The case for Duke's Frank Jackson as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for Duke's Frank Jackson as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Frank Jackson
Position: PG/SG
School: Duke
Height: 6-4
Weight: 205
Wingspan: 6-7 1/2

The NBA Finals are over, so it's time to dive head first into the NBA draft, which will take place in just nine days. As with every season, there are a fair number of players from the blue-blood programs like Kentucky and Duke entering the draft. Counted in that exclusive pool this year is Frank Jackson, who committed to the draft after one season in the backcourt in Durham, North Carolina.

Jackson was expected to return to Duke for his sophomore year, but he surprised many by signing with an agent and keeping his name in the draft, forgoing his last three years of eligibility. Let's look into why he's in the draft and whether he fits with the Sixers and their slew of second-round picks. 

The case for Jackson

That's the best word to describe him. If you're wondering why someone who often came off the bench his freshman year declared for (and stayed in) the draft, that's why. Jackson has the physical tools to explode toward the basket and finish with the best of them.

Jackson is only 19 years old and won't turn 20 until after his first NBA season, making him easily one of the youngest players in this class. The former Utah Mr. Basketball played a combo-guard role for the Blue Devils this year and was solid in bursts. His first step can overtake a defender at once and give him the edge to get to the basket. He's proficient enough to finish and has a nice floater in the midrange.

With a lot of talent surrounding him at Duke, Jackson brought a certain physicality to the backcourt that was lacking at times. He slashes to the basket and has a 42-inch vertical leap. Not bad. Not bad at all. It's likely his physical tools that kept him in the draft with teams craving a player with his projectable talent. 

He can also shoot well, going 39.5 percent from beyond the arc while taking a lot of his shots from around the arc. He's able to finish off the dribble or on the catch. Unlike some players, he doesn't check out when others have the ball on offense. You can see his full offensive toolset on display during his 22-point night against Florida State in February.

On defense, his 6-7½ wingspan gives him the ability to stay with guards and overcome his average height for a shooting guard, which is likely his position at the next level. 

The case against Jackson
You start defensively. His wingspan helps, but his overall size is a concern. There are certainly 6-foot-4 (or smaller) shooting guards in the NBA. However, there are also many who fit that profile yet failed to stick in the Association. 

Jackson would get beaten off the dribble a fair amount by some smaller, quicker point guards while at Duke. Considering his size, he won't be able to switch onto wings — who also touched him up on drives in college — and the NBA's elite guards could have a field day with Jackson. He'll need to maintain focus, stay with opposing two-guards and remain with them beyond the arc.

Offensively, he doesn't quite have the tools to play the point. Not in the NBA. He's simply not a primary ballhandler with the kinds of defenders he'll face. Too often, better defenders could pressure him into weak turnovers or contested shots. His handle didn't let him get to the rim against some athletic opponents, although FSU wasn't an issue for him.

This isn't to say that Jackson can't broaden his game at the next level and learn to make more of the right passes nor is it fair to say he's a minus on offense. He still has a lot of potential, but his game still needs work. Like every 19-year-old.

The final concern with Jackson is one all too familiar to Sixers fans: A foot injury. He underwent right foot surgery last month to fix a stress fracture, which he suffered during the college season. He's expected to be back by next month and he still looked good at the NBA Draft Combine despite the injury. 

If it wasn't for his foot injury, Jackson likely would have been a late first-round pick. Now, it's unclear, but he'll probably be a second-round selection, giving the Sixers a shot at acquiring the guard.

Jackson could easily slot into the Sixers' bench if he improves on the defensive end. You're not necessarily looking for a star in the second round and someone with the physical tools to be a first-round pick is a nice get with multiple shots to take at the end of the draft. 

Whether he can get to the rim as easily or if his jump shot is too long to get it off at the next level are questions which will hang over his head. Yet you're going to get someone with warts in the second round. Jackson is worth considering if he falls to the Sixers and he'd be a good get anywhere from pick 36 to 50.

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

USA Today Images

Leave the NBA playoffs alone

You can't kill NBA commissioner Adam Silver for trying.

Last week, Silver announced to the media during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles that he's considering a change to the playoffs, where rather than the top eight seeds in each conference competing to determine a conference champ, playoff teams will be seeded 1 through 16.

More recently, ESPN reported that the league is kicking around a "play-in tournament" to determine the final two seeds in each conference.

Let's take these ideas one at a time:

Re-seeding the postseason may sound fun, and even kind of fair, but it completely dissolves conference rivalries that the league has celebrated for decades. Looking for the Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference Finals? Sorry. Under the new format, there would be no more West Finals. Right now, those are the two best teams in the NBA. So you might see them in the Finals in that format — if they both get that far.

I could understand this argument in years when the disparity in balance of power is egregious. That's not the case this season. If the NBA season ended today, one team would reap the benefits of a 1-16 playoff format: the 9-seed in the West, the Clippers, who are a half-game better than Eastern Conference 8-seed Miami.

(Psst, right now the 5-12 matchup in a 1-16 format would be Sixers-Cavaliers. But let's stay on topic.)

As for the play-in tournament, this completely contradicts the re-seeding idea. The NBA wants the best teams in the playoffs, right? Is a Pistons-Hornets play-in game must-see TV? Or what's left of the Clippers vs. the Jazz?

And how long do you want the postseason to be? Last season, the playoffs lasted nearly nine weeks. It was only that "brief" because the Finals didn't go the full seven games. Adding another round could extend the NBA season into July (unless it corresponds with a shortening of the schedule). We have seen what happens in Olympic years when players don't get enough offseason rest and it ain't pretty.

I'm guessing this is a backhanded way for Silver to keep more teams from tanking for better draft picks. "Hey, you may be 11th in the conference, but you're one 3-game win streak away from a shot at the postseason!!"

I'm all for change, but in the case of the NBA playoffs, commish, I think we're good for now.