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Pierre Jackson's Rookie Season: Everywhere Except The NBA

Pierre Jackson had a huge opportunity ahead of him. After being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, the 5-foot-10 point guard was given a chance to receive his first NBA contract during the 2014 Orlando Summer League. With a good showing in the five-game event, Jackson would be able to impress the organization enough to earn the coveted prize of an NBA roster spot.

In Philadelphia’s opening game on July 5th, the 76ers faced the Orlando Magic. Jackson did not start and missed his first two shots when he entered during the middle of the first quarter. He started with a missed three-pointer from the left wing and then had a floater swatted out of bounds.

Jackson scored his first bucket at the 2:08 mark of the opening quarter on a fastbreak layup. Two possessions later, he hit a three from the right wing. On the next play, he converted a steal into fastbreak layup. He was starting to heat up.

But on the following possession, he went to receive a hand-off at the top of the key and pulled up hobbling, unable to put any sort of pressure on his right foot while hopping around on his left leg. He tried to limp off, but was in too much pain to stand. Play continued around him as he was on the ground wincing in pain. He had to be carried off the court while Jackson’s facial expression revealed that this was not some sort of twisted ankle.

It was soon discovered that Jackson ruptured his Achilles.

*****

Jackson grew up in Vegas, an area that isn’t known as a hotbed for NBA talent. He attended Desert Pines High School where he was a three-year letterman on the varsity basketball squad. Jackson rose onto the scene during his senior year, as he averaged 21.1 points per game and dished the most assists in the state of Nevada. He was named first-team all-state while Desert Pines finished the season 22-7. His high school career was so impressive that he had his No. 5 jersey retired in 2012.

“I tell a lot of people he is the best to come out of Vegas, and they just look at me like I’m crazy,” Jackson’s high school coach, Chancellor Davis, told Ray Brewer of the Las Vegas Sun in 2012. “I was saying that not just because I was his coach, but because I played against him every day in practice. If he was 6-2, he would have been the best recruit in the nation.”

Jackson didn’t qualify academically out of high school and attended the College of Southern Idaho for his next two seasons. In his sophomore year, he averaged 18.6 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. The explosive floor general was named the NJCAA Division I Player of the Year and led the Golden Eagles to a NJCAA National Championship.

After receiving scholarship offers from Baylor and Creighton, Jackson chose Scott Drew’s Baylor program in Waco, Texas.

“Jackson is big time,” Brad Winton of JucoRecruiting.com said in an article written by Clint Jackson of TarHeelIllustrated in 2011. “He’s definitely more of a scorer. Almost like a shooting guard type of player. He’s just so quick, 5-10 and about 175, so naturally there are questions about his size but he’s just such an explosive leaper and just blows by people with his quickness and change of direction. He can really get up and finish.”

As a junior, Jackson made an immediate impact for Baylor. He averaged 13.8 points and 5.9 assists per game as the Bears reached the Elite 8. In his following season, Jackson led the Big 12 conference in scoring (19.8) and assists (7.8) per game, becoming the first player to lead a power conference in both categories since Arizona’s Jason Terry back in the 1998-99 season.

Baylor missed the NCAA Tournament during Jackson’s senior season, but he still ended his collegiate career on a high note – winning the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) after scoring 17 points and dishing 10 assists in the title game. He earned MVP honors as Baylor defeated Iowa, 74-54.

Despite proving at every level that his size wasn’t an issue, the NBA evaluation process was a much different scenario. If drafted, Jackson would be facing grown men over a foot taller than him. Even the point guards he would need to guard were usually five inches taller.

Jackson measured at the NBA combine standing 5 feet, 10.5 inches with only a 5 foot, 10 inch wingspan. It was reported that Jackson had a 42-inch vertical leap at the Brooklyn Nets’ draft combine, but his lack of size and length was a major concern for NBA teams. His 3.4 turnovers per game also made organizations question his decision making as a point guard.

