Rightfully so, many, if not all Detroit Piston fans were disappointed in the season that franchise point guard Reggie Jackson underwent last year.
To the shock of everyone, Jackson started the year injured. In early October, Detroit announced Jackson would miss time to receive treatment on reoccurring knee tendinitis. In what took some time to decide, Jackson opted to undergo treatment that would hold him out for the first 6-8 weeks of the 2016-2017 campaign.
Nonetheless, Jackson and the Pistons boasted confidence in the procedure and never gave the notion that the procedure would hinder his entire season.
From Aaron McMann of MLive:
“That’s something I’ve dealt with since I got into the league,” Jackson said last week at Pistons media day. “If people backtrack, I got an operation in 2011. But it’s just taking care of it, maintaining it.”
Everything sounded okay. Sure, losing Jackson for the first 6-8 weeks of the year was going to hurt the Pistons, but Stan Van Gundy spent the offseason bolstering the roster with the additions of Ish Smith, Jon Leuer, and Boban Marjanovic.
Smith could man the starting point guard duties in Jackson’s absence. As a well-tuned veteran in the league, it was something he was well prepared for. Van Gundy also decided to add another veteran point guard in Beno Udrih, who filled in admirably during Jackson’s absence.
So, the Pistons began the year without Jackson. Smith and Udrih did their jobs, both doing so at an acceptable level. The Pistons were producing and surviving without Jackson. That was their mission. The goal many put on the table for Detroit was to stay a couple games within .500 without him. They did that and were on the opposite side of the .500 goal. As Jackson missed the first 21 games of the season, Detroit managed to put together an 11-10 record without him.
All was alive and well for Detroit Basketball.
Even when Jackson initially returned, people were confident Detroit would take off. When he returned against the Orlando Magic on December 4th and the Pistons lost to a below average team, confidence remained high.
Things never got better. Detroit went 5-10 in Jackson’s first 15 games back. Fast-forward through what was a very ugly season and stop at March 27th. That’s the day when Reggie Jackson was unofficially shut down for the last eight games of the season.
The 26-year-old point guard appeared in just 52 games over the course of the season. He played a career low 27.7 minutes per game since being traded to the Pistons. In those minutes he averaged 14.5 points, 5.2 assists, and 2.2 rebounds per game, all career lows since his move to Motown.
Jackson spent the season in and out of trade rumors and his future in Detroit was in question. Stan Van Gundy brought to light the Reggie Jackson situation, and admitted what many, myself included, had feared:
“We’ve built a pretty good roster and obviously we were really built around Reggie’s pick-and-roll abilities. We had 30 games he didn’t play in — and I don’t think he was ever at full strength. He can get back there — in fact I’m really confident he can get back there. The roster was put together with one group in mind and we really didn’t have that.”
Jackson struggled on defense more than ever before. He had the worst defensive rating of his career of 110. Jackson has never been a good defender, but last season he was unable to stay in front of his man and was blown by far too often. He also struggled to defend off screens. Far too often he’d get caught behind a player coming off a screen or he’d get completely stopped by the screen.
Now that I’ve portrayed Jackson as a bad player, let me alter the course of what I’m talking about and get into why Jackson is still Detroit’s franchise point guard and should return to the Reggie Jackson that Piston fans enjoyed watching in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons.
The biggest positive to take out of last season for Jackson was his improved jump shooting. He shot 41.7 percent from the mid-range area, which was above the league average of 40.1 percent. Without taking into account either corner, which accounted for a small amount of Reggie Jackson’s three-point attempts last season, he took a major step from deep. He shot 38.9 percent from the top of the three-point line and the wings compared to the 33.8 percent he shot from those spots in the 2015-2016 season. Jackson’s improvements as a shooter are vital for Detroit’s offense. Last season the Pistons were 28th in the league in three-point shooting percentage and 26th in the league in three-point attempts.
Bottom line, the Pistons need more three-point shooting, and a full season of Reggie Jackson will certainly help them in that regard. For comparison, Ish Smith shot just 26.7 percent from deep, which hurt the Pistons spacing when he was in, especially with the lack of shooters Detroit had around him on last year’s roster.
The roster moves Detroit made should also help Jackson, as he will be equipped with better-suited weapons for Stan Van Gundy’s offense.
