When a losing season is occupying its final stages, you have to look closely to find that bright spot or two. Some players use this time as a individual showcase, others look to gain confidence and experience. In total, small victories must be captured.
Frank Jackson is currently on his way to checking all three boxes — and just like his alma mater Duke, he’s apparently saved his best for March.
Sunday’s loss to the Houston Rockets was only a microcosm of the tough task when looking to find that needle in a haystack of troublesome basketball. The Pelicans continued to shoot poorly from the field, had too many defensive lapses and, of course, there remained issues with inconsistent ball security.
If you need a reminder for how bad the Pelicans have played of late, we’ve got you covered.
No one is as bad as NOP right now.— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) March 24, 2019
Over the past seven games (or without Jrue Holiday), the Pelicans offensive rating has fallen to 103.6, while their defense has fallen to 114.9.
Those two rankings would put the Pelicans 30th in ORtg (NYK 104.3), and 29th in DRtg (CLE 115.9).
While the Pelicans are continuing their journey towards draft lottery positioning, Frank Jackson is posting the best month of his rookie season. He is producing career highs across the board. While a spike should have been expected given the minutes per game he’s carried (31.3), viewers have witnessed real growth in his game.
I touched on a few of his highlights in yesterday’s recap. While Jackson completed his ninth straight game tallying double-digit scoring, the 20-year-old also produced a new career high in assists with six.
“Frank Jackson’s March has easily been his best month as a professional. While already eclipsing the highest minute total for his career in a month, Jackson is also posting a career high in three-point percentage (min. 20 attempts).”
His numbers for the month of March read as follows:
15.1 ppg, 45.3 fg%, 36.7 3P%, 3.8 REB, 1.9 AST
Remember what we said earlier about small victories?
When the season began, head coach Alvin Gentry experimented with the best way to use Jackson. Since he wasn’t ready to initiate the offense from a point guard role yet, the staff tried him off the ball, utilizing his quickness and athleticism to go with his ability as a spot up shooter. There were glimpses here and there, but Jackson largely didn’t make an impact when given any run. During March, however, Frank has been entrusted with the ball more often. His usage percentage is the highest it’s ever been, hovering at just over 19 percent, and more importantly, he’s produced those high scoring outputs efficiently.
In earlier parts of the season, Frank’s youthful exuberance would show with the basketball as he’d put himself in difficult spots quickly. You remember him forcing unbalanced shots at the rim, rushing jumpshots or finding difficultly getting into the flow of the game as most young players do. As of late though, Jackson has paced himself, felt out the defense, and carried a more patient approach with the ball in his hands.
Jackson clearly operates at his best with others creating for him as 74 percent of his field goals made are assisted and that’s perfectly fine. As long as he’s able to execute the play that each situation calls for, the Pelicans will be satisfied because it still represents a step forward.
While Jackson has made the most of his March opportunities, he’s not been a game-changer. A -6.7 NETRTG and a -4.7 plus/minus doesn’t analytically speak to Frank’s individual performances on the court in total, but with a banged up Pelicans roster — and a bad team currently overall, it’s difficult to harp on the rookie too much.
The essence of small victories is going beyond the numbers to find positive elements, especially considering the newfound volume of minutes he’s consuming. For Frank Jackson that involves watching him maintain his confidence at an all-time high level to go along with any improvements. Let’s not forget about that big three-pointer he drilled to close out the Dallas Mavericks on the road last Monday.
It’s may seem small, but Frank Jackson is going to remember that three for a longggg time. He’s missed a few this season in the clutch. Finally hit one and helped put a game away for good.— Chris Conner (@Impatientbull) March 19, 2019
With three more games left in the month of March, it’ll be interesting to see how Jackson wraps up a pleasantly surprising month. Either way, his development is providing a reason to watch a Pelicans team that simply doesn’t offer many others.
A true March Madness story should continue its journey into April — stay tuned for where this nicknamed Ferrari stops next!