Pelicans Stick to New Philosophy; Draft Frank Jackson

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Published: June 23, 2017

While Dell Demps is in office, you might never see a first round pick taken by the Pelicans again. Or, if you do see one, he will be traded early in his career for someone who can help win now. But Dell Demps has found a way to get first round talent, without using a first round pick. He simply takes them in the second round, a year too early — or perhaps, a year too late.

For the second year in a row, Demps traded to the top of the second round and drafted a redshirt who has first round pedigree and talent. Last year, it was Diallo, who was a top-ten pick in almost every mock draft before his freshman season started. This year, he did the same with another heralded prospect in Frank Jackson.

Coming out of High School in 2016, Jackson was the 4th best point guard in his class and the 13th best prospect in the country, according to 247 Sports. He was a guy that was projected as high as 13 in some pre-season mock drafts, and was even thought of as a first round pick this April until a minor foot surgery took him out of the pre-draft process.

Like Diallo, he was a guy who got surpassed by other players during the year because his role on his college team was not ideal. But Dell Demps liked the kid and saw a chance to get another first round talent in the second round, so he struck. The Hornets had no interest in acquiring two second round picks, so Dell found a way to make it happen anyway, by sending pick 40 and cash for the 31st pick, and then recouping some (or all)  of that cash back by selling pick 52.

But who is Frank Jackson, and why is it said that he has first round talent? Well, first and foremost, he is a knockdown shooter with a nice looking stroke. He keeps his elbow in and extends through almost every time. He never seems rushed, no matter the defense or the situation. He is also incredibly explosive, registering the fasting shuttle time, second highest vertical and fifth fastest 3/4 court time at combine testing. These markers, along with wingspan (which is above average) are indicators of defensive potential, and Jackson has that in spades.

But defense is going to take a couple of years, even if he has the athletic markers. Offensively, Jackson is a combo guard and can succeed in the league if he stays in that role. He doesn’t see the floor like a true point guard, but he can drive and kick as a secondary handler if needed. But what Jackson can do is get to the rim and finish, with power or finesse.

Offensively, if he can play mostly off ball, he can become a dangerous weapon. He should develop into an above average to well above average three-point shooter. How good he becomes on offense all comes down to how tight his handle becomes as he gets older. If his handle can match his speed and athleticism, he will be a hard guy to stop because you have to respect his shooting. I think that if you are being incredibly optimistic, the potential is there to be the good version of Reggie Jackson. His most likely outcome is probably someone like Jordan Clarkson, and his worst case scenario is that he becomes a Jerian Grant.

If Gentry and Finch stay with this team and Cousins re-signs, the pick could pay off big 2-3 years from now, as Jackson fits the profile of the off-the-ball point guard the Pelicans would love to have, playing off Boogie and AD. But what if the offensive system has changed, and/or Boogie is gone but he time Jackson is ready to emerge? What if the next staff changes his areas of development, or doesn’t use him in the way Dell intended when he took him? We might see great talent wasted.

And here in lies the issue with a staff on the hot seat taking a player that is still 2-3 years away. They have every intention of putting him through a program so he can come out the other side ready to contribute in a few years. But that all hinges on the system being the same in three years as it is today. And the odds of that seem fairly slim from where we are sitting today. But, if Cousins and Fitch are still New Orleans Pelicans during the 2019-2020 season, we might look back and say Frank Jackson was the steal of the 2017 draft.

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