In an ideal scenario, Jackson could become a similar version of Nate Robinson, the 5-foot-9 athlete who was known as a streaky scoring threat as a point guard. Like Jackson, Robinson had out-of-this-world athleticism, shown in his three NBA slam-dunk contest titles. There were similarities, but a player under six-feet tall achieving NBA success was a rarity.

The Philadelphia 76ers selected Jackson with the 42nd overall pick in the NBA Draft; however, he was shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans as a part of the biggest trade that occurred in the 2013 draft. The Sixers decided to trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and Jackson to the Pelicans in return for rookie shot blocking center Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round pick.

Although the trade occurred on draft night, June 27th, it didn’t become official until July 12th. This became an issue because Jackson, like most rookies, was slated to compete in his first summer league in Las Vegas. The event ran from July 12th, the day the trade became official, until July 22nd. This meant that Jackson missed all of the pre-summer league practices and the first game of the tournament.

Missing a game in the NBA may not be a big deal, but for a rookie second round pick competing in a five-game event, there was now added pressure to perform.

Jackson finally made his professional debut in the Las Vegas Summer League on July 14th against the Milwaukee Bucks, but it certainly wasn’t the homecoming he was hoping for. He made only one of his seven field goal attempts and added a pair of free throws to score four points. He finished with three assists and three turnovers in 17 minutes.

The following game against Cleveland was forgettable as well. Jackson was 1-of-4 from the floor and finished with only two points. He added five turnovers compared to two assists in 12 minutes of action.

To make matters worse, Jackson came down with pinkeye during the middle of the week, forcing him to miss another game. With only one game remaining, Jackson decided to participate despite still having clear inflammation in his left eye.

In New Orleans’ final game of the Las Vegas Summer League, Jackson had five points on 2-of-3 shooting in 11 minutes along with a rebound, assist, steal, and two turnovers. It was his best showing of the week, but still didn’t salvage his previous two performances. He finished his first summer league with a Player Efficiency Ranking in the negatives.

On July 27th, only eight days after playing his last game in the 2013 NBA Las Vegas Summer League, Jackson signed with the French team ASVEL Villeurbanne, but never actually played a game overseas. He left the team in September, citing homesickness, and returned to the United States.

Jackson entered the NBA Developmental League draft and faced a peculiar predicament. Although his rights were still owned by New Orleans, he was eligible to be drafted by any D-League team because of the contract he signed in France.

The Idaho Stampede – affiliated with the Portland Trailblazers at the time –selected Jackson as the fourth overall pick and he returned to his normal form. In his season debut, Jackson had 29 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Idaho opened the season 8-0 as Jackson averaged 30.9 points, five assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game. He also had a pair of performances in the win streak where he eclipsed the 40-point mark.

Jackson continued to excel in the D-League. He was so quick with the ball in his hands that time seemed to freeze when he used a momentary hesitation move. When he was feeling it, Jackson scored in bunches. On February 4th, Jackson broke the D-League scoring record with 58 points on 24-of-33 shooting and a 7-of-13 display from three-point range. He had eight assists, six rebounds, and only two turnovers in the same game.

With the way Jackson was playing, it was shocking that the struggling Pelicans didn’t offer a 10-day contract to its budding minor league prospect. The 10-day contract, a common deal received by D-League prospects, gives an NBA organization a chance to evaluate a prospect within its own system. At the start of February, fifteen other D-League prospects were called up to play in the NBA, but Jackson remained in Idaho.

Jackson’s situation was much different than most of the D-League prospects. Unlike most D-Leaguers, who are free to sign with any NBA team, Jackson could only receive a call-up from the Pelicans because they still owned his draft rights. Despite his averages of 29.1 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game, Jackson was stuck in the D-League.

As the February 20th trade deadline approached, Jackson grew frustrated with his situation. He was the top prospect in the D-League and a call-up did not seem on the horizon. Jackson requested a trade, but the Pelicans didn’t make a deal as the deadline passed.

Later that day, Jackson signed a contract with Fenerbahçe Ülker in Turkey. He played in six games, averaging 4.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per contest in only 10.3 minutes of action. Jackson and the Turkish team parted ways on April 11th.

