ESPN: Jaren Jackson Jr. No. 16, Caris LeVert, Kyle Kuzma No. 21 among NBA players under 25
Jaren Jackson Jr.'s rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies has hit a pothole with a deep thigh bruise that has kept him out of action since late last week.
And, while the injury could cast a cloud on the remainder of his season, the former Michigan State standout's future in the league is undeniably bright.
Jackson is ranked No. 16 on ESPN's list of top 25 NBA players under the age of 25, published Tuesday.
No Pistons made the list, with is based on "future potential," but Jackson leads a trio of NBA players with state of Michigan ties in the rankings. Nets guard and former Michigan star Caris LeVert and Flint native Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers are tied at No. 21.
Jackson, who played one season at Michigan State before the Grizzlies selected him No. 4 overall in last June's NBA draft, is averaging 13.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks as a 19-year-old. The 6-foot-11 forward also is knocking down almost 36 percent of his 3-point attempts.
"He arguably has — and often shows — more defensive potential than any other player from this most recent draft," wrote Chris Herring, one of three ESPN writers who compiled the rankings. "He can stay with ball handlers and more than holds his own at the rim. But he can score, too. And he'll be a legitimate problem for the league if he ends up being anywhere near a 40 percent shooter from deep."
LeVert's season appeared to be over after suffering what appeared to be a gruesome leg injury in Brookyln's Nov. 12 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, LeVert returned Feb. 8 from what was diagnosed as a dislocated foot and has scored in double figures in four of six games since.
LeVert is averaging 16 points, four rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals in 20 games this season — his third after the Indiana Pacers drafted him No. 20 overall in 2016.
" ... The 6-foot-7 wing has shown the ability to potentially average 20-5-5 in extended minutes, all while playing above-average D," Herring writes. "It just may take him time to shake off rust (after the injury) — or an opportunity to showcase his ability without having to split the ballhandling responsibilities with such capable players in (D'Angelo) Russell and (former Piston) Spencer Dinwiddie."
Kuzma, in his second season out of Utah, is averaging 19.1 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the floor. The 23-year-old, who spent part of his prep career at Burton Bentley, moved up after was tied for No. 23 on this list in 2018, but ESPN's Bobby Marks writes "if we are judging Kuzma solely on analystics and not the eye test, the forward would not be in this list.
"He ranks No. 36 among power forwards in RPM (real plus-minus) (minus-0.12) and has seen his 3-point shooting take a dip this season (from 36.6 to 31.8 percent)."
Marks writes some of that can be blamed on the Lakers' point guard situation, in which both Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo have missed time with injuries.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo leads ESPN's list.