After being acquired at the 2015 trade deadline from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Reggie Jackson averaged 17.6 points per game and 9.2 assists in his first cup of tea as a starting point guard. The thing that really stood out was his assists because he came in with the reputation of being a score-first point guard. The Pistons looked like they had a real point guard of the future, not another Rodney Stuckey.
Reggie Jackson officially signed a 5-year, $80 million contract on July 20, 2015. As is the case with any large contract, with it comes some skepticism and yet high expectations. Many basketball writers questioned the contract. We are all aware of the comments made by John Wall about the contract as well. Reggie Jackson set out to prove the doubters wrong during the 2015-2016 season.
Justifying the contract should be easy for him, right? Just maintain the scoring and passing of the previous season following the trade.
Well, while Jackson was able to increase his scoring average up to 18.8 points per game, he dropped down to 6.2 assists per game. That is good for an assist percent of 36.3, down from the 51.2 percent he had the year before. His field goal attempts per game stayed about the same, as well as his usage rate. His field goal attempts per game went up from 15.6 to 15.7, and his usage rate went up from 28.6 percent to 29.1 percent.
To call the offense inconsistent would be an understatement. The offense was stagnant many times during the season, and most of the blame went to Reggie. He is the point guard and it is his job to get everybody going after all. Reading Reggie Jackson comments in the GameThread was like riding a roller coaster. One moment everybody loves him, the next moment he is the worst player ever. It wasn't quite that severe, but it sure seemed like it.
The drop in assist percentage does show how Reggie Jackson was passing less. One thing that I noticed was less lobs to Andre Drummond. That cannot be fully blamed on Reggie Jackson, as teams studied the dominant Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick and roll and put more emphasis on trying to stop it. That in turn forced Jackson to find other ways to be effective.
As I mentioned above, Reggie Jackson upped his scoring average. I have no issue with more scoring and less passing as long as the scoring is more efficient. He did that, increasing his true shooting percentage from 51 percent to 54 percent in 2015-2016.
The reason for the increase in true shooting percentage was his improved three-point shooting, as well as his free throw percentage going back to his career average. He went from 33.7 percent from three to conclude the 2014-2015 season up to 35.4 percent. That is also above his career average of 31.4 percent. He also shot an extra three per game. At the stripe, he upped his 79.6 percent back to 86.4 percent, right around his career average of 85.9 percent.
The one standout attribute from Jackson's 2015-2016 season was his clutch play. The DBB masses came up with so many nicknames for him because of his tendency to turn it on in crunch time. There was Mr. Clutch, Captain Clutch, Zero Chill, Mr. 4th Quarter, and others.
Reggie Jackson didn't just start a narrative about his tendency to turn it on in the 4th, there are stats to back it up. According to NBA.com, clutch scoring is defined as "scoring in the last 5 minutes when the team is within 5 points." Reggie Jackson led the league in total points in clutch situations with 178 points, plus an average of 4.8 points per game in clutch situations, which also led the league.
We all remember the Portland game where Reggie Jackson scored 40 points, including 26 in the 4th quarter to spark an improbable win.
And yet, there is more to Jackson's first full season as the team's point guard than clutch scoring.
One thing that was heavily discussed throughout the season was his conditioning. He only averaged 30.7 minutes per game. That is a bit low, especially for a team with a bad backup point guard (sorry Steve Blake). There have been a lot of talk on why he struggles with energy during games. It has been mentioned multiple times that he has asthma, which is definitely a legitimate explanation.
His conditioning has also been an excuse for his poor defense. The only person who really knows if that is true is Jackson himself. But he played some solid defense in the playoffs, so he showed that he is capable of doing it. Whether a switch flipped and that will be the norm for next year is something that we will have to wait to see.
Conditioning could be the No. 1 factor in Jackson's improvement for next season. It could make him play more consistent throughout the game, and give him more energy to play more engaged defensively. If asthma is preventing him from ever getting into better shape, well, there might not be much more room for improvement.
Another year of continuity in the starting lineup should help do wonders, though. He will get more comfortable with his teammates, and with being a starting point guard. That alone could lead to a jump in production, especially in passing the ball and running an offense.
Even without dramatic improvements, the pick and roll between him and Drummond is already one of the best in the NBA. Jackson is also one of the most clutch players in the game. This season put Reggie Jackson, the basketball player, on the map. You can probably expect to start hearing his name being mentioned in All-Star talk.
And remember, this was his first time being 'the guy' for a full season. He's young and surrounded by youth. They will mature and grow and improve together. The future is bright and Jackson is one of the, if not the, biggest cogs.
Jackson may always be a polarizing player among Pistons fans. Some (most, if we're being honest) will say he can't play defense. Some will say he doesn't pass enough and too often tries to get his own. Some might say he's out of control. Some will rag on his shot and say he's not consistent enough. But flaws, complaints and all, it doesn't change the fact that Jackson is this team's point guard of the future. And, so far, Jackson has done a good job being the guy and proving the naysayers wrong.