“I came into a team that was struggling, and I was a pretty hot topic in the states, but a role was never specifically given to me,” Jackson told Gino Pilato of DLeagueDigest.com. “I wasn’t able to showcase what I wanted to do. So, ultimately the team and I decided to part ways. It was still a good experience for me, I mean, I got to meet and work with the God of coaching (Zalijko Obradovic) over there.”

After quite an eventful rookie season, Jackson was still on New Orleans’ radar. General manager Dell Demps said in an article by John Reid of Nola.com after Jackson left Turkey, “He’s an interesting one. He played really good in the D-League. I think he was the leading scorer. We’ve followed him and been in contact with him. When we made the trade last year, we knew we were giving up our draft pick and we kind of looked at him as our draft pick for this year. So we have his draft rights and he’s going to be experienced, a little bit older. Can I promise Pierre Jackson is going to be on our team next year? I can’t say that right now. But he’s definitely an asset. I want to make sure I say that. He’s done everything and exceeded expectations.” 

Seen as an “asset” without a roster spot, Jackson needed to show that his previous summer league experience was a fluke. He was training with the New Orleans Pelicans preparing for the 2014 Las Vegas Summer League.

“I didn’t have a good summer last year, not being as healthy as I wanted to and the trade deadline and stuff like that,” Jackson said during New Orleans voluntary workouts in June. “So this summer’s big for me, big for my family, and I just want to make the best of it.”

But before Jackson could make another appearance in the Las Vegas Summer League, he was traded back to the 76ers on draft night. The Pelicans exchanged Jackson for Louisville point guard Russ Smith, another undersized yet ultra athletic floor general.

“I see myself as a spark,” Jackson said in a welcoming press conference to Philadelphia. “I like to play off the crowd and I always try to get the crowd involved. A team can always use energy. I want to be that burst of energy.”

While it was comforting that Philadelphia was willing to make a move for Jackson, he still had to prove himself in the Orlando Summer League. Philadelphia had Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams starting at point guard with Tony Wroten coming off the bench to play either guard spot, but the 76ers were definitely looking for another point guard to run the offense. Jackson was given the opportunity to be that guy.

*****

Jackson suffered the injury to his right Achilles and his career remained in limbo. Philadelphia would need to offer Jackson a contract to keep his draft rights, but as a borderline player who now suffered a crucial injury, an agreement seemed unlikely.

However, on July 24th, only 19 days after his injury, Jackson was offered a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $400,000. It was Jackson’s first NBA contract.

“Lost for words! Can’t even begin to describe the feeling I have right now just knowing that I’m actually wanted to be apart of something that can be so special in the near future!!” Jackson posted on Instagram. “Out of my many reasons to get back right and back to killing on the court this just added another HUGE reason! All I got are tears of joy smh!”

Not only will Jackson receive the NBA contract, Jake Fischer of Slam.com reported that Philadelphia will also cover his costs for surgery and rehab. While Jackson may not see the floor this season, his hard work has been rewarded while the 76ers invested their faith into his return.

With the rebuilding process underway, Philadelphia has a hungry point guard ready to prove himself upon his return. He’s undersized vertically, but compensates with an unmatched passion for the game. 

Follow @Cameron_Schott

NBA Mock Draft, Version 1.0

The problem with most mock drafts, especially early in the draft process, is the butterfly effect. If just one team in the lottery makes a surprise selection, it causes a chain reaction up and down the board that renders a lot of the previous speculation useless. At this point, I think it’s more useful to look at what each team in the lottery needs and what will be going into their decision-making process. With that in mind, here’s a quick sketch of one way it could go. 

1) Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid 

This is from David Griffin’s interview with ESPN last night - “I think we need to get a better fit for our roster. We’ve got an awful lot of talent and we just need to find the pieces that can serve as a conduit to make it gel.” That screams Embiid to me. When you have Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, the last thing you need is another perimeter player who needs the ball. That core needs interior defense and post scoring, which are Embiid’s two strengths.

