The numbers are plain as day. 25-16 with him, 12-25 without him last season.
The Detroit Pistons need Reggie Jackson. You can argue that he is more critical than Andre Drummond or Blake Griffin despite both players, in a vacuum, being better. The reality is that, in todays NBA, a competent primary ball-handler is essential to winning. They set the tone for the offense and impact every teammate on the floor. If the Pistons are to make it back to the playoffs and create some buzz, they are going to need Reggie Jackson to be healthy and effective.
45 games played, 26.7 minutes per game
14.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game
42.6% shooting, 30.8% shooting from behind the 3-point line
Injuries affected Jackson once he returned from injury in late March but, even then, the team went 6-2 in those games. Prior to his injury, the Pistons rocketed out to a 19-14 start and looked like a real threat. His impact on the team is profound in many ways, but mostly due to his abilities as a facilitator getting to the rim.
In 2015-16 when the Pistons surprised many and made the playoffs, Jackson attempted 28 percent of his shots from within three feet of the rim. He was able to connect on just 57.5 percent of those takes, but the lack of shooting around him played a part. Drummond and Griffin, two excellent finishers, trailing Jackson on drives is going to be a huge benefit. Griffin has never shot below 65.6 percent from inside three feet and Drummond is one of the best pure rebounders in the league. Mix in that the Pistons have drastically better shooting with Luke Kennard, the rejuvenated Reggie Bullock, and newcomer Glen Robinson III to space the offense and be accounted for. Suddenly, the ability for Jackson to get to the rim and collapse defenses to kick it out to capable shooters is more likely.
Jackson held a team-high 36 percent assist rate in ’15-16’, so his passing was critical to the success of the team. Last season he still had the highest assist rate on the team at 32 percent, with Griffin right behind him. It was not even particularly close after that either. A healthy Jackson and Griffin gives the Pistons duel-wielding playmakers on the floor.
The Jackson-Drummond pick and roll from 15’-16’ was also incredibly deadly and one of the hardest combinations to guard that year. And that was with fairly limited options on offense, too.
Shooting from the mid-range is a dying art in the NBA, but Jackson is still effective at it. He shot 48 percent in 15’-16’ from 10-16 feet away from the basket and 51.5 percent from the same distance in 17’-18’.
It may not be the analytical way to take mid-range jumpers, but Jackson clearly is comfortable doing it. It’s from three-point range where things get bad. He is a career 32 percent shooter from behind the arc and has never shot better than 35.3 percent. He still takes around four three-points per game, so some discipline may be needed. Detroit has other good shooters who should be taking those shots instead. Dwane Casey will have his players fight like hell on defense, but they must take advantage of offensive possessions at all times.
With Drummond and Griffin, Jackson will not need to be a primary (or maybe even secondary) scorer. That could save his health some, as driving into the lane and taking contact creates a higher risk of injury. Jackson was a pick and roll maestro two seasons ago and, if he can recapture that with Blake Griffin in the lineup, maximizes his strengths. He is not a tremendously efficient shooter from long-range and sometimes gets lulled into settling for those shots outside of his effective range, but the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. If the Pistons have any hope of getting homecourt advantage in the first round of a playoff series, they will need Reggie Jackson healthy and playing well.
(Featured image by Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports)