Pelicans Draft Pick Pierre Jackson Has Found A Home in Idaho

It took a convoluted series of events for the NBA D-League's new No. 1 Prospect, Pierre Jackson, to land with the Idaho Stampede. The talent-sapped Sixers drafted him out of Baylor with the 42nd overall pick in June … only to trade his rights to the guard-heavy Pelicans. New Orleans gave him a spot on its Summer League roster … but the two sides never agreed on a contract. He signed with a French pro team, ASVEL Basket … then left the team because he was feeling “homesick,” according to its coach.

Yet after all the confusion about where Jackson would call home during his first year out of school, he’s found the perfect one, just a two-hour drive from the College of Southern Idaho, where he played his first two collegiate seasons, and not too far from Las Vegas, where he grew up. And all parties involved -- the Pelicans, who still exclusively own his rights*; the Stampede, who have won their first eight games; Jackson himself, who’s leading the NBA D-League in scoring at 30.9 points per game; and maybe above all, the NBA D-League’s fans, who get to witness The Pierre Jackson Show each week -- should be thankful for how things turned out.

(*Even though New Orleans never signed Jackson, and the Blazers' affiliate took him with the fourth pick in the NBA D-League, the Pelicans still owns his NBA rights. The situation is comparable to a foreign player who is drafted and stashed with another pro team overseas.)

Here are the three biggest reasons why the 5-11 guard and the juggernaut Stampede have been an ideal fit:

He’s been handed the keys to the offense. Jackson has used 32.1% of Idaho’s possessions, per NBADLeague.com/Stats. In terms of his role on his team, think of him as the minor-league Russell Westbrook, who leads NBA guards with a 32.3% usage rate. Jackson specializes in using ball screens and creating off the dribble, and that’s exactly what Coach Michael Peck has allowed him to do, over and over and over (as seen in the first of his two 40-point explosions below).

He’s been let off the proverbial leash. Given his size, quickness and hops (see: this play), it’s easy to see why Jackson has been most often compared to Nate Robinson. But the similarities don’t stop there. Like Nate, Jackson also needs to be free to freewheel in order to maximize his talents, and the NBA D-League is the place for that. For one, he can play at an All-Star Game-like pace: The Stampede’s average of 101.8 possessions per 48 minutes is faster than every NBA team’s except for the Sixers, yet only ranks ninth in the NBA D-League. And he can make mistakes and let the shots fly without looking over his shoulder. Yes, he’s turned the ball over too much (5.0 per game), but don’t pigeonhole him as a “gunner”: Despite taking a league-high 21.5 shots per game, he ranks sixth among full-time guards in true shooting percentage at 59.5% on the strength of his 10.1 free throws per game and blistering 43% three-point shooting.

He’s surrounded by talent. While RGV has rightfully stolen their thunder because of their record winning streak and unique style of play, the Stampede have actually been more dominant than the Vipers. Their 15.1 Net Rating (point differential per 100 possessions) is the top mark in the league, well ahead of RGV’s 11.1 because they play great defense to match their offense. The reasons go beyond Jackson: Dallas Lauderdale has been unstoppable at the rim (34/36 shooting!); Richard Howell has been unstoppable almost everywhere (see his all-green shot chart); and Dee Bost’s point guard skills (9.3 assists/game) have allowed Jackson to be himself. That combination has left Idaho, not RGV, as the last undefeated team standing.