2017 NBA Draft: Frank Jackson is leaving Duke early as a surprising one-and-done
Jackson was a solid piece for Duke, and is taking a gamble by leaving early
The Vertical first reported the news.
Jackson's departure was not seen as the likely scenario as recently as a month ago, but a strong showing at the combine and a good round of interviews (with 12 teams so far, per a source) has made Jackson's decision definitive. He's not projected as a first-round pick, but it's not out of the question that he could move into that area. Jackson will sign with BDA Sports Management, run by NBA agent Bill Duffy.
There is some speculation that Jackson is opting to go now because Duke is intensely recruiting arguably the best point guard in the 2017 class, Trevon Duval. However, Al Jackson, Frank's father, told CBS Sports on Friday that Duval's decision wasn't a factor in the decision.
"Not at all," Al Jackson said.
Duke is also bringing back the polarizing Grayson Allen, who will be a senior and would have/could have been a scoring combo with Jackson. Jackson's decision means Duke had three one-and-done players last season: Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are also in for good.
1. This is a gamble
This had to be as tough a call for Jackson as any other on-the-fence prospect. Jackson started 16 of Duke's 36 games last season, averaging 10.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He shot 54 percent from 2-point range and 40 percent from 3, strong numbers to be sure.
I think he would have been a top-20 college player next season and averaged north of 16 points, even with Allen in the picture. In that scenario, with Jackson becoming a primary or secondary scorer, it's likely he would have assured himself of being a top-20 pick in the 2018 draft. There was no downside whatsoever to him returning as a sophomore. There is scuttlebutt that the return of Allen and potential inclusion of Duval forced Jackson's hand, but I'm not convinced that's the case. He's confident enough and would have been a starter and primary scorer anyway.
Now, in deciding to go, Jackson accepts that he's going to be taken at a lower spot, in a deeper draft, and could well go in the second round. (The money and contracts change from Round 1 to Round 2.) Conventional thought has Jackson in the 32-40 range, but perhaps he works his way into the late first round. He's a strong interview, a very good athlete and mature player. I could see him charging into the top 30 by the time we get to June 22. But it's still a gamble.
2. This helps Duke's chances at landing Duval
To me, Duval is by far the best point guard in the 2017 class. He's ranked fifth overall in the 247 Sports composite. He's an athletic, 6-foot-3 power player in the back court. His decision-making is very good, and he has the physical attributes to be an immediately elite Division I player. If anything, Jackson's decision means more for Duke because it probably seals Duval to Durham. Had Jackson stayed, perhaps Duval would have looked more seriously at Arizona, Baylor, Kansas or Seton Hall, who are all still recruiting him.
Duke is seen as the overwhelming favorite at this point, though, and Jackson leaving reinforces that perception. Duval, by the way, said this week that he plans to make his college announcement soon. It would be surprising to me if we didn't get his commitment decision around May 20-22.
3. Duke will be Kentucky-level young next season
Yes, Allen is returning, but other than him? Well, Marques Bolden played randomly last year. And … uh … that's pretty much it. This is a total roster overhaul for Duke, meaning the Blue Devils will be interesting, but they'll be a project. They'll mirror Kentucky's clean slate, as the Wildcats are enduring more year-over-year turnover than ever before in the John Calipari era.
If Duke can get Duval, the Blue Devils have a claim to be a top-10 team. But here's a sobering reality for Duke: It had a solid shot at landing Duval even if Jackson returned. If Duke could have had a three-man backcourt of Allen, Jackson and Duval, it would have had a much better shot at a Final Four than where it stands now.
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