard include the New York Knicks, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs.
The Knicks don’t have a draft pick in the two-round event (30 picks each round). Milwaukee has the 10th, 36th and 38th overall picks. Dallas selects 46th. San Antonio has the second-to-last pick (29th overall) of the first round.
There also are perceived needs with the Chicago Bulls (Nos. 14 and 48), the Detroit Pistons (Nos. 18 and 49), the Indiana Pacers (Nos. 20 and 50), the Los Angeles Clippers (Nos. 25 and 33), the Sacramento Kings (Nos. 8 and 59), the Philadelphia 76ers (Nos. 1, 24 and 26) and the Memphis Grizzlies (Nos. 17 and 57), the latter of which – at No. 17 – likely represents Jackson’s ceiling in the draft.
“I’m excited for him,” Brey said. “He’s handled it graciously. He hasn’t been anxious. He hasn’t felt pressure. He’s just doing his thing. He’s trending in the right direction heading down the stretch.”
Brey also is encouraged by the possibilities for 6-foot-10, 240-pound Zach Auguste, who averaged 14.0 points and 10.8 rebounds during his senior season for the Irish in 2015-16.
Auguste spent time with the Atlanta Hawks, who have the 44th overall pick (mid-second round) as well as the 54th selection.
“The Hawks really loved (Auguste),” Brey said. “His agent thought they might take him in one of those spots because he had a great workout for them.”
Irish Illustrated’s Prediction – Jackson: No. 24 or 26 by the Philadelphia 76ers; Auguste: Free agent