2) Milwaukee Bucks - Jabari Parker

If Cleveland takes Embiid, some combination of Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum go in the next three picks. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them and when you have multiple elite prospects on the board, you have to look at how they fit with the players already on your roster. In other words, which one makes the most sense playing with Giannis Antetokounmpo? I want an explosive scorer who can stretch the floor next to him, which would be Parker. 

3) Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins

This would be a great fit for Wiggins, a guy who is more comfortable in transition than playing in the half court at this stage of his career. The one thing I wonder about with Wiggins and the 76ers is that he’s not the pick if you are going by advanced statistics. Here’s the PER of lottery picks from Kansas in the last two seasons - 28.2 (Embiid), 23.2 (Ben McLemore), 21.4 (Wiggins). He’s a guy you take based off the eye test and projecting future ability, not the data.

4) Orlando Magic - Dante Exum 

Orlando will be happy to take whoever falls to them, but Exum is the best fit with the players on their roster. At 6’6 195 with a 6’9 wingspan, he’s a big guard who can run point, which would allow him to cross-switch with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. Taking Exum would free up Oladipo to hound smaller guards on defense and hunt for his own shot on offense. In a best-case scenario, those two would become Orlando’s version of John Wall and Bradley Beal. 

5) Utah Jazz - Aaron Gordon 

If the draft plays out this way, Utah at No. 5 would be one of the big swing picks in the lottery, as they would have first choice on a run of power forwards. Most people have Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle rated ahead of Gordon, but if they take one of those guys, they would have to go back to the two-post system they went away from this season. Gordon is going to be an incredible pick-and-roll player and he would allow them to play 4-out with Derrick Favors at the 5. 

6) Boston Celtics - Noah Vonleh 

In this scenario, Boston would have their pick of two fairly similar PF’s in Vonleh and Randle, which could be one of the more interesting debates in this draft. If you are going with the stats and collegiate success, you have to look at Randle, who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting and lead Kentucky to the national title game. If you are looking at it from a tools perspective, Vonleh is the better outside shooter and he has much longer arms. 

7) Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle

I hate to say this about a guy from Dallas, but Randle is the guy I would not want in the Top 7-8 picks. He will put up a lot of stats, but he doesn’t project as a great shooter or a great defensive player and I want my PF to do one of those two things. Given the amount of shots and minutes that could be up for grabs in the Lakers frontcourt, Randle would have a real shot at Rookie of the Year, but I don’t think his ceiling is as high as a lot of these other guys. 

8) Sacramento Kings - Marcus Smart 

Smart is one of the wild cards in the lottery - there’s a pretty high range of where he could go. It’s hard to see him sneaking into the Top 5 and if he doesn’t go to either the Lakers the Kings, the teams picking after them don’t really need a PG. Smart offers a lot of line-up versatility, as he can play as a SG next to Isaiah Thomas or a PG next to Ben McLemore, but the Kings are an interior defender away from being a solid team, so I wonder if they would reach here. 

9) Charlotte Hornets - Nik Stauskas 

This seems like the first spot where Doug McDermott could come off the board. Charlotte desperately needs outside shooting and they have the personnel to hide McDermott on defense. However, if they are committed to Cody Zeller at the 4 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the 3, Stauskas would be the more logical pick. He’s just as good a shooter as McDermott and he’s a much better passer who has the ability to run the pick-and-roll and create shots for others.

10) Philadelphia 76ers - Doug McDermott 

Philadelphia could go in a number of different directions, depending on who they take at No. 3. McDermott, for example, would make a lot more sense next to Wiggins than Parker. Wiggins can defend multiple positions and McDermott can’t defend any while McDermott’s shooting ability would open up the floor for Wiggins and Carter-Williams to attack the rim. I prefer players with more two-way ability, but he could score a lot of points walking into transition 3’s in Philly.

11) Denver Nuggets - Jusuf Nurkic 

If Brian Shaw wants to run more offense out of the low post, Nurkic makes a lot of sense. At 6’11 280 with a 7’2 wingspan, Nurkic is a 19-year old who is already big enough to score over most NBA centers. He comes into the league with a pretty solid post game and he moves well for a player with his mammoth size. He’s not getting up and down the court particularly fast, so taking him would represent a complete turning of the page from George Karl’s small ball style.

