With all the craziness taking place in the last five days, one guy has been overlooked by all of us – the guy that we actually drafted on Thursday night, Pierre Jackson.
The trade that brought Jrue Holiday to New Orleans also included the New Orleans Pelicans receiving the 42nd pick, which turned out to be Jackson. The 2014 1st rounder that New Orleans sent Philly was discussed more than a guy who was actually drafted for us, and we have no idea where that 2014 pick will be or even who it will be. That is unfair to Pierre Jackson, because he is a heck of a player. He is one of only two point guards in this draft that were both top five in overall scoring rate and assists per-40 minutes. The other? Trey Burke. And he is one of only two point guards in this draft that were in the top five in free throw attempts per 40 minutes and three-point attempts per 40 minutes. The other? CJ McCollum.
So, statistically, Pierre Jackson is on par with two guys at his position taken in the top ten, and one could argue that if he were two inches taller he would have been in consideration that high as well. Jackson stands just a shade over 5’10” with an average wingspan for his height and weighs in at 176 pounds. But when you look at his profile, those are the only numbers on it that are less than ideal. His senior season at Baylor was phenomenal, as he put up 19.8 points and 7.1 assists, with a True Shooting % of 57.4 and insane offensive rating of 117.5.
He also performed very well in the pre-draft process, as it was pretty much unanimous that he was the star at the Nets combine, which in addition to the athletic testing we see at the NBA combine, featured actual 5-on-5 games. Chad Ford, who was in attendence, wrote
Virtually every GM I spoke with thought he was the best player in attendance. Not only did he show off his elite quickness and athletic ability, but he also showed off his floor general skills.
I was impressed with his ability to run the pick-and-roll. His speed allowed him to fly by defenders (Kentucky’s Julius Mays was on him for most of the game), and he hit several big jumpers.
Oh, and he also registered a vertical leap of 42.5″, which would places him second among all prospects in this draft, behind Shane Larkin, but ahead of super athletes Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore.
Because of the height and the explosiveness, Jackson often gets compared to Nate Robinson, and while Jackson gets the similarities, he also sees a significant difference in their games. “The comparison is going to be there because we’re both explosive and can score the ball,” Jackson said in a recent interview. But I love to pass my teammates the ball. I really love getting teammates involved, and if I have to score I don’t have a problem scoring.
The stats back him up, as he was 1st in the Big XII, and 5th in the NCAA in assists this year, after finishing 1st and 9th in those categories a year ago. He is terrific in the open court and also excels in isolation situations where he can blow by his man and get it to the right guy based on the defense’s rotation. The one place that he struggles in when bigs hedge on pick and rolls, leaving him unable to find passing lanes. He sometimes forces the ball in those situations, which has led to a fairly high turnover rate, though it must be said that it was reduced drastically from his junior season.
As a scorer, Jackson does his damage in a variety of ways. As I stated earlier, he is equally adept and hitting from long distance and getting to the free throw line. Last season, Jackson led the Big XII in both free throws made and free throws attempted, while finishing 2nd in three-pointers made. He also gets to the rim quite a bit for a guy his size, taking 25% of his shots there (which is more than 3rd pick Otto Porter) while shooting 64% at the time (better than CJ McCollum, Trey Burke, and Michael Carter-Williams).
He created a lot of his own offense at Baylor, as just 38% of his made shots were assisted on. He got the majority of his looks coming off of pick and rolls, in isolation, or on the break where he was equally adept at being the ballhandler in that situation or running along the wing. When he does get offense created for him, however, he is fantastic at converting, as he was one of the most efficient players in this class in catch and shoot situations.
Where we start to get into the negatives regarding Jackson’s game, is on the defensive end, particularly on-ball defense. Off the ball, Jackson can be a nightmare for opponents, as he explosive speed and quick hands allow him to jump passing lanes and produce a respectable number of steals (1.5 per game). But according to DraftExpress
Jackson will simply fall asleep off the ball with alarming regularity. He also struggles to fight through screens, seemingly giving up very early in the process, resulting in a lot of unnecessary switches and defensive mismatches. Combine that with the disadvantage his height presents and the defensive side of the court is going to be a huge question mark decision makers have about his NBA prospects.
This won’t be as big of a problem if Jackson is coming off the bench, but it limits Jackson’s ceiling quite a bit, to that of a role player or fringe starter in the NBA. The guy I see a lot of when I watch him personally is former Hornet and Magic guard Darrell Armstrong, who actually did start for three seasons in the NBA, but did most of his damage off the bench, winning both Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Palyer in the 1998-99 season.
Armstrong was an explosive scorer and high energy guy off the bench, who also looked to find his teammates, averaging around 7 assists per 36 minutes in his prime. Like Jackson, Armstrong was also a high volume three-point shooter, as he finished in the top ten in three-point attempts in four different years, despite only getting around 30 minutes per game. Armstrong also had some issues with turnovers, and at a shade under 6 foot, he was a defensively liability at times. But Armstrong made up for it with high effort and focus, becoming an excellent off-ball defender who was great at jumping passing lanes and double teaming the low post. As a result, he was top-10 in four different years in steals per game.
If Jackson can get that focus on the defensive end, and play with the effort and intensity that Armstrong did on a nightly basis, the New Orleans Pelicans might have very easily have gotten the steal of the 2013 NBA draft.
Jackson on Draft Day (MUST WATCH)
Nets Combine Interview
Some Nasty Dunks