Ending up the dog days of summer, DBB is rolling out a series of players that our writers are optimistic about this coming season - even perhaps irrationally optimistic.
Reggie Jackson is not the best player on the Detroit Pistons. However, he might be the most important player on the team.
The Pistons were 18-13 and right in the middle of the pack when it came to the playoff race last season before Reggie Jackson went down with a sprained ankle on December 26. The Pistons would go on to struggle to an 11-26 record in his absence and have a once promising season derailed by a Reggie Jackson injury.
That was the second season in a row in which Reggie Jackson missed a large portion of the season due to injury and the second season in a row in which the Pistons missed the playoffs after ending their playoff drought in 2015-16. The fanbase no longer trusts Reggie Jackson to stay healthy and that is a completely legitimate take.
Let me tell you why I am irrationally excited about Reggie Jackson this season.
It all starts with the man, the myth, the legend, Arnie Kander. The Pistons brought back Kander during the offseason to be an advisor with the sole purpose of injury prevention for Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin. Getting a player who has been injury-prone the last few seasons to magically stay healthy involves using some weird form of black magic. Especially when that player has a chronic knee problem and asthma (I still don’t know if this is true or an urban legend, but everybody talks about it so I am just going to go with it). However, if anybody can figure out this black magic, it is Kander.
Injury prevention is the only thing that Jackson needs at this point. His numbers are nothing special, but there are two years of proof that the team plays better when he is healthy. The Pistons are at their best with Reggie Jackson running the pick-and-roll with Andre Drummond and Ish Smith jitter-bugging his way around with the second unit. With Blake Griffin on board, there are even more wrinkles that can be added to the Pistons offense.
Reggie Jackson can play off the ball a bit, something that Ish Smith cannot do that effectively when he is in the starting lineup with Blake Griffin. Jackson is not the best shooter, but he played off the ball in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook with some decent success.
Reggie Jackson is not a good enough facilitator to be the team’s only facilitator, but he doesn’t have to be with Blake Griffin now on board. His catch-and-shoot numbers are not great, so I don’t want him spending a ton of time off the ball, but he can create offense for himself when he has the ball, which he can focus on more with Blake Griffin likely being the primary facilitator.
Every good offense needs a few players that can handle the ball and create offense. You cannot have one player who dominates the ball with a bunch of stationary shooters around them unless that player is LeBron James. In the past, the Pistons offense has been Reggie Jackson dominating the ball and running the pick-and-roll while everybody else kind of just stood around. This was partly out of necessity due to the Pistons lack of offensive creators, but it is not going to be necessary anymore with Blake Griffin in the fold.
Taking away some of the responsibility of Reggie Jackson running the offense is probably for the best and will likely result in better results for him as he plays to his strengths as a scorer.
I am not going to try and convince you of the value of Reggie Jackson to this team. The proof is in the pudding (record), but there is a large percentage of Pistons fans that don’t care about the record when he is healthy because a healthy Reggie Jackson is never coming back. This is the realistic thinking, but I have always been an overly optimistic person.
My reason for being irrationally excited about Reggie Jackson this season is because I think he will be healthy finally. If that is the case, the results will prove his value to this team.