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Jett Howard: Top 5 in his class
Albert Ghim is back with a breakdown of Jett Howard's game and why he believes Howard is one of the top 5 prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft class.
Jett Howard is my favorite type of prospect.
Growing up Korean-American, a child of divorce, who had trouble staying in school, playing high school basketball was always an unattainable dream. Not only did I lack the skills and athleticism required to play at a top-tier level, but I also didn’t have the attendance or grades to even pursue that dream. The only place I really got to play organized basketball was in church. In the Korean-American community, I’m considered tall for someone who stands at 6’2”. Due to my being considered tall, I always had to play center or power forward for church teams growing up. As fun as it was to spend hours boxing out, working on drop-steps and hook shots, my soul always wanted to be a guard. I just wanted to handle the ball, throw slick passes, and play like the guard I was always meant to be. Due to the conundrum I was in, I always appreciated players like Lamar Odom, Anthony Mason, Detlef Shrempf, and Chris Webber. I just loved bigger guys who were extremely skilled and had the abilities of guys that were much smaller.
Jett Howard is my guy for the 2023 draft class. Now, Jett Howard isn’t being marketed by anyone as a big guy who’ll be expected to do much with his back to the basket. According to Michigan’s team site, Howard is listed as 6’8”, but for whatever reason, he looks gigantic to me on the court. I don’t know if it’s because he has long legs or because of his posture; he seems bigger than 6’8” to me. The thing that I love about his game is the fact that he looks gigantic; he also has a quick release on an awesome jumper, and he is even growing as a ball handler and a playmaker. Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I want it to be known that I have Jett Howard at five on my latest big board, and I have no intentions of moving him outside of the Top 5 for the rest of the season. I love his game, size, and skills, and I will tell you why I think he’s one of the five best players in this class.
Jett Howard is currently shooting 40.2% from three on just under seven attempts per game. That’s awesome volume and an awesome percentage. According to Barttorvik, he’s currently being assisted on 72.3% of his attempts which tells you all you need to know about how he’s getting his threes up there. Now, although a vast majority of his threes are coming off the catch, he’s truly grown into his off-the-dribble shooting abilities throughout the season. If Howard were just a catch-and-shoot guy, I wouldn’t be freaking out the way I am. The reason why I’m so intrigued by him as a shooter is because of the growth he’s shown over the course of the 17 games he’s played this season. When evaluating prospects, I have to always remind myself that we’re making judgments on a tiny sample size. In the case of Howard, the immense growth he’s shown in such a small sample size is why I can’t help but be amazed and wonder how good he’ll be when he’s 25. Let’s go to the tape and see why I’m freaking out.
The first thing that I have to mention after watching that compilation I posted above: Jett Howard is not shy. The truth is, I really like how Jett Howard walked into his freshman season knowing he wasn’t the big man on campus and was still completely unafraid to let it fly and play his brand of basketball. Michigan this season had Hunter Dickinson coming back, and it was a secret to nobody that he would be the offense’s focal point. In my opinion, the reason why Howard has fit in so seamlessly is that the role that he’s been asked to fill is precisely what Dickinson needed. If you watch the Michigan offense, they love getting the ball to Dickinson in the post or mid-post. As good as Dickinson has been on the offensive side of the ball, he’s not prime Shaq, and they can’t just throw him the ball on the block every other possession and let him go to work. I’ve really enjoyed how Michigan has used Howard in various sets to get him easy looks or get him going downhill to create for himself or his teammates. Whether it’s out of the pistol, off pin-downs, or stagger screens, I love when Howard has the ball going somewhere. I think it’s great that his dad has supreme confidence in him, but once again, it’s not easy to walk in as a freshman and just start shooting from the hip.
If we get into the mechanics of his shot, we have to mention the lightning-quick release. I love how he can get it off so quickly and get it off without having his feet perfectly set every time. Now I wouldn’t say he has a perfect jump shot; I think he can be a little wild sometimes with his feet, so his balance can be a little all over the place, but overall there’s so much to like with the shot. I love that he has ridiculously deep range, and I’ve also enjoyed his pull-up jumper from the mid-range. To be as tall as he is and to have the dexterity to get your shot off after moving full speed as he does is not an easy task. Not only can he stop on a dime to get his shot off, but he also has a high enough release to pair with the lightning-fast shot that makes it hard to stop him. The fact that he can get his shot off against almost anyone and can do it from three and the mid-range makes him a dynamic shooter and lays an incredible foundation for him as an offensive player on the next level. Even if he doesn’t progress in any other aspect of his game, the fact that he has the outside and mid-range shot in his arsenal means he’s got a great floor to start.
Let’s get into the other wrinkles of his game that have me thinking spicy thoughts about his outlook.
