It was admittedly hard for me to get excited about the Detroit Pistons' acquisition of Reggie Jackson on Thursday when D.J. Augustin's name was thrown into the ring. After saving the Chicago Bulls' 2013-2014 season when Derrick Rose went down with an injury, according to Tom Thibodeau, Augustin was again performing well above his pay grade for the Pistons after Brandon Jennings was lost for the season.
In 10 starts since Jennings tore his achilles, Augustin averaged 20 points on 14 shots, eight assists and was sizzling shooting the rock (47/43/96 percent). At $3 million a year, Augustin was turning into the steal many believed him to be when the Pistons inked him to a two-year deal last summer. Trading that for a 28-game rental who is going into what could be a very costly restricted free agency seems like a lateral move at best if not a total head scratcher. Mike Payne really drove it home with a very compelling comparison of the two.
But just because the trade doesn't sit well at first and some advanced stats don't paint a pretty picture, it doesn't mean there aren't sound reasons to be optimistic. There are.
For instance, I don't think anybody can deny that Reggie Jackson is a more dynamic player. He adds slam dunk shots, DBB's favorite, and despite not being a better finisher at the rim this year, he is much, much better within 14 feet (61% vs. 47%). That, to me, is more telling than a discrepancy of a couple percentage points at the rim.
There also needs to be something said about system. It's more subjective than cold hard numbers, but it cannot be completely ignored. Bobby Karalla touches on this in his positive review of the move at Bball Breakdown:
The best attribute a coach can have is the ability to put players in a position to succeed. That's what's made guys like Rick Carlisle et al so successful. In Oklahoma City, Jackson was asked too frequently to do what he cannot do. Nearly 17% of his field goal attempts this season have come in catch-and-shoot form, per NBA.com, and he boasts an ugly 31.3% eFG on those opportunities. By comparison, just 13.7% of Jennings's attempts following Smith's release were catch-and-shoot. The new Piston simply wasn't effective playing next to Westbrook, but he absolutely should be coming off of Drummond and Monroe screens and running into space surrounded by guys like Jodie Meeks, Tolliver, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Karalla goes on to point out that Jackson is sixth in the NBA on drives to the basket. Imagine how much better he might be with defenders afraid to drop off Drummond or Monroe. This seems to have worked for Stan Van Gundy point guards thus far this season. Consider this from DBBer Hypnowheel:
It's no coincidence that Jennings and DJ both played at an extremely high level under SVG (in the PSE, of course). Hell, even JLIII is playing pretty well. There's no guarantee RJ will do the same, but if I were a betting man, I'd guess he'll play at or near his potential in SVG's system.
Thunder fans tend to agree about the positives with the difference in style and talent around Jackson in Detroit:
OKC Fan Here ... [Jackson] Ranks in the 85th percentile in PNR/Isolation scoring this season despite having Perkins as a roll man, who clears negative space when he dives to the rim. Lack of shooting is a concern, and he can be a little trigger-happy on deep twos, but you really have to see the lack of space he was working with to believe it. General consensus in Thunder threads is that he should be pretty great in Detroit.
As for defense, I don't know if Jackson can be any worse than Augustin. Augustin was mostly a defensive liability, especially against bigger guards, which was almost every night. This is the area I think Jackson will have a chance to really pass Augustin in terms of overall play. Thom not Tom Gores put it best in the comments:
I don't buy the tracking thing defensively. But even giving that up, Jackson - if coached properly - has the ability to be a significantly better defender than Augustin. I like DJ, but he's 6'0" at best, and it's incredibly hard to be an above average defender at that height. It's basically just Chris Paul. Jackson is 6'3" with a 7'0" wingspan, which is just obscene for a guard.
I actually don't think Scott Brooks is a bad coach on the defensive end, so Jackson's middling defense might be an effort issue. What I do know is that Brandon Jennings, an athletic guard with good measurables and effort issues, stopped being a defensive liability under Stan Van Gundy's tutelage. I find it hard to believe someone as physically gifted as Jackson can't provide more on that end of the court than Augustin.
Thom touched on something that leads to my last point -- effort. Effort is an intangible, but as I've said before, intangibles can breed the tangible. Jackson wanted out of OKC. He wanted a starter's role with more responsibility, so much that he cried tears of joy upon waking up from a nap and learning that he was headed to Detroit. He wants to be in Detroit and what's more is he wants to prove that he deserves the $12 million per year OKC thought he was worth last summer and even more as he enters (restricted) free agency. He's going to get that opportunity in at least 28 games with the Pistons under Van Gundy.
In his Twitter profile, Jackson describes himself as "just a kid chasing a dream." Maybe acquiring Jackson was chasing a dream and only time will tell whether or not he is a dream come true. I don't know, but let's chase it together.
Now your puppy dogs and ice cream thoughts.