As the dust settles after the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline, analysis of the Detroit Pistons newest players can begin. Detroit traded DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler and picks in a series of multi-team trades that brought Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Tayshaun Prince back from Boston. It was a surprise exchange that few expected and Pistons president Stan Van Gundy didn't even hint at. The primary pieces exchanged -- Reggie Jackson for D.J. Augustin -- appear to present a talent downgrade for Detroit at point guard. And a costly one at that.
Thanks in part to the larger stage in Oklahoma City and a series of timely injuries to starting guard Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson has brand recognition around the league. He's seen starts in three playoff series and he's led the team in the regular season when Westbrook was unavailable. It has been a dream scenario for most second string guards, but one that Jackson hasn't been able to capitalize on for a full-time starting role. Until now, that is -- as Jackson will join the Pistons as the team's de facto point guard for the remainder of the season.
Even in his best season, however, Reggie Jackson has been an inferior producer to the guard Detroit sent out to acquire him. D.J. Augustin has outperformed Jackson across the board this season. Detroit gave up a superior shooter, finisher, passer and free throw contributor to Oklahoma City in this deal. Despite the height disadvantage to Jackson, Augustin has been a superior perimeter defender in Detroit this season according to NBA.com's player tracking technology. They're roughly a wash on overall defense, and the lone edge that Jackson holds over Augustin is insignificant to Detroit -- rebounding.
On every level, Detroit just handed a better point guard to Oklahoma City. While Jackson may ultimately become a superior player, this commitment ends in a matter of months.
Augustin outshined Jackson as starter in 2014-15
Thanks to injuries to each team's starting point guard, both Reggie Jackson and D.J. Augustin had an opportunity to fill in at the point in 13 starts apiece. Jackson's starts were newsworthy around the league, but for whatever reason, Augustin's were not.
As a starter, D.J. Augustin produced 19 points (on 13 attempts) and eight assists in 35 minutes. Augustin shot 45% from the field, 40% from three and 94% from the line on five free throw attempts per game.
As a starter, Reggie Jackson produced 20 points (on 18 attempts) and eight assists in 39 minutes. Jackson shot 42% from the field, 27% from three and 87% from the line on five free throw attempts per game.
It took Jackson five more shot attempts to produce one more point per game. This is due in part to poor, consumptive shooting, and despite the appearance of even free throw rates, consider that it took Jackson much more ball dominance to get equivalent respect from the refs.
A Closer Look at Shooting
It's a common thought that Jackson's strength is getting to the rim and finishing. This season, he's been inferior to Augustin at this trademark competency. 24% of Jackson's shots are taken at the rim this season, on which he converts at 60%. Augustin attempted 28% of his shots at the rim as a Piston, and converted at 62%.
There's also the belief that Jackson gets to the line a lot on account of his rumored rim-attacking style of play. FTr, a ratio that compares free throw attempts to field goal shot attempts, show 0.200 for Jackson and 0.367 for Augustin. Augustin gets nearly double the free throw attempts per shot than Reggie Jackson did in Oklahoma City.
What else is there, in terms of scoring? Jackson isn't a three-point shooter, converting at only 28% this season on three attempts per game. Even with Augustin's slow start this season, Detroit now has a significantly worse perimeter shooter at the point in Reggie Jackson.
In terms of individual offense, comparing Jackson to Augustin paints a very bleak picture for Detroit's remaining games. And Augustin himself isn't any sort of offensive standard-bearer. The problem is that the guy who Detroit had for the last 13 games is superior to the guy they just gave up a several pieces to acquire.
The Passing Game
The single job that separtes a point guard from a shooting guard is his ability to hold the ball and initiate a 5-man offense. This has been Reggie Jackson's most pronounced weakness as it relates to the prospect of playing point guard. Jackson sports a career assist percentage of 23%, a number identical to the Pistons career of Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey was never sufficient enough at the point to run an offense, and his poor shooting was too much of a problem to spend much time at shooting guard.
Jackson presents the same problems Detroit had with Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight, but of the three, Jackson may have the worst career prospects.
By comparison, D.J. Augustin had a 34% assist percentage as a Piston. That ties what Brandon Jennings did last season, and is one of the top marks a Piston has produced since the departure of Chauncey Billups. It's a low bar, given the aforementioned Stuckey and Knight, but an average that Detroit is looking up at with Reggie Jackson. The one advantage Jackson does have, and a point reflected in the advanced tracking, is his lower turnover rate. Note that it's a rate proportionate to his terribly low assist rate for a point player.
Defensive statistics leave a world to be desired, but the most suitable information comes straight from the NBA. It's a mistake to look at Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Rating as a fair indicator of defense, and for evidence, I have a Josh Smith to sell you. Reggie Jackson has one stand-out skill which puts him much higher than most point guards on advanced stat measurement-- rebounds. His four rebounds per game are behind only triple double threats like Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, Ricky Rubio and Russell Westbrook. Those rebounds, relative to the rest of his performance, give him a bump in advanced tracking that belies his actual, lower value. It also plays into defensive win shares and ratings, both of which are also buoyed by the average performance of the Thunder which is top ten in the league.
In terms of player tracking, the NBA studies the positioning of the closest defender when an opposing player attempts a shot. In these cases, Jackson is perceived as inferior to D.J. Augustin on all perimeter defensive situations, and superior only inside the midrange. These account for the minority of Augustin's defensive plays, the majority occur from the midrange out. In total, the two players allow 1.8% (for Augustin) and 1.7% (for Jackson) higher than average field goal rates on all defensive plays tracked by the NBA.
These numbers aren't definitive. No defensive stat is. But for an objective, even analysis, the numbers point to a defensive wash, with Augustin showing slight superiority where Detroit needs defense most -- the perimeter.
The Complete Picture
There's not a thing that Reggie Jackson does better than D.J. Augustin did as a Piston. Well, rebounding. The other issue is that any hope for career improvement is meaningless in this context. Detroit has Jackson for two months.
For an inferior player on a two-month term, Detroit gave up a better player, the team's best wing shooter and picks. That's bad enough. But if there's any expectation or hope from this team's management that Reggie Jackson may sign on for a longer commitment, this could all get so much worse.
Detroit just made a costly exchange. It could cost the team what remaining hopes it had for the playoffs. With those hopes, Greg Monroe's interest in returning could also be extinguished. Last, Detroit will miss a draft pick in the second round, a point of value that is foolish to overlook. All for two months of a player that is inferior to the main piece they gave up to acquire him.
I'm sure there are reasons for hope. I just struggle to find any that are objectively sourced.