Heading into the 2021 NBA Draft, my DraftDaq NBA Podcast co-host Corey Tulaba and I were big fans of Franz Wagner. We both believed he would be a solid shooter, defender, and rock-solid connecting piece for a good team one day. As much as we loved his game, I don’t think either of us saw him being as good as he’s been early in his career. I don’t think either of us saw him handling the ball and making decisions as much as he has. Watching Franz make decisions and be one of the primary creators of the Orlando Magic has been beautiful to see, but I would never lie and say that I saw all of this coming. I bring up Franz and his pre-draft evaluation because as much as we may think we know and love a player, so many different variables play a part in a player’s development. The old saying that growth is not linear is something I really vibe with and feel in my bones.
Jett Howard is starting to show signs of someone who will look and be so much better than what we may envision him to be on the next level. I’m sure many out there are big believers in his movement shooting, size, and ability to one day be a supporting player next to a superstar. The point that I’m ultimately trying to make with my piece is that we may be looking at a future superstar in the making, and I want to make the case now, so we don’t see it as a surprise when Jett Howard is one day starring on the NBA level. One of the main reasons I’m starting to believe in Howard’s superstar potential is his vision as a passer.
Let me preface this whole next section by saying I don’t believe Jett Howard is the next Luka Doncic or Cade Cunningham; what I am saying is that Howard is a much better passer than he’s getting credit for, and I think he has more than enough vision to be a really strong secondary and in a pinch, primary creator some day. If you watch the video I posted below, you’ll see that Howard is making high-level reads as a freshman.
As I mentioned before, when discussing his shooting, Michigan runs a good number of sets to get the ball in Howard’s hands. I’ve particularly enjoyed some of the pistol sets they’ve run for Howard to get the ball at the wing, pick and roll, pick and pop with Hunter Dickinson, or get downhill toward the basket. When running ball screen action with Dickinson, some of the offensive versatility of Dickinson has enabled Howard to show off an excellent range of passes and timing. Because of Dickinson’s ability to also pop off the screen, we’ve seen Howard either make nice pocket passes to Dickinson on the roll or even some nice hook passes to Dickinson behind the arc off the pop. As much as I want to credit Howard and his ability to make the passes, I also want to give kudos to Dickinson for being a versatile offensive player and adding different wrinkles for the defense to consider, which also make Howard’s life easier as a passer. Overall, Howard and Dickinson are good at the two-man game and generate a good amount of offense for each other.
It’s also important to note that Howard has a tight handle for a guy his size. Howard will never be mistaken for Rod Strickland or Chris Paul, but he’s got some natural shake and can put some combo moves together to get by his man. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with his ability to split the pick and roll when defenses hard hedge or double off-ball screens. He may not be Dwyane Wade splitting the doubles, but he does look pretty damn good for a big guy navigating tight spaces. I think he’s also got some good flexibility to him as well when he handles the ball, and that’s not something you see all the time with someone as big as him.
In the video above, I also put in some highlights of the savvy and selflessness in Howard’s game as well. As much as Howard loves to get his shot off, he’s also very clearly a smart player that is willing and able to make the right reads and make the right passes off of what the defense is giving him. I particularly love some of the passes he makes off the gravity of his jump shot. There are a couple of clips of the ball getting to him on the weak side and one or two weakside defenders close hard on him to prevent the shot. Howard could have easily put up the shot with his confidence, but I love that he was willing to make the extra pass to his teammate to get a better look. Now what I’m describing to you is not rocket science, but as my co-host Corey Tulaba would say, that’s good process. Elite offensive players with deadly jump shots understand the gravity of their jumpers and make good decisions off said gravity. Howard is one of those guys.
The last aspect of his passing that’s impressed me a ton is his decision-making when attacking the rim. This is one area of his passing where I believe he’s had some really nice highs and is still growing. If you watch some of the clips above, you’ll see Howard make some dazzling passes to the weakside corner, strong side corner, weakside wing, little dump-off passes to a rolling big—all kinds of pretty stuff. I love his ability to see and execute those passes. The only gripe I have with him is that there are times when I wish he’d take the ball up himself for a tough layup once in a while. I don’t think Howard is a bad finisher around the rim; he has decent touch. The only issue is that sometimes I wish he’d take and embrace contact a little bit more to get himself either a tough layup and the foul or just straight free throws.
If you watch the video of his drives that I compiled, you’ll see that he has nice touch on his floater and can finish pretty well around the cup; the only thing you really don’t see him do is finish through contact more. I think he lacks some upper-body strength right now, but that’s nothing that NBA conditioning can’t fix. Howard is currently shooting 78.3% on 3.2 FTA per game, which is a number that I believe needs to be much higher for him to be an elite-level scorer. As much as I love that he’s able to make some dazzling passes while on the move and going downhill, there are many times when I wished he’d just gone up strong himself. If he could average closer to six or seven FTAs per game, he’d very easily be sitting a little closer to 20 points per game right now.