12) Orlando Magic - Adreian Payne 

If the Magic go with a perimeter player at No. 4, they will probably want to look at a front-court player at No. 12. Nik Vucevic is entrenched at center, but he isn’t much of a shot-blocker, so that’s a huge need in terms of how they are going to build their roster. I’m surprised at how far Payne is sliding in some of these mocks. He is a legitimate stretch 4 with elite athletic ability who has the ability to play interior defense and rebound - that’s exactly what Orlando needs.

13) Minnesota Timberwolves - Gary Harris 

Minnesota was a perfect example of the problems with fielding a line-up of one-way players. Nik Pekovic, Kevin Love and Kevin Martin are all poor defenders, while Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer are both poor outside shooters. The result was a group that was worse than the sum of its parts. Harris doesn’t have the upside of a guy like LaVine, but he’s a safer pick who will instantly make the Wolves a better team on both sides of the ball. 

14) Phoenix Suns - Zach LaVine

I’m going to put the Suns as the floor for LaVine. They have three first-round picks in this draft, so they will be willing to roll the dice on a guy with as much pure ability as anyone on the board. He didn’t do much in his one season at UCLA, but he’s a 6’5 180 with a 6’8 wingspan, he can jump out of the gym, he has unlimited range on his jumper and he can handle the ball like a PG. LaVine has a chance to be a special player in the type of uptempo system the Suns run.

76ers Promising Rookies Playing Time, Big Market

The Philadelphia 76ers came out of Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery with the third and tenth overall pick in next month's draft.

Philadelphia had the second-worst record during the regular season, giving them a 19.9% chance at the top pick. Among the top four picks, they had the lowest chance of landing third (17.1%).

"We have a lot to be hopeful for with two top-ten picks in a draft like this, which is something a lot of teams would give a lot for," Sam Hinkie said moments after the order was revealed. "We're excited. There is a lot of work to be done in the weeks ahead, but we are looking forward to it."

The tenth pick was owned by the New Orleans Pelicans, but was sent to the 76ers as part of the Jrue Holiday trade.

"Depending on who you might have asked today, they might have said they were more nervous about the picks at the back half of the lottery and how that might go," Hinkie said in reference to the New Orleans pick. "We are pleased to have ended up where we did."

Despite not reaching the ultimate goal of landing the first overall pick, Philadelphia will still have the chance to pick Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid -- whoever is still available.

"There's a lot of work to be done. I think some of those players will come in and have physicals. Some will come in and meet with various teams. All the agents make decisions on how they want to do that, how they want to handle that," Hinkie added.

"I suspect, from our discussions thus far, that most of the top players find Philadelphia a really attractive place. They want to be in a place where they'll have opportunity, they want to be in a big market and they recognize what a big platform it is to play in Philadelphia. They also want to get better and they realize with our coaching staff and roster, you can come and play and get better."

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The Case For Michael Carter-Williams As Fringe All-Star

Michael Carter-Williams should at the very least be considered for a reserve spot in a conference that really lacks a dominant lead guard. Brett Brown and the 76ers are very high on MCW, but hadn't really thought about the strength of his candidacy when asked.

Michael Carter-Williams' Fresh NBA Stardom Reminds Philadelphia Of Iverson

Michael Carter-Williams will never score with the frequency Allen Iverson did over an entire career, nor become the unique cultural icon, but he’s already shown Philadelphia flashes of the level of talent that made A.I. a legend there and the mental makeup to go with it. Now, he’s hearing about it, too.

76ers Veterans Should Keep A Bag Packed

Based on the track record of Sam Hinkie’s moves as general manager of the 76ers thus far, it is safe to assume that only two players on this roster are untouchable: Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, meaning Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes could be on the move.

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30-Team Offseason Rundown

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Michael Carter-Williams has had some intriguing stat-lines during his initial Summer League games. Here we breakdown the tape on his tendencies and what he will need to improve upon to reach his NBA potential.

2013 NBA Offseason Primer

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