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Reggie Jackson Player Preview: Time to embrace the catch-and-shoot present and let go of playmaking past

Reggie Jackson needs to realize he’s the sizzle not the steak

Reggie Jackson Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

Despite being one of the most criticized players on the Detroit Pistons roster, Reggie Jackson quietly put together a solid season last year. The numbers are not eye-popping, but the big number is 86. That is the number of games he played including the playoffs.

For a player who has struggled with injuries the last few seasons, it was great to see him play and start every single game last season. And although it took him a little while to get going, his numbers in the second half of the season were solid and a repeat of those numbers over a full season would be very good for the Pistons.

His numbers are never going to approach the numbers he put up during the 2015-2016 season because of the presence of Blake Griffin. Reggie Jackson is no longer the focal point of the offense, but he has started to adjust his game to fit more of a secondary playmaker role.

Last Year

Jackson looked a lot healthier in the second half of the season compared to the first half, and his splits reflect that. His numbers before the All-Star break were pretty pedestrian. He averaged 14.9 points per game, 4.4 assists, and 2.8 rebounds. He shot 41% from the field and 37% from 3-point range. He did not look as quick on the court and it was clear that he was still recovering from his sprained ankle from the season prior.

Jackson’s numbers post All-Star break were 16.4 points per game, 3.7 assists, and 2.4 rebounds. Most importantly, however, were his shooting numbers. He hit 43% from the field and 38% from 3-point range. Those numbers are not eye-popping by any means, but if you watched Jackson play in the second half, you noticed a player who looked healthier and was moving around the court a lot better. The numbers reflect that, but the Jackson from the first half of the season wouldn’t have been able to do this:

Or this:

A big improvement in Jackson’s game that was especially apparent last season was his catch-and-shoot 3-point shooting. This is very important because Blake Griffin in the focal point of the offense and needs shooters around him, and Jackson might spend considerable time playing alongside Derrick Rose. The rim attacking, ball dominant Jackson of old would not fit that well with Blake Griffin or Rose. But the new Jackson fits well with Griffin because he is a very good catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter.

Jackson shot 39.6% on catch-and-shoot 3s last season on 3.9 attempts per game, per Catch-and-shoot 3s also comprised 30.9% of his 3-point field goal attempts last season. Hopefully he is able to bump those numbers up a little bit this year on a few more attempts.

The floater still composes a large percentage of his shots inside the arc. It is a shot that he has always been very good at, and it allows him to stay a little bit further from the rim. This is important when you have Andre Drummond in the starting lineup. Whether it is because he has lost a step due to injury or he is just doing what fits best with the team, he seems to be more of a floater/midrange shooter than somebody who attacks the rim hard like Derrick Rose.

Jackson is still effective attacking on the dribble whenever there is an opening or using his solid handle to create space, as you can see here:

Jackson is essentially a catch-and-shoot, floater-shooting point guard who can attack when needed. It is not a seamless fit with Griffin and Drummond, but he did a pretty good job of adapting his game last season to fit better with the Drummond-Griffin pairing.

Reggie Jackson Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

One Big Question

Can Jackson replicate his catch-and-shoot numbers from last season?

Last season, the big question for Jackson was whether he could stay healthy for a full season. But after playing every single game last season, that question can at least be put to rest for the time being.

Now the focus shifts to whether Jackson is able to replicate the solid catch-and-shoot 3-point numbers he put up last season. I already mentioned the importance of it for fitting with Griffin, but it is also important in Dwane Casey’s 3-point shooting offense and he will need to continue to hit them if he wants to stay on the court.

In an ideal world, Jackson is not one of your best 3-point shooters on your roster but that is the reality of the Pistons. If Jackson continues to improve on his shooting, or is able to at least maintain his numbers from last season, that will be huge for the Pistons.

Given that this is a contract year for Jackson and he finally had a fully healthy offseason, hopefully he has been able to put in the work to make sure he maintains those numbers. If he can also get back to being the rim attacker he was a few years ago before the injuries, that will be an added bonus and put him in line for a decent contract when he hits free agency.

Projected Role

Jackson isn’t likely to have his role changed that much from last season. No matter where you go, there are going to be loud voices talking about how Rose should be starting. There are people who just hate Jackson and want him gone, while there are others who think Rose is the better player. Even if you think Rose is a better player than Reggie Jackson (I do not), it is tough to make a case for him fitting better with Griffin than Jackson does.

As I mentioned above, Jackson has improved a lot as a catch-and-shoot three point shooter. On a team whose two best players are big men, it is important to have as many 3-point shooters in the starting lineup as possible. Jackson and Drummond have always had chemistry together, but Jackson being able to reliably hit threes when Griffin passes out of a post up makes him a lot more valuable to start alongside him.

Griffin is the focal point of the offense and dominates the ball. Rose is also a player who thrives with the ball in his hands and isn’t a great shooter from deep, so there is a tough fit between the two. With Jackson’s newly-discovered ability to shoot and make catch-and-shoot threes mentioned above, he fits well with Griffin as somebody who can play off the ball and shoot, while also still having the ability to be a secondary ballhandler who can attack when he needs to.

Jackson can also play with Rose in a similar role that he has when playing with Griffin. The two would leave a lot to be desired defensively, but they would be able to fulfill Casey’s love of multiple guards who can create their own shot. Casey played Ish Smith and Jackson to create a backcourt with two ballhandlers that could create their own shot like he had in Toronto with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Jackson is obviously not on the level of Lowry, but he can play a similar role as Lowry while Rose can do a better job filling the DeRozan role than Smith could.

You might be able to expect an uptick in numbers out of Jackson this season because he is in a contract year and has had his first healthy offseason in three years. The offense is still centered around Griffin, which makes it tough for Jackson to put up much better numbers than he did last season. However, if the plan is to give Griffin more rest than he got last season, Jackson may find himself playing as more of the focal point this season.

The Pistons are going to need players to step up and take on more of a prominent role in the offense when Blake Griffin is out, and Reggie Jackson has shown that he is capable of doing that in the past.

Best Case Scenario

Jackson builds off of a healthy offseason and picks up where he left off last season. He averages close to his career-high 18.8 points per game from 2015-2016 and shoots 40% from 3-point range. He proves to be a perfect fit at point guard with Griffin as the Pistons fight for a middle seed in the Eastern Conference.

Jackson earns a new contract with the Pistons at a more reasonable number so the team can add pieces around their “Big 3.”

Worst Case Scenario

The injury bug comes back to bite Jackson and he misses 25+ games. He is never able to fully get back into basketball shape and his shooting suffers. His three point shooting numbers dip down near the 33% he is shooting for his career. The team falls out of the playoff picture.

Jackson enters free agency and doesn’t generate much interest beyond teams who want him to be a backup and Reggie Jackson ends his career without be given another chance to start.

Concluding Thoughts

This season is an important one for Reggie Jackson. He has a chance to prove to the Pistons that he can fit with the Griffin-Drummond core to hopefully earn himself a new contract with the team. If the Pistons decide to move on, he has a chance to prove to other teams that he is still capable of being a starting point guard in the NBA.

I’ve always been a bigger fan of Reggie Jackson than most people. The Pistons are going to need an upgrade at point guard over Jackson if they are ever going to be serious contenders. Jackson has embraced the city and helped lead the team to their first playoff appearance in eight years back in 2015-2016, so the blind hatred of him has always been confusing to him.

I hope Jackson is able to stay healthy and build off of last season, not just for the sake of the Pistons, but for the sake of his career.