Profiles In Profiling, Part 3: Darnell Jackson

July 28th, 2009 by John Krolik

I’ll keep my thoughts on D-Block fairly short, partly because he’s a fairly straightforward guy and partly because the last time I did a player profile, I got excited, wrote a gushing manifesto, and Tarence Kinsey promptly buried most of Las Vegas under a giant pile of Fail. (You can go with the 0 assists in 100 minutes, <40% FG shooting, or the unsolicited call from a friend of mine who bought the summer league package just to tell me how much Tarence Kinsey sucks, but it’s fairly safe to say Tarence did not set Las Vegas on fire.)

UPDATE: Kinsey was, in fact, waived this morning. Wow. Most team bloggers can make it at least to August before they make themselves look like an idiot, but alas.

I will maintain to my dying day that he was a special role player for a few games when he was out there surrounded by talent and able to concentrate on doing the little things. ForĀ  the off-ball cuts, the running of the floor, the rebounds, and giving us hope that there was an option other than watching Boobie Gibson clank threes all game on our bench, we shall remember ye, Tarence. And by “we,” I mean me.

But now, with heavy hearts, we move on. For Darnell Jackson, the thing is this: Role Players are great. They rebound, they play defense, they don’t need shots, they perform when asked to, they know where to be. Watching a great role player, like a Shane Battier, Lineas Kleiza, or Antonio McDyess, do his thing can be almost as fun as watching a superstar. Also, guys with a lot of potential are fun to watch. They make mistakes, they settle for too many bad shots, their footwork is sloppy, and they miss rotations, but they do things that make you believe you’re watching a special player in the developmental stages.

Darnell Jackson, however, is a guy with the potential to become a very good role player. That’s not too much fun.

One thing I never get around draft time is how accepted it is to call under-athletic players with solid games and good college production “safe” picks, while athletic guys who haven’t figured their game out are “risky.” If a guy with great athleticism can’t do the things he was able to do in college in the NBA, he can always find a way to adapt his athleticism and find a way to make himself effective-Josh Smith would be an example of this. But if the main thing a guy has going for him is that he’s overcome his lack of athleticism by calibrating his game perfectly to impose what skills he does have on the game, isn’t he pretty much S.O.L if those same strategies and tricks don’t work at the NBA level? Just one of those things. If Tyler Hansborough isn’t able to get to the line in the NBA, good luck fitting him into your rotation. But I digress.

On paper, Darnell Jackson should make an excellent role player, and at the end of the year did string some nice performances together and made his way onto the very end of the rotation. Darnell fits the Milsapian prototype of guys who turn into NBA rebounding machines-slightly undersized, low center of gravity, wide shoulders, zero flash, and an excellent college rebounding pedigree. But last season, his rebounding rate was an extremely pedestrian 12.0, and his 5.4 RPG in summer league isn’t thrilling either.

Defensively, Jackson is nearly immovable, has long arms, reasonably quick(although by no means fleet) feet, grit, and an NCAA championship pedigree. But in the NBA, he often looks simply lost on his rotations, and regularly gets beat one-on-one. Garbage minutes tweak +/- numbers quite a bit, but the Cavs were 14.4 points worse defensively per 100 possessions when Jackson was on the floor. That’s horrifyingly bad.

Darnell is tough inside, gets to the line a lot, and does throw down a full 10% of his shot attempts, but when he can’t get the dunk he struggles to finish inside, only converting 48% of his “close” shots while getting a full quarter of them blocked.

Jackson also has good form and great confidence in his 18-foot jumper, which would make him invaluable on the Cavs, as it would allow him to be paired with the shooting-adverse Shaq and Anderson Varejao. The only thing about Darnell’s jumper is that he rarely makes it: he’s a 34% shooter on jump shots, which would be the 3rd-worst mark on 2-point jumpers in the league if he qualified. In fact, Varejao, at 34.3%, performed exactly as well on jumpers as Jackson did.

So there you go. Jackson was never supposed to be a star or even a starter, and if he can find a way to be the type of player he was in college he’ll fill a lot of holes. With Joe Smith gone, apparently for good this time, and very little depth at the floor, it’s fairly clear that the Cavs would love to see Jackson blossom as a rotation player, especially since he’s a Mike Brown type of player. But as it stands now, coming off a dismal performance in his limited minutes last year and a summer league where he couldn’t crack 40%, Darnell Jackson still has a long way to go to fill the potential he showed as a “safe” pick.