Justinian Jessup, Forward, Boise State
- 2019-2020 Season Stats: 36 minutes per game in 32 games played. 16 points on 42.6% shooting, 39.7% from beyond the arc, 95.9% free throw shooting. 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals per game.
- ADVANCED STATS STRENGTHS: Offensive win shares (3.4), Offensive Box +/- (5.4), 20.1 PER
- ADVANCED STATS WEAKNESSES: 12% assist percentage, 7.4% rebounding percentage
- BIG BOARD RANKINGS: ESPN (82), CBS (74)
- ACCOLADES: 2019-2020 All-Mountain West Conference 2nd Team, 2018-2019 All-Mountain West Conference 3rd Team
Justinian Jessup is a fringe NBA player at best at this stage of his career. Despite an impressive resume of games started at Boise State as a four-year starter and a large sample size of being a potentially elite three point shooter, he would almost certainly be G-League bound on some two-way contract. While Duncan Robinson has made his style of play that much more en vogue, struggling to show multiple skills at an elite level means Jessup is on the outside looking in of most big boards’ top-60 prospects.
Which is probably why he’s already taken matters in to his own hands.
Jessup has joined Australia’s NBL through the Next Star program. That essentially means that a team could draft Jessup as a “draft-and-stash” prospect while he plays the upcoming season in the Land Down Under. This provides Jessup an opportunity to play professionally against better competition while remaining draft eligible. It makes sense, given the questions surrounding his overall game.
There is one thing for sure that there are no questions about, however...
What he does well
He shoots the freaking leather off the ball.
Over four years Jessup made an obscene 325 three-point shots for Boise State, and especially in his last three years with the Broncos he showed a remarkable ability from beyond the arc. Jessup averaged roughly 219 threes per season over that stretch of time and made about 92 of them. Do the math, folks - that is a 42% from three mark across almost seven attempts a game! That is remarkable for a volume shooter - he knocks down threes at a rate that very few in college basketball can match. Combining that with his height (6’7”) makes him intriguing as a perimeter threat.
He also, while not the most fleet of foot (more on that in a moment), is incredibly durable. He played in at least 32 games across all four seasons with Boise, logging over 4,000 minutes played in a career that saw him become the ﬁrst player in Boise State history to record 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 steals and 50 blocks. So while he may not be able to make that level of impact professionally, sometimes the greatest ability is availability...and Justinian displayed that quite impressively.
What he can improve on
Outside of shooting? A decent amount.
If he had defensive versatility/foot speed, he wouldn’t be signing with the NBL months before a draft he decided to stay in. If he could create for others and himself off the dribble consistently he’d be a first round prospect. Much of the earlier statement regarding all-around production has more to do with that ability to stay on the floor than crashing the glass of being a pick pocket in passing lanes. Those counting stats matter, but they also don’t provide the complete picture. He isn’t able to influence momentum in a basketball game on a consistent basis beyond his shooting stroke.
Which makes the decision to go overseas pretty smart. It’s a chance for him to prove doubters like me wrong. If he can address some of these one-trick pony critiques and show growth - not domination, just growth - as a team defender and as a passer/facilitator of offense while maintaining that marksmanship from three, he will be in an NBA camp for the 2021-2022 season.
The question is whether he gets drafted in this year’s festivities so a team enjoys those spoils.
The fit and verdict
If only the Grizzlies had a pick in the late 50’s. While I wouldn’t take Jessup, I certainly wouldn’t fault Memphis for doing so. It’s not every day you can get access to an elite level shooter so late in drafts, and Justinian is just that from three - elite. But the questions (at best) and drastic holes (perhaps more realistic) in his game make it tough to justify bringing him in to the mix on a crowded roster.
In theory he makes a lot of sense on a two-way contract...but with the NBL signing it seems more likely that a team with multiple 2nd rounders draft and stashes Jessup and lets him show out on the other side of the world before coming home to take his shot in the NBA.
Memphis kicks the tires on a late 2nd rounder, but it’s not to acquire the rights of Jessup. He will go undrafted and perhaps get signed next offseason.