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Like many other things, maybe I was wrong about JaKarr Sampson. Maybe we were all wrong about JaKarr Sampson. After coming into the league an un-drafted free agent after a far from illustrious two years at St. John's, the Ohio native was predictably raw. In Summer League, he could barely dribble, couldn't shoot; he basically struggled to be a functioning NBA player. Now as the All-Star break comes to a close, Sampson is a player genuinely worth watching over the remainder of the season. That little baby caterpillar we saw in June has turned into a long, great hair having butterfly.
He's shooting 46.5% from the floor on the season, and despite still lacking an outside shooting game, was 4-8 from three over his past five games. While his game is not and may never be pretty, Sampson has displayed the tenacity to make his game suitable for the professional level. With Philadelphia lacking depth at the point guard position, the team has turned Sampson into a pseudo-ball handler, something he admitted he hasn't been since middle school. But because of his toughness and willingness to adapt his game, the Sixers have seen some success with their experiment.
Sampson's ball handling skills have improved leaps and bounds since the start of the year, and he's starting to find open lanes to the rack. He also is finishing once he gets there, shooting 63% from around the rim (according to ShotAnalytics.com). That shooting percentage will stay high if he continues to throw down dunks like this:
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On defense, Sampson is also starting to put the pieces together. His style is awkward yet effective; he uses every ounce of his length to keep his opponents out of scoring position. The talent he possesses on the defensive end is comprised of hustle more than anything else, but it's starting to work.
He showcased all of his skills in Philadelphia's five-point loss to Golden State on February 9th, scoring 10 points on 5-7 shooting, pulling down six rebounds and playing a large part in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's poor shooting performances.
Whatever Sampson lacks in natural skill, he makes up in toughness and tenacity. Those two skills may be enough to keep him on an NBA roster.