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Liberty Links: Will Josh Jackson’s off-court mistakes hurt his draft stock?

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Plus LeBron James, complaining players, and Game of Zones.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Kansas vs Oregon Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Until the lottery takes place and the 2017 NBA Draft order is set, draft coverage requires a lot of shooting in the dark. Without knowing where the Sixers (and everyone else!) will slot, it’s hard to say who they should be looking at in the area they’ll select in. If things break right for them, a player like Josh Jackson might not even be a real consideration at their pick.

But for now, he’s in the mix with everyone else. So it’s his turn to get the links treatment:

The Only NBA Draft Questions Josh Jackson Has to Answer Are Off The Court — Sam Vecenie, Vice Sports

These interviews can be the most important part of the pre-draft process, and what Jackson says could make or break what league executives think of him. On talent alone, he projects as a top five pick—but it's hard to say that will hold until teams get a chance to look him in the eye, ask him about what happened, and decide if his answers are sufficient.

This passage is worth spotlighting for a few reasons:

  1. The mental makeup / character stuff is something outside observers know the least about. It is the hardest thing to account for because it’s something teams conduct independent research on and can differ wildly on; one team’s worthwhile risk is another team’s undraftable player.
  2. The flip-side of point one — teams will absolutely leak negative things on a prospect if it means it will push him down into the area they’re picking in. The strategic mind games played by front offices makes this stuff exceedingly difficult to parse through.

Game of Zones back

Word on the street is the Sixers will be part of a full-fledged episode soon.

The NBA players who are too busy complaining to get back on D — Chris Herring, Five Thirty Eight

I appreciate the statistical work people are doing to help explain who is good at scoring, rebounding, defending or anything else, but I love this sort of dive into minutiae. The player with the highest lag rate will probably surprise you, but a lot of the usual suspects populate the league’s top five.

Petty Giannis is the best Giannis

As the great philosopher Kanye West once said, “I state the stats to stunt, I don’t need to front.”

I am grateful to be alive during the LeBron James era

I was out to dinner during the early slate of games last night, and discovered a series of increasingly delirious texts after I left the restaurant. It was easy enough to figure out LeBron did something crazy, so the first move upon getting home was pulling Cavs-Pacers up on the DVR.

It’s pretty easy to take what he does for granted this deep into his career. He has been an All-Star for 13 of his 14 years in the league, the best player in the league for over half of his career (at least), and his only real peers in history are the likes of Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. The expectations laid out prior to him entering the league were almost impossible to live up to, and yet he has exceeded them.

After he brought a title to Cleveland last season, I thought the effect of LeBron might dull a little bit. Overcoming a historic deficit to bring a championship to his title-starved hometown—with all the dramatic history piled on top—looked like the crown jewel of his career.

And yet at age 32, with a historic workload on his legs and little left to achieve, he’s still capable of turning a normal-ish game into must-see TV. There’s nothing quite like watching him go into full assault mode; the threat of his passing is enough to send defenders scrambling away from the rim, clearing the runway for breakaway finishes.

Passing Kobe Bryant (in 18 less games) on the all-time playoff scoring list by way of a casual 41-13-12 in a 26-point comeback is just another game to add to the greatest hits collection. I’m almost glad the Sixers are a ways away from being a threat in the East, because it makes these moments that much easier to appreciate.