Unfairly or otherwise, the eyes of the NBA will be on Reggie Jackson this season as he looks to live up to his new five-year, $80 million contract. The deal, unsurprisingly, has received critical backlash from all four corners of the globe, with many labelling it the worst offseason move, often citing John Wall's contract as comparison.
Whatever you think of the player or the money, Jackson is the Pistons' new leader and as such is expected to continue the gaudy form he showed at the back end of last season, with a roster constructed by Van Gundy to complement the strengths of the 6-foot-3 Colorado native.
2014-15 Year in Review
Jackson appeared in 77 games last season, 27 with the Pistons after his deadline day acquisition for D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler. Initially, he struggled in Detroit, shooting the ball abysmally and leading the team on a 10-game losing streak. Eventually, however, he recovered and finished with all-star-level averages for a starting point guard in the league. For his entire Detroit tenure, he averaged 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game.
These numbers, however, don't tell the full story. These are his averages over 27 games, a respectable, if not totally descriptive, sample size. These numbers include his first 11 games where the team was 1-10, and the remaining hot streak when Greg Monroe was out of the lineup and he averaged closer to 19 points and 11 assists. The comforting thing about this is that, with Monroe no longer in the Motor City, this team in construction is closer to the one where Jackson averaged a double-double rather than the one where he floundered and hiccuped his way through his first few weeks.
At his best, Jackson is an elite slasher to the rim who possesses finishing abilities not seen by prior Pistons point guards Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin. Jackson possesses good size and a reptilian 7-foot wingspan, with which he is able to contort his body and use his length not only to finish in traffic, but to deliver crazy passes, specifically his one-armed wraparound bullets which slingshot to an open corner shooter.
He is also now armed with a new batch of outside threats in Ersan Ilyasova and Marcus Morris, so the lane should be even more wide open. With a rampaging Andre Drummond (hopefully) rolling to the rim, there should be a lot of chances for easy buckets, as Jackson connected with Drummond in a way not seen since the days of Pistons overlord Will Bynum.
A pick-and-roll dynamo, Jackson formed an elite rim-rushing combination with Drummond last season. Jackson actually was among the league leaders in points per possession when running the pick and roll while in Detroit. With the way the league is transitioning into a heavy pick-and-roll offense, this bodes well for the Pistons, as they have one of the most efficient exponents of the art form. And this coming season, he will have even more options, as not only can they now run pick-and-rolls with Drummond, but also Aron Baynes, who is also proficient at the pick and pop. But you know who else can get pick and pop jumpshots? Anthony Tolliver, Ersan Ilyasova and Marcus Morris. And what do they have in common? They'll all spend considerable time on the court with Jackson this season.
Jackson has his flaws, namely his penchant for two-handed jump shots beyond 22 feet. Career-wise, he is an abysmal distance shooter, connecting on 29.4 percent of his attempts since entering the league in 2011. In Detroit, however, he somehow upped that mark to a respectable, if not great, 33.7 percent, which is right around the league average. As Jackson was the man on the Oklahoma City second unit with no other real scoring threats, a lot of his 3s were isolation and contested. In Detroit, Jackson actually showed some promise as a catch-and-shoot sniper, and coupled with his offseason work with new shooting guru Dave Hopla to correct issues with his knees and strengthen his foundation, a better percentage looms.
2015-16 Projected Production
Jackson averaged 17.6 points and 9.2 assists on a team not totally geared to his style of play, with the clogged inside of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond forcing Jackson further away from the basket than is ideal. However, new additions Morris and Reggie Bullock, along with holdover Tolliver and even new backup big Baynes, all provide a good shooting touch from at least the midrange, allowing Jackson aeons of space to be able to penetrate.
Jackson's contract will mean that, at least until the cap explodes, he will be analysed like an elite player, which is something he should strive to be. Is he the best point guard in the East? No. In the Central division? No, but he certainly isn't the worst. And despite all the hate the contract has been getting, he is still among those being tipped to potentially make his first All-Star Game appearance, alongside Drummond.
For Jackson to make al All-Star game, it will most likely be a coach's selection, and that would require the team to be performing at a high level and winning consistently. As many on this site have said, whether good or not, the team lives and dies with Jackson. If he struggles, we all fall down. If he rises and performs, we look supernaturally good. The reality is that Detroit isn't as big a market with enough national exposure for Jackson (or Drummond for that matter) to be voted in by fans. Therefore, for either of them to have a chance to make an All-Star appearance this season in Toronto, the team needs to be around or above .500 going into the break. With the way this team is constructed, this is a very real possibility.
While Jackson averaged some amazing numbers last season in Detroit, it's unlikely that he'll repeat the 20 and 11 he averaged over the last few weeks. However, with the varied offensive options and the way he attacks the basket, averages closer to his whole Detroit time look very reasonable and very attainable for the 25 year old general.
34 minutes per game, 18 points, 8 assists, 34% 3PT