Where does Reggie Jackson go from here?
Now more than ever, you need a good point guard to succeed in the NBA. The league has gotten more perimeter oriented and having a good to great PG is essential if you want to compete for a Championship. The low post has been marginalized to a certain degree and teams need more three point shooting to succeed. For Detroit, they thought they had their point guard of the future.
Since February of 2015, Reggie Jackson has been the starting PG for the Pistons. He came over after spending the first two and a half years of his career as Russell Westbrook’s backup in Oklahoma City. While Jackson had become too good for his role as a backup, he hastened his exit by becoming a person that was hard to deal with. It got to the point where he was frozen out by his teammates in a game. When he was traded at the deadline, it represented a new beginning as well as a chance to fully display his skills.
As a Piston, Jackson was one part of a young core that was on the rise. Last season, he averaged 18 points and six assists a night while shooting a career best 35.3 percent from three point range. Even after getting swept by the eventual Champion Cavaliers in the playoffs, he, Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Tobias Harris were expected to help Detroit He had to miss the first 21 games of this season due to knee tendinitis. When he made his return in December, he was expected to pick up from where he left off last season and guide the Pistons to the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, it hasn’t worked out that way.
This has been the worst season of Jackson’s five year career. He’s shooting 41.9 percent from the field, his lowest since his rookie season, and when we dig into the numbers a bit, we get an indication as to why his numbers are down. Jackson is most effective when he’s breaking defenses down off the dribble and driving to the basket. When he does, it creates great scoring opportunities for shooters at the three point line and Drummond near the rim. However, teams have cut off his drives to the basket and have kept him out of the paint. Last year, 45 percent of his shots came inside of ten feet. This season, that number is down to 38 percent. As a result, his free throw rate has declined and the Pistons have been worse on offense when he’s on the floor as compared to when he’s off the floor. His three point shooting has improved (it’s at a career high, in fact), but it hasn’t been enough to overcome his inability to get to the rim and ineffectiveness when he actually does get there.
There was one troubling moment for Jackson. After there was a players only meeting where his shot selection was discussed at length, he spent a portion of the next game (one they wound up losing by 31) pouting on offense and taking himself out of the action. Over the course of a long season, everyone’s bound to have a lapse in focus here and there. However, you can’t actively remove yourself from a situation just because you received some constructive criticism from your colleagues.
It’s tough to properly track defense, but it’s safe to say Jackson has been a disaster on that side of the ball. When he’s on the court, the Pistons are allowing a team high 110.5 points per 100 possessions as opposed to a more reasonable 102 when he’s off the court. On an individual basis, he’s allowed opponents to shoot 41.6 percent from three, a nine point increase from last season. With a bevy of scoring point guards and the emphasis on three point shooting, having a PG who can’t adequately defend the three point line can have disastrous consequences. The team has been having issues defensively all season, and Jackson has only made things worse.
The Pistons are still in the playoff hunt, and made a move they hope will improve their chances. Stan Van Gundy reinserted Ish Smith back into the starting lineup and benched Jackson. It’s easy to see why SVG went back to Smith. The team is an astonishing nine points per 100 possessions worse when Jackson is playing. The ball moves around less with him on the floor and with shooters like Caldwell-Pope and Harris, getting them the ball needs to be the top priority.
Over at Detroit Bad Boys, Michael Snyder made the following observation:
What the switch does say is Jackson — and his 15 million dollar price tag — can’t outplay the journeyman point guard the Pistons signed in the offseason when they need him to the most. If Reggie’s not part of the future, how the hell do you sell that on the market? In any trade scenario, the Pistons will receive pennies on the dollar simply because teams now know how the Pistons view Jackson.
Jackson’s poor season, Van Gundy giving up on him, previous issues with teammates, and better players being available will limit Detroit’s options and keep Jackson stuck with the bench unit for the time being.
Jackson is a talented player, but is in a difficult position going forward. He’s struggled mightily throughout the season and lost his job during the most important stretch of the season for his team. He’ll need to work this summer on becoming a more consistent jump shooter and a PG who sets his teammates up more as opposed to a score-first guard. He’ll be turning 27 years old in three weeks, so he still has time to hit his stride. However, he needs to pick it up in a hurry if he wants to get the Pistons back into Championship contention.