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Josh Jackson Player Preview: There’s No Place Like Home

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The Pistons hope Jackson’s homecoming portends his ascension

Josh Jackson Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

I have been trying to bring Josh Jackson back to Michigan for years:

With the Detroit Pistons’ eternal struggle to find a wing player over 6-foot-7, it always made sense to gamble on Jackson’s athleticism and potential, even as Jackson continued to make poor choices off-the-court. Fortunately, Jackson was able to find a developmental program in Memphis that gave him room to grow on and off the floor. The character-obsessed Troy Weaver must have liked what he heard and brought Josh to Detroit on the full Room Exception for two years.

So what does Josh Jackson offer the Detroit Pistons? A little bit of everything — playmaking, rim pressure, shooting, off-ball defense.

Jackson, who will turn 24 during the season, is more athletic than we’re used to on the wing. His athleticism is fluid, not explosive — he’s not taking off in traffic, violently yamming on defenders — but he gets from point A to point B with relative ease and runs the floor well.

On offense, he’s noticeably right-handed as a finisher. He can attack with his left, but even when doing so, he likes to pull it back and finish right. In transition, he will go for euros to finish right. Coming off DHOs, he’s much better getting downhill and attacking if he’s attacking to the right. But because of his length and that fluidity — and the fact that he’s often seeing tilted defenses as a secondary attacker — it works well enough.

Jackson is good as a weakside cutter — his athleticism lets him elevate quickly in space, and finish before defense can react (or forces them to foul). On a Pistons team that looks to be starved for easy baskets, having an intelligent cutter is very helpful. And even when he doesn’t convert on his cuts, they warp the defense, open gaps, and create advantages for others.

As a shooter, Jackson has improved his shooting motion over the years. He does a much better job of bringing the ball up quickly and closer to his body — he had a little bit of a trebuchet-esque jumper in college and he’s mostly ironed that out. The improved process made for better results ... in the G-League, at least. Jackson shot 38%from three in 26 G-League games last year, but only 32% from three in his 22 NBA games. The cleaner shot also helped him attack closeouts a little bit better, which helped open up Jackson’s ability to make simple plays for his teammates.

Jackson has nice vision as a passer. He does a good job of finding guys who are open when the defense is scrambling to recover. You see him make the correct passes in transition, as well. But his ability to get other guys good looks is limited by his handle — he’s not a creative pick-and-roll ballhandler. He can’t force passing windows open for his teammates, but he can take advantage of creases that are there.

On defense, he’s good, not great. Likes to offer help, where he can use his long arms (6-foot-10 wingspan) to get into passing lanes and drives around the rim. He’ll also pull out the occasional chasedown block or two. But as a on-ball defender, especially on other wings, his 207-pound frame betrays him — guys can muscle him off his spots on drives or big-boy him in the post.

Projected Role

Looking at the roster, Josh Jackson should be solidly in the rotation, but coming off the bench. You have to think he’s more ready to play consistent NBA minutes than rookie Saddiq Bey, but not talented enough to start over Jerami Grant (even an out-of-position Jerami Grant) at small forward. We could see Jackson start at small forward alongside Grant, though, if Blake Griffin were to be traded during the season.

Best-Case Scenario

Jackson fills the backup small forward role ably, playing 1200-1400 minutes (16-20 minutes a night every night) on the season.

Worst-Case Scenario

Regresses as a shooter, forces drives too much, too inconsistent. The Pistons decide to go in the direction of Saddiq Bey or Sekou Doumbouya or Dznan Musa more often than they do with Josh.