76ers

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
Explosive. 

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. 

Analysis
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.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

uspresswire-sixers-joel-embiid.jpg
USA Today Images

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

Updated: 2:10 p.m.

The Sixers might get some reinforcements back to help try to halt their losing streak.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota (9:30 p.m./NBCSP+).

Embiid (back tightness) sat out Saturday night’s loss because of load management and then was a last-minute scratch against the Pelicans Sunday. Covington (lower back contusion), who was injured diving into the stands for a loose ball against the Cavs Saturday, also missed Sunday night’s loss. McConnell suffered a sprained AC joint in the Sixers’ win over the Wizards back on Nov. 29. He came back and played 18 minutes in the team’s loss to the Lakers, but then missed the first two games of the road trip in Cleveland and New Orleans.

Embiid’s injury is not believed to be serious. The big man himself didn’t seem too concerned.

“If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone,” Embiid said Sunday. “But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers will look to snap a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — against the reloaded Timberwolves (16-11). 

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

uspresswire-rockets-paul-harden.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of NBA: Rockets rally past Pelicans in high-scoring affair

HOUSTON -- Clint Capela had a career-high 28 points and James Harden scored 12 straight points for Houston in the fourth quarter as the Rockets rallied for a 130-123 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games on Monday night.

The game was tied with about three minutes remaining after Harden made two free throws. Those were the first of seven straight points by Harden that put Houston's up 124-119 with 1:30 left.

Jrue Holiday made a basket after that, but Harden hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push the lead to 127-121. Harden stole the ball from E'Twaun Moore after a timeout by New Orleans. He was fouled and made both free throws to make it 129-121 with 34 seconds left.

After scoring 48 points in Houston's last game, Harden finished with 26 on Monday, but he tied a career-high with 17 assists, finding the 6-foot-10 Capela under the basket again and again.

Holiday had a season-high 37 points for the Pelicans. Moore had a career-high 36 points and made a career-most six 3-pointers on a night New Orleans set a franchise record with 18 3-pointers (see full recap).

Mirotic, Portis help Bulls blow out Celtics
CHICAGO -- Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points, Bobby Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA's worst record, the Bulls built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms. The 6-foot-10 forward hit 9 of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds in his third appearance.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Before Monday night, Mirotic and Portis had only made headlines together this season for the wrong reasons. Mirotic missed the first 23 games with facial fractures he suffered in a fight at practice with Portis.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics' most lopsided loss of the season (see full recap).

Howard, struggling Hornets roll past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard scored 23 points to help the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-103 on Monday night.

Kemba Walker had 19 points for the Hornets, who had lost seven of eight. Marvin Williams scored 18, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 17 points.

It was Charlotte's second road win of the season in 12 tries.

Russell Westbrook had 30 points and seven assists and Paul George scored 20 points for the Thunder after missing the previous two games with a right calf contusion.

Charlotte shot 53 percent from the field against one of the league's best defensive teams. The Bobcats made 13 of 25 3-point attempts (see full recap).