New Orleans Pelicans Trade Pierre Jackson for Russ Smith

Published: June 26, 2014

For months, we have known that Pierre Jackson would never play for the Pelicans. Dell Demps and Monty Williams had no interest in bringing him over least season when injuries decimated this roster, and Monty was not exactly praising him when Pierre came in to workout this past month. Now, one year after acquiring his rights from the Philadelphia 76ers, the Pelicans ironically sent him back to Philadelphia in exchange for Louisville PG Russ Smith.

Smith was a First Team AP All-American this past year for Louisville, averaging 18.2 points and 4.6 assists with 2 steals per game, as he shot 52% from two and 39% from three on 5 attempts per game. Gradually, he has improved his outside stroke while improving his court vision, and as a result he had an extremely productive season in his senior year. But Smith excels on the defensive end, and that is where he will make his mark early in his NBA career. His lateral quickness is exceptional, as are his instincts, and he is one of the toughest players for his size (or any size) that you will ever see.

He is in the mold of a Tyronn Lue or Patrick Beverely, but potentially with better offense. If you don’t look at this trade as Pierre for Smith, but rather just a choice of – Who would you rather have for this roster? – then Russ Smith is the no brainer pick. Both guys are slight of build, but Smith has NBA height and plays with more discipline on the offensive end and ten times the tenacity on the defensive end. Because of his weight (just over 160 pounds), he would likely struggle to defend some of the bigger point guards in the NBA, but for 10-12 minutes a night, he can be a hound on that side of the ball that will give backup guards nightmares.

Ironically, like Pierre, the narrative leading up to the draft was that if Smith was just a few inches taller, he could have been a high 1st round pick. But he is not. He is a player with a limited ceiling because of his size and that ceiling is as a tenacious backup PG who can get his teammates involved, attack the rim with reckless abandon, and get hot from three on occasion. Sounds perfect for what this team needs. And when you factor in that he is a 23 year old college senior, coming from a winning program, then you can see him in the rotation as early as next year. And that is probably more than you could have said for Pierre Jackson with this particular Pelicans team.

Other Notes

Russ Smith was first – Yes FIRST – in points per 40 minutes pace adjusted amongst all point guards drafted this year. And it was by a significant margin. First round picks Marcus Smart and Shabazz Napier finished 3rd and 4th, a full 3 points behind Smith.

Russ Smith was first – Yes FIRST – amongst all drafted PG’s this year in Three Pointers Attempted Per 40 pace adjusted and finished 2nd in TS%, just a touch behind Napier and 2nd in Steals per 40, just behind Marcus Smart. His 26.3 PER was behind only Marcus Smart’s 27.3 PER amongst the PG’s drafted in this class.

Russ Smith finished as Louisville’s All-Time Leader in steals and that is one of the biggest reasons he led the NCAA in transition opportunities created this past year. That is where Smith thrives, and he is absolutely fearless going to the hole, both in the open court and in half court.

A Statistical Model that shows Russ Smith as the 16th best prospect in this draft, right ahead of Noah Vonleh.

As a side note, make no mistake, another move is coming and it will likely see Austin Rivers heading out. He has to be moved to create the space to absorb Asik, and unless the Pelicans can find a deal for Gordon or get blown away on a deal featuring Ryno, then Rivers will be the guy. I don’t know if Russ Smith can be a 12-15 minute per game backup right away, but he can compete for the job and he might even win it. Again, that is something Pierre Jackson couldn’t have done when you consider what Monty is looking for.

Enjoy the DraftExpress Video and we will have more in the days to come. (Note: Video was made after his Junior season.  He took another stop senior year)


  1. Pingback: Russ Smith Draft Reaction From New Orleans & Across The Country | Louisville Sports Live - Your source for all University of Louisville sports talk all the time.

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