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The Pistons can survive Reggie Jackson’s ankle sprain

Detroit is better equipped to deal with Reggie’s injury than they were last season.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Reggie Jackson, the Detroit Pistons’ $16 million dollar man, turned his right ankle pretty badly against the Pacers Tuesday.


As of the writing of this article, there has been no official timetable placed on his return. Superstar Steph Curry, who has more of an injury history regarding ankles, severely sprained his ankle on December 4, and is nearing a return now, nearly three and a half weeks later.

Obviously you don’t WANT your starting point guard to turn his ankle, but the Pistons could have used a little less Reggie Jackson lately. Jackson has been a net negative on the Pistons for the last month. His December splits are the stuff of nightmares: 12.9 points on 41 percent from the floor and 25 (!) percent from three, an assist-to-turnover ratio under two, with a dual drop in his free throw rate and free throw percentage.

I’ve raised this issue sporadically in pieces and sounded the alarm on the Detroit Bad Boys podcast - Reggie Jackson did not look fully healthy this month. He lacked the burst to the rim he had as recently as earlier this season. After the debacle of last season, the Pistons’ coaching and training staff need to be acutely away of Reggie’s health.

Now, with this ankle injury, there’s an opportunity to extensively evaluate where he’s at and get him right for the rest of the season. We’ve seen that, after dedicated rehab, Reggie Jackson can return to the player he was when the Pistons acquired him. We’ve also seen what happens when Reggie is rushed back from injury, and the results were not appealing.

Luckily, the Pistons don’t need to rush Reggie back: This is a good stretch of the season for the Pistons to be without their starting point guard. Their upcoming schedule is tough, but by no means season-ending:

There are winnable games against Orlando, Brooklyn (twice), Miami, and Charlotte mixed in with very loseable games against the Spurs and the Rockets. This isn’t Hell Week 2.0, and at 19-14 and in fourth place in the conference, it’s not like the Pistons need to win 10 straight during that stretch to stay in the playoff race.

For now, Reggie’s injury likely pushes Ish Smith into the starting lineup. Ish is a qualified spot starter, as fans will recall from the beginning (and end) of last year - Smith started 32 games and averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 assists in that time. Ish is inefficient and can’t shoot threes, but he defends well for his size and pushes the pace in a way that teams have to attend to when he’s on the floor.

If Ish is starting, Langston Galloway is my bet to take the bulk of the backup point guard minutes. Galloway has been productive, but has been in and out of the lineup thanks to the emergence of Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock. Shifting Galloway to backup point guard also prevents Kennard from cannibalizing his minutes, even when Avery Bradley returns. Although Galloway is not a true point guard, the Pistons’ DHO-centric offense does not require much from the primary ballhandler and can function with Galloway in that role, as Mike Snyder illustrated in his Close Out a few weeks ago:

There’s also the option of calling up Dwight Buycks from the Grand Rapids Drive or signing a tertiary point guard option off the street ( that Beno Udrih I see, in the distance?), but elevating Ish and Langston is the simplest (and most resource-efficient) path forward for Detroit.

As one of the few players on the Pistons who can create his own shot, Reggie Jackson is vital to this team. Missing your entire starting backcourt is sub-optimal for any NBA team. However, the Pistons are better equipped to deal with Reggie’s injury than they were at any point last season, and they have the luxury of getting Jackson RIGHT, which is key for the team's playoff viability.