But his spotty defensive effort shines as the biggest area he must upgrade. And, according to Jackson, it’s not a physical issue, but rather a focus problem.
“It’s more mental than anything,” Jackson said. “When I lock in, I can pick up anybody for 94 feet. It’s not a problem. Just the mental task of doing it. Pushing myself beyond the limit. Knowing I can do it on both ends of the floor, each and every night.”
Jackson’s poor closeouts, in particular, plagued the Thunder. Multiple times in the Spurs series, a lane opened for the attacking Manu Ginobili because Jackson either closed out lazily or overcommitted to a shot and left himself vulnerable.
“Especially when I feel a little fatigued,” Jackson said of his closeout problems. “Too many guys are blowing by me. I was kind of a detriment at times with that. I know the team relies on me to lock in on whoever’s in front of me and get a stop.”
Jackson’s unique offensive ability — he’s an improving outside shooter and, percentage-wise, one of the league’s best finishers — makes him impossible to keep off the court. So starter or not, he’ll average nearly 30 minutes next season, meaning his defensive improvements will directly result in team-wide defensive improvements.
Or a lack of growth could hold the Thunder back.
It’s up to Jackson during an offseason that carries great importance for the now-established 24-year-old.