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Pistons roster breakdown: Doling out point guard minutes

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Point guard play is critical and the Pistons can’t afford another gloomy year from Reggie Jackson.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There are no easy nights for point guards in today’s NBA as every game presents an opportunity to trade punches with some of the most diverse athletes basketball has to offer. For Detroit to even dream about the postseason, the point guard position can’t be one of uncertainty. So how will the Pistons allot those precious minutes? First, let’s take a look at the cast.

Returning

Much of last year’s disappointments can be attributed to the off brand version of Reggie Jackson we saw during the 2015-16 season. Jackson missed the first 21 games and was eventually shut down once it became apparent the Pistons were out of the postseason picture. After taking the entire offseason to strengthen his ailing knee, the Pistons remain entrenched in a wait and see timeline in regards to Jackson’s availability and productivity.

Ish Smith filled in admirably for a hobbling Reggie while guiding the Pistons to an 11-10 record in those first 21 games. Upon returning to the bench, he—along with Tobias Harris—made the second unit a functional asset.

Newbs

Langston Galloway signed with the Pistons after spending time in Sacramento and New Orleans during the 2016-17 season. He’s a heat-check shoot first point guard that is better suited to play off ball.

In case of emergency, Detroit can use Avery Bradley as lead guard. During his formative years in Boston, Bradley spent time as point guard in mostly a backup role but drifted away from those responsibilities as he earned the starting gig at the two spot.

Game night

As we all know by now, there are two Reggie Jacksons, and I’ll make a case for three. There is “2015-16 Jackson” and “2016-17 Jackson”, two completely different players. The third Jackson being a cocktail blending the first two characters and topped off with white knuckled rollercoaster play. My guess is the third Jackson is one we see now and moving forward.

Assuming there are no setbacks (a large assumption) and Jackson is able to participate from the start of the season, he should garner around 26 - 30 minutes per night. On a rotation basis, it’s something like the first eight minutes of the first and third quarters and the last six minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

The remaining time should be allocated to Ish Smith as his presence on the second unit last year was an invaluable resource of relative consistency. Boban Marjanovic will be in the bench rotation and needs to the ball to be effective, a job best suited for the penetrating-at-will Smith.

Variables such as score or matchups might dictate a showing of Langston Galloway but I fully expect him to do most of his damage (I mean, as much “damage” as can be expected) from the backup shooting guard role.

Back-to-back game night

This, my DBB friends, is where it gets fun (depending on your definition of “fun”).

The Pistons play 14 back-to-back sets this year which might dramatically change the landscape of the point guard scene during the back end of those sets.

As first noted by DBB editor/writer/podcaster Lazarus Jackson, our buddy Reggie Jackson was horrible on the second night of a B2B last year averaging under 11 points while shooting 25 percent from beyond the arc and owned a negative 17.4 net rating.

Now, I’m no coaching scientist or anything but those numbers are awful and the eye test came back with the same crippling diagnosis.

If there is even a remote chance of an encore performance then Stan Van Gundy must seriously consider sitting Jackson on the second night. Of course, though, health and production will be the determining factors.

What would the point guard rotation look like sans Reggie Jackson? The easy answer is to just bump Ish Smith to the starting spot with Galloway serving time with the second unit.

I’m not entirely sure that’s the best route.

A Jackson-less roster changes the dynamic of the team and starting Avery Bradley at lead guard with Langston Galloway (or a clear eyed Reggie Bullock) off ball might play—at least on paper— to the team’s strengths a bit more.

The offensive scheme(s) would surely be tweaked without Jackson but the meat of the attack—the pick-and-roll—is still a priority. Bradley is much better (per Synergy Bradley’s derived offense from the PNR was .962 PPP, Galloway at .735 in 55 games with New Orleans; both in small samples compared to full time PGs) at orchestrating PNR action than Galloway and keeping Andre Drummond engaged on offense is best done through post ups diving to the rim. It would also leave Ish Smith with backup minutes and, ideally, it’s where he should be.

Of course though, Avery averaging a barely-there 2.2 assists per game last year might suggest otherwise. Thrusting Bradley into point guard duties takes away from his ceiling but the team might be better off if Jackson turns out to be completely unavailable. At the very minimum, it’s worth exploring even if it never comes to fruition.

As always, context matters and until these guys throw on an actual Pistons’ uniform and break a sweat together, there is no wrong answer.

It’s not an overstatement to say this season’s success is dependent on a healthy, effective Reggie Jackson. I certainly have my doubts but he deserves a chance to correct the current narrative.