Reggie Jackson has hit his mid-season stride for the Detroit Pistons

Jan 3, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) goes to the basket against Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (21) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) goes to the basket against Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (21) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons have struggled since Reggie Jackson came back this season. It’s popular to pick on him for the issues, but you’d be wrong to do so.

The Detroit Pistons have been an abject disaster since Reggie Jackson‘s return from knee tendinitis. The team scrapped their way to a surprising 11-10 record under Ish Smith before the reigns were turned over to Jackson, and nothing has gone according to plan.

Since his return in early December, the Pistons have a dreadful 5-11 record with their only wins being a 102-91 victory over a Chicago Bulls team playing the second game of a grueling road back-to-back (the previous night was a hard-fought 112-110 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on the other side of the country), a 117-90 victory over an overmatched Minnesota Timberwolves squad, a 95-85 comeback win against a bad Dallas Mavericks’ team, a 106-90 win over the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers coming off a gutty win over the Golden State Warriors the day before, and a 107-98 comeback win over the Miami Heat, who suited up very few actual NBA players thanks to heavy injuries.

Thanks to some remarkable timing, Jackson came back to the lineup right after the Pistons seemed to figure it out with Ish Smith. The Pistons had won five of six games, including a home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers and a three-game romp on the road with huge wins over the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks. Over that six game stretch, Ish Smith took on the appearance of a highly efficient floor general, scoring 13.2 points and adding six assists per game, averaging just 0.3 turnovers along the way.

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He shot 54.8 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from long range, and the most optimistic voices started to wonder if maybe Stan Van Gundy had worked his point guard magic (see Jameer Nelson, Brandon Jennings, D.J. Augustin) once again and Smith had become more than the sum of his parts. Maybe the Pistons would be better off without reintroducing Jackson, who just missed out on an All-Star nod last season, into the starting lineup.

The Pistons struggled out of the gate, as did Jackson. In his first nine games back, Jackson had a poor true shooting percentage of just 48.9 percent thanks to uncharacteristically mediocre shooting numbers. He his just 38.7 percent of his field goal attempts and only 34.4 percent of his threes. His usage over this stretch was 28.9 percent, just a fraction shy of last season’s breakout campaign in which he had a 29.1 percent usage.

When you’re efficient and effective, high usage is fine. When you’re rusty and struggling, it’s not so great.

It was around that nine-game mark that things changed for Jackson, if not for the team as a whole. The nine-game mark also the timeframe that we should have been keeping an eye on in the first place as a landmark to determine his recovery and effectiveness.


Glad you asked. These nine games spanned about two-and-a-half weeks, encompassing roughly the amount of time that training camp and the preseason takes. Factor in six preseason games and half a week of two-a-day practices, and you have a fairly commensurate workload for Jackson.

In addition, Jackson was getting into game shape against players who have been going at full speed for over two months. It was easy to forget at the time, but there’s no way to make up that deficit other than getting in-game minutes and getting some burn in your lungs.

Go figure, after those nine games were in the bank, Jackson’s production took a big leap forward. Starting December 21st against the Memphis Grizzlies, Reggie Jackson started to look like the Reggie of old for the Detroit Pistons.

Jackson has demonstrated a noticeable improvement in his athleticism and his ability to get up and down the floor, and his numbers have followed suit. Since the Grizzlies game, he’s shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from long range, and his true shooting percentage is 56.7 percent. His usage rate is also down a tad to 27.5 percent, 16th among all guards who have played 100 minutes or more.

One of the biggest concerns with Jackson is that he is a ball-hog, a shoot-first guard who only looks to distribute when no other option (other than a 1-5 pick and roll with Andre Drummond) presents itself. In stark contrast with the pass-first Ish Smith, it seems natural that players may bristle as they did when forced to adjust to getting fewer touches, right?

Maybe not.

Granted, Ish Smith does pass the ball more than Jackson, but when Smith is an extraordinarily limited offensive point guard and Jackson is pretty much the only guy on the team who can get his own shot, that’s simply part of doing business. What might surprise you is the fact that Reggie Jackson is averaging 17.6 assist points created per 36 minutes over the last seven games. That number is slightly higher than the number of assist points created by Kyle Lowry, who is generating 16.3 points

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He also touches the ball a lot, being the point guard of a team that is challenged when it comes to creating offense. However, he is averaging 60.5 passes per 36 minutes, a touch better than Lowry’s 59.3 passes per 36.

To hit closer to home, it’s a misnomer to suggest that Smith is a fount of creative assists and perpetual ball movement. While Jackson leads the team in seconds per touch at 5.62 (similar to John Wall‘s 5.82, Kemba Walker‘s 5.31 and Goran Dragic‘s 5.24 seconds per touch), Smith isn’t far behind at 5.01. In addition, Jackson averages slightly more potential assists per 36 minutes (14.4 to 14.3) and has just a touch fewer assist points created per 36 (17.6 to 18.5).

In essence, Reggie Jackson took 17 days to get his legs under him coming off knee tendinitis. Now that he seems to be back to full speed, he’s on track for one of the best offensive seasons of his career.

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The Pistons have some serious issues to deal with, and there may be difficult questions that need to be asked. One thing that we can be assured of, however, is that this mess is not Reggie Jackson’s fault. If chemistry issues have arisen after having to reintegrate into an offense predicated around a talented on-ball point guard, it’s time for the Detroit Pistons to pull it back together.

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