Pierre Jackson has tremendous upside.
After Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel fell to the Pelicans at No. 6, New Orleans promptly shipped him to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal that will bring point guard Jrue Holiday to the Big Easy.
In that same trade, the Pelicans—who were without a second-round pick when the night began—obtained the rights to the No. 42 pick. The 76ers selected Jackson, the 5'10" point guard out of Baylor, who won’t officially become a member of the Pelicans until July 11.
As the roster now stands, the New Orleans backcourt is overly crowded. Holiday, Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts and Jackson will all be vying for playing time. However, there is a long offseason ahead, and the backcourt is almost guaranteed to be tweaked by the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
Jackson, who has been dealing with adversity his entire life, must clear a few more hurdles in order to make the roster.
He has the confidence to succeed. In an interview with Darrell Williams of The Advocate, Jackson said:
I’ve had a bunch of road blocks in my way, and I ended up getting past all that and being successful. People said I wouldn’t last a semester in junior college. Then they said I wouldn’t get a scholarship to a (Division I) college. They said I wasn’t going to the NBA, but I heard my name called (Thursday) night.
Second-round picks have no guaranteed money, which makes the summer league that much more important for Jackson. At 5’10”, he is a bit undersized for the NBA, but his quickness and athleticism could make him a valuable asset in the Pelicans rotation.
What Jackson lacks in size, he makes up for in heart and hustle. He is an explosive point guard who utilizes his speed to get to the rim while possessing the ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court.
Whether off the dribble or in a catch-and-shoot situation, Jackson’s jump shot is dangerous. He converts from long range, mid-range and at the rim.
The 21-year-old had a true shooting percentage of 57.4 in 2012-13 and made 35.9 percent of his shots beyond the arc.
The energetic Jackson led a star-studded Big 12 in scoring (19.8) and assists (7.1), becoming the first BCS conference player to lead his league in both categories since Arizona’s Jason Terry (Pac-10) in 1998-99, per Darrell Williams.
He is shifty and maneuvers his way in and out of the lane. That causes the defense to collapse, and Jackson uses his court vision to find an open man.
He racked up more than five assists in 19 of the team’s 32 regular-season games. Baylor won the NIT in large part due to the performances of Jackson. He averaged 11 assists in the tournament—including a 16-assist effort against Arizona State in the second round—on his way to MVP honors.
Offense is where Jackson will thrive.
His overall defense isn’t necessarily a weakness, but the size disadvantage in the NBA could cause some initial problems. ESPN’s Chad Ford (subscription required) analyzes Jackson as a pesky defender.
He gets in the face of the opponent and doesn’t give them much room to breathe.
Having guarded opponents taller than himself throughout his career, Jackson is used to being undersized on that end of the floor. He told Williams of The Advocate:
"I’m quick, and I have quick hands as well. Bigger guys don’t like me guarding them. I get under their skin, make ’em turn a lot, make ’em do what they don’t want to do."
Still, he must devote the necessary gym time in order to maximize his defensive abilities in the NBA. He has tremendous lateral quickness, allowing him to stay in good position between the opponent and the basket.
His 7’6” reach can clog the passing lanes as well.
For a 5’10” player, Jackson has an inane ability to get off his feet. At the Brooklyn Nets' predraft combine, he registered a 42” vertical leap, per ESPN’s Ford (subscription required). That feat has drawn comparisons to 5’9” Nate Robinson.
To be effective at the next level, Jackson needs to cut down his turnovers.
While he improved his ball-handling and decision-making during his two years at Baylor, Jackson still turned the ball over 3.4 times per game in 34.8 minutes.
He struggled with decision-making against ranked opponents. In seven regular-season games against teams in the Top 25, Jackson accumulated 43 of his 122 total turnovers.
During his junior year—his first at Baylor—Jackson had a turnover percentage of 23.4, but dropped that number to 16.4 in 2012-13. If he continues to progress in that area, he can provide much-needed energy (and production) off the bench in a Pelicans uniform.
Becoming more consistent with his passing and keeping his head in the game—he suffered from numerous mental lapses that resulted in takeaways—need to be priority No. 1 for Jackson this summer.
Jackson enters the NBA Summer League looking to prove he deserves a role come October.
If he’s able to show off his speed, agility and knockdown jump shot, his chances of making the roster will be favorable.
As a rookie, the best possible scenario would place Jackson somewhere in Monty Williams’ rotation.
What's the likely role for Pierre Jackson?
Williams allowed last year’s rookies, Anthony Davis and Rivers, to get quality minutes. However, the rebuilding phase has turned a corner with a new All-Star point guard in Holiday, and the Pelicans are in win-now mode.
Jackson likely won’t get the same exposure at the NBA level that Rivers received a year ago, but playing Brian Roberts’ minutes from February and March of last season (12.85 per game) could be realistic.
His playing time all depends on the offseason moves made by general manager Dell Demps.
The Pelicans, after pursuing and offering combo guard Tyreke Evans a multi-year contract, per Sam Amick of USA Today, could allow Vasquez to become expendable. Along with the possibility that Roberts’ non-guaranteed contract doesn’t get picked up, these scenarios will move Jackson further up the depth chart.
He has a lot to prove and trust to earn, but his ability to facilitate and put the ball in the basket will force a tough decision on Williams.
Worst-case scenario for Jackson is he starts the season in the D-League where he will be able to log consistent minutes until his number is called.
In order to maximize his role going forward, Jackson must focus on his decision-making and ability to defend NBA-level talent.
If all goes well, Jackson could develop into a solid contributor off the bench for the foreseeable future.