Surprise. Shock. Disgust. Happiness. Confusion. All words that could be used to describe the reactions of not only Pistons fans, but NBA pundits when Stan Van Gundy offered Reggie Jackson a 5-year, $80 million contract after only 27 games in Detroit.
Everyone had an opinion. DBB was already split in half after the February trade that saw D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jackson, with Mike Payne and Packey presenting both sides of the story. Van Gundy was confident in his choice, Reggie was ready to prove himself and various team sources revealed that the team was more than happy to play alongside their new point guard.
Over the offseason, Jackson became a leader, he helped organize the team-building UFC training sessions, spent time off the court with Andre Drummond and rookie Stanley Johnson and became a vocal leader on and off the hardwood. So far this season he is posting career highs in minutes (31.3), points (19.9), assists (6.4) and 3-point shooting (35.7%). He has supported Brandon Jennings through his injury rehabilitation, driving over to watch his comeback game with the Grand Rapids Drive. Jackson has claimed responsibility when he has had a stinker and listened to his coach's criticisms, spending a lot of time analyzing game tapes and working on his flaws. But, his maturity level isn't the only thing that has improved, evidenced in him winning two Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards as well as some well earned All-Star considerations (although not as much as he deserves).
It hasn't all been great, however; he is still learning to become more consistent on both ends of the floor, his inability to draw more fouls has infuriated more than one Pistons fans, and he sometimes tends to revert to hero-ball when the team is down. It always helps to take a step back though, as we tend to forget that the Boston College product is 25 years-old, and is still going through his paces but his current production is making Van Gundy happy. Per The Detroit News' Rod Beard:
"We said at the time -- and people were criticizing us -- that we thought down the road that deal would look like a bargain," Van Gundy said. "When you look at (Jackson), his numbers say he's in the top seven or eight point guards in the league and you'd have to say that's true."
"He's done a good job -- it's a hard job because so much is on him," Pistons coach/president Stan Van Gundy said. "We put the ball in his hands, we expect a lot and we need him to play well. We're not going to win many games where he's having a bad night -- that's some pressure on him."
Jackson is indeed under a lot of pressure, as the team's leading scorer and floor general, his level of play determines how the Pistons will play on any given night, but you can't deny he has been a net positive since joining the team. Despite his relative streaky-ness and various inconsistencies, Jackson really is making his $80 million contract look like a bargain. For comparison's sake, he is nipping at John Wall's heels stat-wise in 2015-16, per36, he is trailing the Wizards' point guard only in assists and steals, not bad considering Wall lamented the fact he was being paid the same amount as his Motown counterpart only six months ago. As SVG told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, its all about fit, fit and recognizing potential.
"You look at Reggie's situation," Van Gundy said, "(and) there was really nothing bad there. He was a guy that was looking for an opportunity to play more, and was sort of vilified for that, I guess -- for wanting to play more. I guess people wanted him to be happy being a backup his entire career."
Jackson certainly isn't a backup anymore, and is proving detractors wrong as he continues to improve on and off the court. Considering this is his first year as a full-time starter, Pistons fans should be extremely happy with Jackson's output, especially when you realize the only way is up as he fulfills his potential.