“We knew we were giving up our draft pick and we kind of looked at (Pierre Jackson) as our draft pick for this year.”
That quote, from earlier this year, comes from Pelicans general manager Dell Demps in a discussion that was centered around point guard Pierre Jackson, who spent the entire 2013-2014 season in the D-League and Europe, trying to earn himself a call to the big squad in New Orleans.
And now as the draft approaches Jackson’s is starting to pop up in plenty of different places when the Pelicans come up. Recently news came out that Jackson was working with the Pelicans in New Orleans this summer and planned to play in the Las Vegas Summer League for the team in hopes of being in the NBA next season.
Nothing really seems clear right now regarding Jackson’s future in the NBA and with the Pelicans but the recent chatter has made me start wondering if Jackson is worth more to the Pelicans as a trade chip then he is as a player, a question has less to do with Jackson’s abilities and more to do with where the Pelicans are at as a franchise right now.
One of the big reasons that using Jackson to move into the draft seems like a good move is that there doesn’t seem to be a clear role for him on the Pelicans this season. Jrue Holiday is expected back completely healthy meaning that he will handle the majority of minutes at point guard for the Pelicans this season no matter what happens. That leaves Jackson fighting with former first round pick Austin River and potentially restricted free agent Brian Roberts for the 15 or so minutes a game at backup point guard.
While Jackson is probably the better player than Rivers, one of the hardest things to do for a front office is admit a mistake on a lottery pick which they would need to do to play Jackson over Rivers. For a front office that could potentially be on thin ice as it is, admitting that mistake could be very costly if things go wrong this season.
Secondly as good as Jackson may be offensively no matter what he does his size will be a problem on defense and that is the side of the ball the Pelicans struggled on more this past season. If they believe the offensive abilities of Jackson and Rivers are close the team may want to go with the bigger Rivers just for the added advantage of size on the defensive end of the floor.
Rivers presence also means the Pelicans don’t have to have a point guard as much as they need a small forward and, depending on how you feel about Jeff Withey and Alexis Ajinca, a center. Moving Jackson may allow the Pelicans the ability to add someone at either position that would fill a hole for a team that hopefully stays healthy next season. If that is the case a small forward that plays 20 or so minutes a night that could provide shooting could be more valuable than any contribution Jackson brings, especially if the goal is to make the playoffs.
Finally we don’t know what exactly Jackson will be as a player. For all of his offensive talents Jackson is still just 5′ 10”, a size that makes a lot of success at the NBA level unlikely. At his peak Jackson projects to be essentially Nate Robinson with potentially worse passing. Jackson had turnover issues when he was in the D-League last season and with a player who has severe limitations like size problems like that are going to be magnified in an NBA game that is much bigger and faster than the D-League.
That doesn’t mean keeping Jackson doesn’t make sense.
After all we don’t know exactly what he is right now, something that is becoming harder and harder to say right now with Rivers. If the Pelicans feel that Jackson actually has the higher ceiling between the two players it absolutely makes more sense to keep Jackson on board and give him a bigger role as it means an eventual savings in contracts, something that will be huge until the team finds a way to get the Eric Gordon contract off of the books.
The team also may not think that whatever kind of pick they may be able to get for Jackson has a chance to be more valuable than him. There is a lot of talk about how good the top of this year’s draft is but Jackson isn’t going to get the Pelicans a top 12 pick so there are real questions of if the player they could get with that pick would be better than him. In that case Jackson is clearly more valuable, even if he doesn’t hit the NBA this season.
Ultimately the Jackson decision comes down to a few things. How do you feel about the back-end of this draft? Will the Pelicans front office admit the mistake with Rivers? How good is Jackson going to actually be?
Right now the answers seem to be in the eye of the beholder and only time will tell what the Pelicans see.
What do you think? Should the Pelicans trade Jackson for a pick or put him on the roster and play him next season? Head over to our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PelicanDebrief to vote in the poll and make your voice heard.