Avery Bradley will likely make the most significant difference. Bradley, first off, is a much better floor spacer than Jackson’s backcourt teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was last season. Bradley shot 39 percent from beyond the arc, which is much better than the 35 percent Caldwell-Pope shot. Overall, Bradley will make Jackson’s life a lot easier for him, as he can space the floor and score the ball much easier than Caldwell-Pope can.
Take a look at Bradley’s shot chart from last season compared to Caldwell-Pope’s. The former was more efficient in nearly every shot zone.
More floor spacing is going to make Jackson’s life easier as he tries to operate in the pick and roll with Andre Drummond. The additions of Bradley, Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver, and Luke Kennard, all 39 percent or better shooters from three, will instantly give Jackson more freedom to attack the basket and be more successful at it next season. It is going to be much easier for him to work the pick and roll with Drummond knowing he has consistent outside shooting aiding him on the perimeter.
An issue that clouded over Jackson’s season due to his knee injury was his loss of athleticism and bounce. He just never really showed the flashiness we’ve seen him show going at the rim in prior seasons.
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) January 1, 2016
Lights … Camera … Action Jackson! https://t.co/h0TNk1A6pA
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) April 16, 2015
Both of those plays came from the 2015-2016 season. Action Jackson became a nickname for Reggie Jackson that year because he made plays like the ones in the videos above on a regular basis. Last year, Action Jackson was hiding from the cameras.
Regaining his bounce will be crucial for Jackson. This offseason, he has focused on working his body back to shape, which will hopefully help his body return to the form that it was in back in 15-16.
From Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:
Jackson is nearing the end of a 16-week program designed to both minimize the stress that caused the bout of tendinosis in his knee and build up his body to help ward off further incidents. He’s been focused on strength and flexibility training under the eye of Pistons physical therapist Mark Cranston, “who has spent pretty much the whole summer with Reggie monitoring his rehab out there in Los Angeles,” Van Gundy said.
Jackson’s struggles as a finisher were well documented last year. As the eye test shows how Jackson wasn’t good at the rim, so do that stats. Last season, Jackson shot a putrid 47.4 percent in the restricted area. Compared to his shooting percentage from inside the restricted area in the 2015-2016 season, he took a major step back. In what was his first full year in Detroit, Jackson shot 55.4 percent from the restricted area.
Take a look at Jackson’s shot charts from the 15-16 and 16-17 seasons. Last season, he was actually a more efficient player from mostly everywhere besides the paint and at the rim.
If Jackson can shoot the percentages from mid-range and deep that he shot last season, and get his percentages from the paint and restricted area close to what he shot from those areas in 15-16 then Detroit is going to have a very efficient point guard.
If you need another reason to expect a better Reggie Jackson next season, look no further than his partner in crime, Andre Drummond. The 6’11” center underwent nasal surgery to fix his left nostril, which he said he could not breathe out of.
“This season was probably my toughest breathing year for me. It got progressively worse,” Drummond explained.
Now, Drummond is hoping that after the surgery and what he admits was a letdown season last year, he and the Pistons can have a much better season next year.
“I’m going to play the game I need to play to be a great player for my team,” he said. “I feel like I’m in great shape and I can actually breathe. I don’t get tired and I sleep better. Everything has been a plus since I got that surgery.”
We saw how good Jackson and Drummond were in 15-16 and with a better roster around them, the duo could take another step forward next season. Their dominant play in the pick and roll struck fear in opponents’ defenses and the Pistons would like to get back to playing that way.
Rightfully so, there should be hope for a rebound season from Reggie Jackson. A better team surrounding him, Andre Drummond’s health, and most importantly his own health, give reason to think he will be a much better player next season.
The Pistons need Reggie Jackson. His play will likely dictate how their season will go. If he is unable to improve his level of play from last season then Detroit will have some quick and assumedly swift decisions to make. But, if he is healthy, then Detroit could be getting a near All-Star level point guard. They’d be getting a player that will immediately improve their playoff ambitions. A healthy Reggie Jackson could raise Detroit’s potential to a near 50-win ball club.
A healthy Reggie Jackson is needed. Stan Van Gundy needs it. Andre Drummond needs it. The Pistons need it.
Featured Image: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press