If Frank Jackson left school after one year hoping to be drafted in the first round, he missed out by one pick.
Jackson was drafted 31st overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA Draft Thursday night and will wind up with the New Orleans Pelicans in a proposed trade, becoming the first Duke one-and-done in program history to fall to the second round. He was the fourth Blue Devil taken on the night after Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles all went in the first round.
The Alpine, Utah, native came to Durham expected to play a sixth-man role off the bench, but was elevated into the starting lineup toward the end of the season and impressed with his athleticism and finishing ability. He ended the season tied for the team's fourth-leading scorer with 10.9 points per game and also averaged 1.7 assists per contest.
The 6-foot-3 guard, 205-pound guard aptly nicknamed “Freight Train Frank” was a menace, attacking the basket all season and operating out of the pick-and-roll. He also flashed solid shooting ability, knocking down 39.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Jackson seemed to play better the bigger the stage from the start of the season, when he hit a game-tying triple against Kansas with less than 10 seconds to go. He saved his best for last, though, scoring a season-high 22 points against Florida State on Senior Night.
His declaration for the draft came as a bit of a surprise after his modest numbers this season, but Jackson tested well at the NBA Draft Combine, posting a 42-inch vertical jump—the second highest at the Combine.
Some critics focused on his lack of point guard experience—he mainly played as a combo guard in high school—as something that will hold him back in the NBA. Jackson also underwent foot surgery in May, which could have hurt his draft stock. He is expected to be fully recovered sometime in mid-July, but will likely not be available for the NBA's Summer League.
The Fit: Jackson finds himself in an empty New Orleans backcourt that will likely lose incumbent starter Jrue Holiday to free agency this offseason. But what the Pelicans lack in guards, they make up for in the dynamic duo of All-Stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins down low. The former Blue Devil will have the opportunity to snatch a starting role out of camp and could find himself with space to operate as defenses pack the paint.
The biggest key for Jackson going forward will be tightening up his handle and continuing to improve his perimeter jump shot. Facing quicker and longer NBA defenders at perhaps the NBA’s deepest position, Jackson must continue to rely on his explosive first step to create separation at the next level.