JaKarr Sampson 2021 Season Review

Pacers big man JaKarr Sampson discusses staying positive amidst a challenging season, how injuries depleted the frontcourt, and missing the fans.

Sampson 2021 Player Review

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JaKarr Sampson 2021 Season Review

Pacers big man JaKarr Sampson discusses staying positive amidst a challenging season, how injuries depleted the frontcourt, and missing the fans.
Jun 9, 2021  |  02:05

JaKarr Sampson 2020-21 Season Highlights

Check out some of the top plays from JaKarr Sampson's 2020-21 season.
Jun 9, 2021  |  01:00

2021 Exit Interview: JaKarr Sampson

May 22, 2021 - JaKarr Sampson reflects on a season with unique challenges, then discusses his goals for the offseason and being a free agent
May 22, 2021  |  02:17

Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson Attend Indy 500

May 30, 2021 - Pacers players Justin Holiday and JaKarr Sampson attended the 2021 Indianapolis 500, getting an up-close look at "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
May 30, 2021  |  01:37

Player Review 2021: JaKarr Sampson

by Brendan Rourke
Pacers.com Contributor

Age: 28
Years Pro: 6
Status: Unrestricted free agent
Key Stats: Appeared in 29 games this season, starting four. Averaged 4.6 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor.

If movie archetypes were applied to an NBA roster, JaKarr Sampson would be a prime example of the everyman character.

Now a six-year veteran of the NBA, Sampson provided extra frontcourt bench depth during a year that the Blue & Gold desperately needed it. Although he appeared in just 29 of the Pacers' 72 regular-season games, the former St. John's forward remained vigilant and waited for opportunities with a smile on his face. By the season's end, he finished with a positive plus/minus rating in 17 of his appearances.

Over his two-year tenure with the Pacers, Sampson brought an energetic and aggressive play style that the Blue & Gold lacked on occasions. Whenever he checked in, it was a near-guarantee that the forward was going to attempt a crowd-pleasing, earth-shattering dunk at least once during his shift. This led to him shooting an efficient 49.6 percent from the floor this season despite his limited minutes.

PHOTO GALLERY: JaKarr Sampson's 2020-21 Season in Photos »

The bulk of the big man's playing time appeared towards the end of the season as other frontcourt players frequently joined the injury list. In seven of the final 14 games of the regular season, his playing time reached 19 minutes or more. That trend might have extended had he not taken an accidental elbow to the back of the head from Blake Griffin on April 29. Sampson entered the NBA's concussion protocol and missed a string of six games.

But he came back from his injury with a vengeance. On May 13, Sampson notched 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and five boards against the Milwaukee Bucks. The next game, he tallied a season-high 20 on 9-of-13 shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers while attempting to keep Anthony Davis in check. During the season, Sampson earned praises from teammates and coaches about his energy, his readiness, and his positive attitude.

JaKarr Sampson

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

A drawback to Sampson's style of play included getting into foul trouble often. He recorded three fouls or more in nine of his appearances, fouling out twice. On April 19, he was involved in an altercation with Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs. It led to a one-game suspension for Sampson and a missed opportunity at starting the next game against Oklahoma City. Nevertheless, he remained in good spirits.

On top of getting to spend time with his new niece, the forward will be focusing on two fronts this offseason — his 3-point shooting and free agency. Much like Goga Bitadze, Sampson aims to have a 3-point shot as an auxiliary, yet respected, weapon. If he can knock down one or two triples in a game, this makes him much more difficult to defend. Opposing bigs will have to respect his outside shot on top of an already aggressive game in the paint.

Although he does not know where he'll end up next year, Sampson expressed how much he enjoys wearing the Blue & Gold uniform.

"The Pacers, I feel like, will always be my home no matter what," he said in his exit interview. "I love this organization. I love the front office. I love the people here. It's a family."

If one thing is certain, wherever Sampson plays, he will arrive prepared and wearing a smile.

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