If there were one player to epitomize the Sixers' rebuild and "player development", it's the pride of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Of course, I'm talking about Jakarr Sampson. His journey from undrafted St. John product to a 76er starter has been... interesting to watch considering the roster churn/turnstile over the past 2 years.
Despite not really showing any appreciable NBA Skills besides being long and athletic, he defied conventional thinking. After a showing in summer league and a camp invite, not only did he make the final 15 man roster, Sampson began to get regular rotation minutes with Sixers (sandwiched between a small stint down in Delaware). To many observers, it really didn't make any sense because he quite literally did not look like an NBA player.
Since, a mere murmur of Hinkie's name invokes whispers of "tanking" (especially these days), first thought would be to attribute his existence on the team as just another cog in that machine. He didn't shoot well. He couldn't ball handle or dribble effectively. He couldn't really pass. But then again, especially at the start of the season, nor could the rest of the team (Hello, 0-17 start).
Thankfully, this wasn't the end of the story for Sampson!
As the stats from last season show... He.. uh...Oh. Yep, that isn't really good or special. And that is where most people will stop.
It's no surprise that many people would object to Sampson's existence on the team, whether it be "wasting" a roster spot or just another bullet for criticism towards Hinkie and his rebuild. While he has improved, even shown moments of flashes of something good, he's still has a ways to go. Let's be honest, #PointJaKarr is fun for every reason not related to basketball.
But, the game of basketball isn't limited to the 48 minutes we see on TV. JaKarr's hard work and attitude has endeared himself to team, coaches and fans (even some of you!). Multiple coaches have commented on his ability and willingness to defend multiple positions, his work into improving his shot/ball-handling and his spirit through the adversity of both his growth and the team's overall struggles.
It's hard to prognosticate what JaKarr's role is on a competitive team or in the league. His length, athleticism, hustle and willingness to defend should allow him to survive in the league. If his progression continues in multiple facets, it's possible that he could become a jack-of-all trades. However, as the Sixers' roster turnstile slowly stops (and with multiple draft picks on the horizon), this year may be the most important for Sampson to make a name for himself.
Almost everyone will love the star players. Most people will appreciate the role players. Very few will cheer for the long shots. However, as unlikely as his journey has been, the one Sixer I will be rooting for this upcoming year is Mr. Spongebob, JaKarr Sampson.
How can't you love this guy?
When you realize basketball's back tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/guO5r9X1VX— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) October 5, 2015