As much as I love Howard as a passer, I’m not trying to say he’s someone I believe will ever average ten assists per game in the NBA. What I do think is that he could average five assists or more per game, and it wouldn’t shock me at all. I firmly believe Howard has that kind of vision and ability.
Areas of Improvement:
Jett Howard is not a perfect player; that’s pretty damn obvious. The biggest area of improvement in his game has to come on the defensive side of the ball. Let’s start with the good; I actually think Howard cares and tries pretty damn hard. He doesn’t have the lightest feet in the world, but he fights hard to stay in front of guys and has a natural desire to try on the defensive side of the ball. As much as he tries hard, some flaws must be worked out. One of the biggest things I noticed on tape is Howard is a serial victim of the head fake. That man loves to fall for a good head fake, and I know it’s something the coaching staff at Michigan are probably trying to fix as we speak. I don’t think there’s ever been a head fake in Howard’s life that he hasn’t fallen for. Of course, that’s a joke, but he has been a victim to many of them this season.
Another area that I think needs some major work is communication and focus off the ball. There have been moments where he’s failed to call out switches or vocally ask for help, leading to some wide-open looks for the other team. Like the issue before, this isn’t something that can’t be taught and worked on. It’s just something he needs to figure out because there aren’t many NBA coaches that’ll be willing to turn a blind eye to that kind of stuff.
Staying on that side of the ball, Howard doesn’t rebound much. Averaging 2.8 TRB per game will not cut it at all. Through 17 games, he’s only had two games where he grabbed more than five rebounds. Not great. Maybe it runs in the family; his dad was a big dude as well, and he never averaged more than 8.4 rebounds per game in his career, which was in his rookie season. If Howard could eventually grab around six to eight rebounds per game one day, that would be fine. I don’t need him to be a beast on the boards, but I do need him to do better than two rebounds per game. Don’t think I’m asking for too much here.
His final area for improvement is strength. Something that I mentioned when talking about his finishing around the rim was his strength and his overall physique. Standing at 6’8” with good length, I wonder what the optimal physique would be for Howard to reach his final form. He could bulk up and become more of a four that has some skill to him, or he can get a little bit more slender and straight up become a wing. Ultimately I don’t know the answer, and I don’t think it matters too much. No one knows how his body will fill out as he gets older, but he looks to have a decent frame, has good genes, and has a good set of shoulders on him. I wouldn’t say he has the Jayson Tatum boulder shoulders, but he could get there one day.
I know I am a weirdo with my 90s player comps; I will not deny this. I love comparing prospects to guys I grew up watching during my formative years. At the top, I mentioned some guys I admired as a kid. Like my co-host Corey Tulaba loves to do with the prospect chemistry stuff, I like to think of Howard as a mix of Detlef Schrempf and Rashard Lewis.
Obviously, if you go back and watch the tape of Schrempf and Lewis, the comp may not make a ton of sense, but we have to account for the fact that basketball has changed a ton and the way they played back in the 90s and even 2000s is nothing like what we are seeing now. The reason why I chose these two guys, though, is because of their size, skill, and shooting combination they had. Schrempf is a player that I loved watching play as a kid; there was always something so weird and jarring about the way he played. Like Howard, the first thing I would always notice about Schrempf was his sheer size and how he moved around the court at that size. Schrempf was a legit 6’10” guy with all the guard and wing skills you could want. I wasn’t old enough to see his awesome years in Indiana, but I vividly remember him during his Seattle years. Schrempf had such a beautiful-looking jumper but matched it with great touch and vision as a passer. Just imagine if Schrempf took that beautiful jumper out to three more often, and he played in all the pace and space of the modern NBA. I think Schrempf would have easily been averaging over 20 PPG for his career. Go back and look at some of the awesome seasons he put together while taking set shots from 18 feet all day.
Rashard is another guy that came to mind for many of the same reasons. Lewis wasn’t as good of a passer, but he was another guy I think would have put up way more threes in the modern game and benefitted big time. Lewis was also a jumbo wing with a lightning-quick release on his jumper and could also dominate a game from the midrange. The big thing with both guys was that they were strong complementary players who could shine independently when needed.
I think Jett Howard can be whatever the hell he wants to be. He has all the tools to become a star one day on the next level. The blend of skills, size, and pedigree point to his floor being an incredible complementary piece and a ceiling of a guy making a couple of All-NBA teams one day. I believe in his game, and I believe in his mentality.
Buy Jett Howard stock NOW.