Perhaps no one in all of process lore is more universally beloved than Jakarr Sampson. PFO was able to catch up with Jakarr on Wednesday night in Delaware. Sampson’s Windy City Bulls visited the 76ers Fieldhouse in for a late January game.
"He was a ball of energy, its interesting they (Windy City) have him playing a lot of 5 (Center). When I coached him we had him playing Point Guard. Not sure if that says more about Jakarr or about the Sixers" – Head Coach Connor Johnson on Jakarr Sampson who plays tonight in DE— J Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) January 30, 2019
Sampson is arguably on the Mount Rushmore of Process history. Along with more widely known NBA names such as Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and TJ McConnell, Sampson stands out as a Sixer who didn’t survive the process.
At 6’9″ Sampson played a variety of roles while starting 50 games over two seasons for the 76ers between 2014-16. Most notably, he played point guard in a proto experiment of having an oversized point guard. His limited range but boundless energy in full court encapsulated the team. It would be unfair to both Ben Simmons and Jakarr Sampson to compare them as players. It was, however, an early glimpse at Brett Brown’s infatuation with length and size at the point guard position.
Heading into Wednesday nights game for Windy City, Jakarr was averaging 21.7 points and 6 rebounds per game as a Small Ball Center. This role is especially striking on a night after the Blue Coats faced massive Center Johnny Hamilton a night before. This shows the wide variety of players and styles on display in the G-League.
Beloved as much for his personality, personal style as his game and production, Sampson represents an era of low stakes experimentation philosophy of Sam Hinkie.
I miss Jakarr most of all. The very idea of the chaos he brought to the court combined with his Bob Terwiliger haircut and huge smile. I really do miss the man.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) May 26, 2018
Sampson’s story in Philly did not end happily, however. The Sixers got a caught getting cute while working a marginal trade for a second rounder. In February 2016 the team put Sampson on waivers. The Denver Nuggets claimed him when the Sixers had to open up a roster spot to facilitate a trade.
The Sixers were involved in that three-team deal that saw Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton go to the Pistons from Houston in exchange for a first-round pick. To make salaries match, the Pistons had to send Joel Anthony somewhere, and the Sixers — in very much Sixers fashion — offered to help out for the standard price of a second-round draft pick. However, the Sixers had to create a roster spot for him, so they cut Sampson, averaging 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15 minutes per game. The Sixers like Sampson’s upside, though, so there was a widely-held belief that they would re-sign him after they waived Anthony.
That’s not going to happen, as the Nuggets snatched him up, and did so on a two-year deal — partially guaranteed for next season (via USA Today).
Thus brought the point Jakarr experiment to an abrupt and unceremonious end. He was waived the following training camp by Denver.
Jakarr of All Trades
Sampson’s appeal as a jack of all trades attracted the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis signed him on October 21st 2016 but his tenure in Memphis lasted just 1day. He was released on 10/22/2016.
Since then he has struggled to find a team who would invest in a player who lacks a definable elite NBA skill. But on a frigid Wednesday night in Delaware, Sampson showed he can do a little bit of anything.
I say this with 100% sincerity. Jakarr Sampson is the best player on the court tonight. He is up to 16 points and 2-3 from three point range. He is doing this while playing small ball 5.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsPFO) January 31, 2019
Ryan Anderson Pre Game
JB: So last night you had Johnny Hamilton, who is a monster. Tonight, you’ve got Jakarr Sampson who’s smaller and more versatile. Really different styles. What’s the challenge like for you?
Ryan Anderson: Yeah, last night was more of a physical and banging inside, and tonight is more like move my feet and communicate. Both really good players, both completely different styles. But that’s something I try to pride myself on. I’m like in between both sizes so I have to be strong enough to guard a bigger guy and quick enough to guard a smaller guy. So hopefully I’ll be able to show that tonight and help our team win.
Anderson, it should be noted, had a strong game with 19 points, 17 rebounds. He got Sampson into foul trouble midway through the 3rd quarter.
Sampson’s effect on the game cannot be denied however. We caught up with Jakarr postgame in the Bulls locker room.
When asked what he brings to an NBA team Jakarr replied “Toughness, versatility, I’ve always been a defender. You know.. Chaos ”
“My Resume, showing I can do everything, showing my shot is getting better. Showing I can plug into any position and showing that I am versatile”
“I love what they are doing with the organization, they are doing a great job…Brett is doing a great job with that organization..the way they built it from the ground up..great players…great coaches and they kept their locker room alive even when they were losing and now you see the end result. “Jakarr Sampson on the Sixers Organization
During our conversation I asked him if he was aware of how uniquely beloved he was by Philly fans. “Oh for sure” He said with his trademark smile.
The progress was evident in his game, his energy is as positive as ever. We can only hope that the NBA gets to see another iteration of point Jakarr soon.