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Pistons new point guard Reggie Jackson offers star potential

A closer look at Reggie Jackson shows definite weaknesses to his game - but also the possibility for his trade to reap huge dividends.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In a surprising move in the closing minutes of last Thursday's NBA trade deadline, the Pistons came out of nowhere to land Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team deal.

Jackson came at a steep price, including the Pistons starting point guard and small forward, D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler, plus a pair of picks. This is despite the fact that Jackson is in the final year of his rookie contract, had turned down a 4 year, $48 million offer over the summer, and requested a trade from the Thunder.

So what did the Pistons get with their new 24 year old point guard?

Jackson is in his fourth NBA season, emerging as a rotation player in 2012-13 before a breakout season last year. With Russell Westbrook sidelined, Jackson started half of the season and filled in quite nicely with 14 points and 5 assists as a starter.

This season Jackson has more or less matched his numbers from last year, though his three point shooting is down from 34 percent to 28 percent. He has also served in more of a combo guard capacity with Westbrook mostly back.

His mold is that of a shoot-first point guard, averaging 21 field goal attempts per 100 possessions on the year. If he maintains that rate after moving to the Pistons, he'll lead the team. But he does bring at least some passing ability. His 25 percent assist percentage is about on par with D.J. Augustin's career average and he does a nice job avoiding turnovers.

Jackson has shown middling efficiency as a scorer, with a true shooting percentage of 51 percent for the year compared to the average of 52.6 percent for his position. Although he showed signs of promise as a three point shooter last year, he has struggled from deep for most of his career shooting only 29 percent.

Despite his struggles shooting the ball, he's not shy about putting it up. So far this season, about half of his shots have come from beyond 15 feet. Still, he's decent on longer jumpers, shooting 35 percent from 16-24 feet so there may be some untapped potential there.

When Jackson puts his mind to it though, he's excellent at getting to the rim and finishing once he's there. At 6'3, over 200 pounds with long arms and tremendous athleticism, he's brings excellent physical attributes to the table.

Inside 16 feet, Jackson is as good as just about any perimeter player in the league. He connects on 54 percent of his shots inside this space and does so with a variety of weapons. He's an excellent finisher with either hand and is often able to finish over big men even with stoutly contested shots. Jackson has a nice touch on pull-up jumpers and is among the top in the league scoring off the pick and roll.

As has been pointed out by Stan Van Gundy, one thing he can still do more of here is get to the free throw line. Jackson is an excellent free throw shooter, but gets to the line fewer than 3 times per 36 minutes. It may be that his ability to finish on difficult shots at the rim comes back to bite him when he avoids looking to draw contact.

Jackson has been a mixed bag defensively so far in his career. Despite possessing the size and athleticism to be a lock-down defender, he's certainly not been one. His traditional defensive stats are lackluster, and advanced tracking figures paint a mediocre picture at best.

Particularly on areas like spot-up and hand-off defense, Jackson checks in as a below-average defender - which given his size and athleticism advantages at his position, these certainly shouldn't be the case. But he does grade out very well in isolation situations and covering the ball-handler in pick and rolls. As there were leaks about discontentment with his situation in Oklahoma City, it may well have been an effort problem in the past.

Now, as Mike Payne pointed out in the aftermath of the trade, Jackson hasn't produced at the same level as the player he's replacing in D.J. Augustin. Augustin was undersized and he wasn't flashy, but he was extremely efficient and cost-effective.

But Stan Van Gundy wasn't buying Reggie Jackson for his current production - it's upside that makes Jackson particularly attractive.

Potential is tricky. You can have a tantalizing player that for years shows signs of breaking through, but never realizes that potential. Or you can cut bait early, and wistfully watch as that player goes on to reach his potential elsewhere. The Pistons have experienced both to an extent.

There's reason to be hopeful that the Pistons are buying in on Jackson at the right time though. Van Gundy pointed to Eric Bledsoe's situation with the Los Angeles Clippers, and that comparison seems an appropriate one. Here's how Jackson and Bledsoe match up through their first 5,000 minutes:

1 Eric Bledsoe 2011 2014 240 78 5274 5.3 11.8 .445 0.8 2.5 .327 4.5 9.4 .477 2.8 3.7 .759 1.3 3.5 4.9 5.6 2.1 0.7 3.6 2.7 14.2
2 Reggie Jackson 2012 2015 246 50 5199 5.9 13.8 .431 1.1 4.0 .288 4.8 9.8 .488 2.3 2.7 .873 0.7 4.4 5.1 5.1 1.3 0.2 2.4 2.4 15.4

That information includes Bledsoe's first year breakout season in Phoenix. While Bledsoe shows some strengths that he's capitalized on as he's become a franchise player, namely his ability to get to the line and his defense, Jackson compares very favorably. That fact alone makes this move very different than situations in the past like with Rodney Stuckey or Brandon Knight.

This isn't a hope that flashes that were shown over a couple of months can be maintained throughout a year. It's not a hope that a guy can make some dramatic transformation, going from incompetent to an All Star. If Jackson doesn't improve a lick, he's still an above average point guard.

Now, potential is usually an if/then proposition. If so and so can do this, then he'll be the next so and so. That's not necessarily the case for Jackson. Sure, improving his three point shot and getting to the line more often would do wonders for his true shooting percentage. And he needs to improve his consistency on the defensive end. If he does that, he'll develop into an excellent player.

But there's also a tremendous amount of upside in the margins.

Most importantly, form a dominant duo with Andre Drummond. That starts with the pick and roll. As you recall from Drummond's first two years in the league, he formed a tremendous pairing with Will Bynum.

With the right personnel on the court, the pairing was unstoppable. Unfortunately though, none of the point guards this season have been able to replicate that chemistry. It's not out of effort, as both have focused on getting Drummond the ball. But whereas Bynum was a tough player to stop at the rim, both Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin have limitations that may have given opposing defenses more ability to shut the play down.

That shouldn't be the case for Jackson. With his dominance inside 16 feet, he has a wealth of options for attacking the defense should they make preventing an alley oop to Drummond the top priority. Synergy figures show Jackson as one of the top point guards in the league running the pick and roll this season, and he's flashed the ability to create for his teammates out of it.

If Jackson able to form that kind of connection with Andre Drummond on a regular basis while also maintaining his past per-minute production, he'll be in the conversation with the best point guards in the East - which is the best kind of potential, the easiest to fulfill. He doesn't need to do anything new.

However the Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond pairing may present a difficulty. This pick and roll ultimately was successful for the Pistons in that it got the two points:

But it also shows why it's most successful with a big man who can stretch the court. In order to stop Jackson and Drummond, the Thunder gladly pull a big man off Monroe at 20 feet. Perhaps Van Gundy has a plan on using the three to create lanes and exploit gaps. But it sure looks crowded in that paint.

Time will tell whether Jackson thrives or fizzles with the Pistons. Certainly, either is possible. That's the nature of potential. But considering Jackson's likely floor and ceiling, he represents a reasonable risk on the part of Van Gundy.