Chemistry was never a subject I did well in. I didn't do too horribly in it, but it was difficult for me. But that class did provide one of my favorite memories from school. Our teacher showed us how Potassium reacts when it is introduced to water. Separately they both could be handled without care. But once you placed the Potassium into the water, it ignited.
This may end up being the case with regards to Reggie Jackson and Greg Monroe and how they fit into Stan Van Gundy's plans for the future. As I see it, Monroe is the water - consistent, healthy, H2O - and Jackson being the Potassium - very reactive with water, can be radioactive.
Please don't misconstrue my analogy, to my knowledge there have been no personal issues between the two. In the last few weeks, albeit 15 games is a small sample size, some things do raise questions, though.
This season can be segmented into different parts. You have the 5-23 Smith era. Then you have the exciting 16-10 post-Smith era where the Pistons were fighting for a playoff spot. And right now we are in the middle of a 5-11 Jackson era where many are not sure if we should win or lose. Well, within the Jackson era, you can break that down as well to those involving Monroe and those where he has not played. (Note: I am including the game Jackson did not play in with the Jackson era due to the other roster changes.)
The first game of the Jackson era started with an impressive 17 point win over the Washington Wizards who, though they were struggling, are still a playoff team. Reggie turned in a less than stellar performance in this game shooting 7-for-18 from the field for 17 points and only getting five boards, five assists against three turnovers. That is to be expected as it was his first game with his new team. Monroe also did not do so well in this game shooting only 6-for-16 for 15 points but bringing in just as many rebounds and getting three steals to go with two assists (opposite two turnovers). Still, the Pistons won, and that is what matters.
Then the next 10 games happened...
The Pistons would lose all 10 of those games with a Net Rating of -10. The eight games prior to the Jackson trade had the Pistons with a Net Rating of +3.9. But, in honesty, Jackson was not the only change to the team. Jonas Jerebko, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Luigi Datome were all gone, whereas Jackson and Tayshaun Prince were brought in. A lot of three-point shooting was sent out (by a coach who loves three point shooters) for two players who for their career are not great three point shooters. Something was going to change.
And it did. The Pistons, who were shooting 35.7-percent from distance in the post-Smith era (1.3-percent above their season average at that point) DROPPED all the way down to 28.6-percent in the next 12 games since the trade. What is honestly interesting about all of that is that on Sunday, the Pistons set a franchise record in converted three point field-goals.
Jodie Meeks and Tayshaun Prince were both hitting a nice 41.7-percent and Caron Butler a cool 38.1-percent. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope cooled off some from his pre-trade deadline numbers of 34.9-percent to 30.6-percent on 0.8 more attempts per game. Heck, even Anthony Tolliver, who had been hitting 39.1-percent of his threes as a Piston cooled off to a putrid 24.1-percent. However, Jackson who is not known as a consistent three point shooter was shooting 3.4 attempts per game and only hitting on 27.0-percent. (Cartier Martin has been disgustingly awful with limited time, and Spencer Dinwiddie is still trying to adjust his game to the NBA game, so I'm not including them.)
So the trades took away three-point shooting, which took away spacing needed for the big men, right? That is why we lost those 10 games in a row, right? No, not exactly. In the post-Smith era, Monroe was playing a lot better getting 16.1 points on 50.2-percent field-goal percentage while also bringing in 12 rebounds a game. Andre Drummond was also averaging a healthy 12.8 points per game on 52-percent shooting to go with 13.1 rebounds per game. Since the trade deadline, Monroe and Drummond have been even more beastly. In 12 games since the deadline (he has missed four due to injury), Monroe was averaging 18.8 points per game on 51.2-percent shooting and still bringing in 10.5 rebounds a game. Drummond, in those same 12 games, was up to 15.0 points per game on 51.6-percent shooting to go with 14.9 rebounds per game.
How well has Jackson performed since the trade? Well, prior to beating Memphis, he was averaging 14 points per game on 36.8-percent shooting (15.2 field goal attempts per game) while dishing out 6.8 assists against 3.3 turnovers per game. Again, some acclimation period is due when joining a new team.
But then Monroe strained his knee.
In the four games Monroe has missed, the Pistons have won three out of four games with the wins against Memphis (by 10), Chicago (by 17) and Boston (by 8). That lone loss? PHILADELPHIA! BY 11! So do not re-sign Monroe, right? Maybe. Or maybe do not re-sign Jackson.
During Monroe's injury, Drummond has played a little worse. Trying to shoulder more of the offensive load, Drummond's shooting percentage has dropped to 48-percent. But he is still getting 14.3 points per game and pulling in 15.3 rebounds. Jackson, on the other hand, has been playing quite a bit better. He has upped his field-goal percentage to 43.8-percent and has been dishing out a crazy 13.0 assists against only 3.0 turnovers. That is an A/TO ratio of 4.3. He has even been getting to the line more. Prior to the last four games he was only getting there twice a game with the Pistons. In the last four it has been 3.5 times a game, still hitting at over 90-percent of them.
It may be as simple as who needs the ball in their hands more. Monroe can be quite the facilitator and in the 12 games since the deadline he was at a 24.7-percent usage percentage. During that same time, Jackson was at 27.1-percent. In the last four games, Jackson's at 23.9. So since Monroe has been out, Jackson has been more apt to sharing the ball. I doubt that is a reflection on their on-court relationship, but it makes you wonder. If Jackson were to maintain this type of sharing play due to Monroe's absence, how far could the Pistons go with Jackson? But on the opposite side, you may also ask "If Jackson were this selfless when Monroe was playing, could they have won some of those 10 games?"
Once again, this is all small sample size. In that 10-game losing streak, seven of those games were on the road and six of them were against the West. There were three back-to-backs and one four-in-five. They only broke 100 twice during that losing streak and have broke 100 in all three wins since.
There are 12 games left in the season which is also not a very large sample size. For the Pistons to finish the season at .500 or better in the Jackson era, they would need to win nine of those games. I am not sure if the question any longer is if Drummond and Monroe can co-exist, it may instead be "Can Monroe and Jackson co-exist?"
What are your thoughts DBB?