After several weeks of speculation, Pierre Jackson has finally confirmed that he will be heading to France next season to play porfessionally next season.
Now, that we have confirmation, let’s take a look at how this will effect both Jackson and the New Orleans Pelicans moving forward.
With the Pelicans already over the salary cap, this decision doesn’t really do much for their flexibility. They still have the room exception that they reportedly offered to Greg Oden, and they can use that or a minimum exception to add players. The Pelicans retain the rights to Pierre Jackson, giving them the ability to bring him over in future seasons or to trade his rights in future deals. Usually, these contracts are structured so that a player can leave his foreign team with no buyout obligation once their season is completed in April or May. So, Jackson will likely play for the Pelicans in Summer League next year and the team will be able to decide after that whether they would like to add Jackson to the roster for the following season. He also is a solid trade chip, since a team can get an asset in Jackson, but won’t have to add any salary on their books if they acquire him.
As of right now, the Pelicans have 13 guaranteed contracts on their books. The Pelicans are rumored to be close to bringing Lance Thomas back, leaving them one spot available if they choose to use it. With Jackson gone, the Pelicans now have six players who have primarily played guard over the course of their NBA careers, but it can be argued that Jrue Holiday is their only true point guard, so it would not be unreasonable to think that they could add another point guard to fill out the roster, though center or small forward would be far more likely if they were to make another move.
The League He Will Be Playing In and The Team He Will Be Playing For
Pierre Jackson will be playing in the LNB Pro A league next season. This is the top professional league in France and he will be playing for ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne. ASVEL is the league’s all-time leader in championships, with 17, but they haven’t won one since 2009. Last year, they made it to the semi-finals, led by French MVP Edwin Jackson and Rising Star Award winner Livio Jean-Charles.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about ASVEL is that their Vice President is Tony Parker. Yes, that Tony Parker. In 2009, Parker bought a 20 percent stake in the team and he has an option to purchase another 20 percent when he retires from the NBA. That option also allows him to become the club’s President.
As for the league itself, it had several familiar faces last season, including Summer League fan favorite Jon Brockman. Brockman led the league in rebounding, while former NBA lottery pick Sean May led the league in scoring. First round pick Rudy Gobert led the league in blocks, while ex-OSU star David Lighty was the Finals MVP.
With a player like Jackson, the question is: What will be better for his development; Europe or the NBDL? There are arguments for both sides, but with the Pelicans not having their own NBDL affiliate, I tend to lean towards Europe. The Pelicans share their D-League affiliate with three other teams. These teams send players down, call them back up, send them down, etc. This creates a lack of stability with the roster, the offensive and defensive sets, etc. Essentially, it becomes a pick-up team with players rotating in and out. Last season, for example, 21 guys played for the Iowa Energy last year and since teams all want to see the guys they send get minutes, 18 of them averaged at least 17 minutes per game.
In the French League, the best guy plays and winning is the only goal. The two leagues stretch over a similar period of time, with the NBDL having more games and the European League having more practices. Jackson will get the structure that his game needs in Europe, as he continues to work on becoming a point guard who can efficiently run a second unit in the NBA. If he shows that he can cut down on the turnovers and increase his focus on the defensive end, Pierre Jackson might be ready to take on the New Orleans Pelicans backup point guard position by 2014.