Detroit Pistons: Reggie Jackson 2018-19 season preview

AUBURN HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 22: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball against the New York Knicks on December 22, 2017 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
AUBURN HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 22: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Detroit Pistons handles the ball against the New York Knicks on December 22, 2017 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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For the fourth straight summer, Reggie Jackson is expected to be the starting point guard for the Detroit Pistons. Yet injuries have limited his availability the last two seasons. Once again, Detroit’s success begins (and ends) with Jackson.

Reggie Jackson has missed a total of 67 games over the last two seasons. In both years, the Detroit Pistons failed to make the playoffs.

That’s not a coincidence.

Since their most recent playoff appearance in 2016, injuries to the Pistons’ starting point guard have derailed the club’s progress.

Jackson isn’t the best player on Detroit’s roster. But (as I wrote in a piece last year that still rings true today) he remains the most important piece to the puzzle.

With that in mind, here’s your 2018-19 player preview for Reggie Jackson.

With and without

You don’t have to be a basketball junkie to recognize Jackson’s importance to the Detroit Pistons.  So we can set aside his pick-and-roll prowess, usage rate, and facilitating skills for just a minute.

Here’s the truth: the Pistons fare better when he’s in the lineup.

Last year, Detroit started the season on a 19-14 tear. Jackson averaged 14.6 points, 5.5 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game on 44.6 percent shooting during that stretch.

The 2017-18 campaign effectively came to end on Dec. 26, when Jackson suffered a Grade 3 right ankle sprain against the Indiana Pacers. He would miss the next 37 games of the season.

Without their floor leader, the Pistons went 12-25 in his absence. By the time Jackson returned on March 20, Detroit was six games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

When Jackson was on the floor, Detroit had an offensive rating of 109.9 points per 100 possessions. Once he stepped off the court, it dropped to 106.9.

Return to form?

Back in 2015-16, the last time Reggie Jackson was fully healthy, he was one of the main reasons why Detroit ended a six-year postseason drought.

He led the team in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc. Jackson also dished out 6.2 assists per game – which was crucial since the Pistons ranked 27th in that category.

That was the also the season where he and Andre Drummond developed a prolific two-man game. The Pistons didn’t quite have the 3-point shooting that they do now. So Stan Van Gundy relied heavily on the high pick-and-roll when the team needed a basket.

Needless to say, his point guard and center delivered.

An astounding 55.9 percent of Jackson’s plays that season came in pick-and-roll situations, according to Synergy. This was by fair the highest percentage for any point guard with a minimum of 500 possessions.

He averaged 0.876 points per possession in those sets, a better metric than 77 percent of the NBA that year. Synergy gave him a rating of “Very Good” when serving as the pick-and-roll ball handler.

Now fast forward to the present, Jackson is three years older at 28, and has suffered two major injuries since the 2015-16 season. It would be unfair to expect the same level of production from him.

And that’s alright.

The reality for Reggie

The Pistons don’t need the screen-and-roll as much as they used to. They’ve since added perimeter shooting with Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard. New head coach Dwane Casey will implement an offense that encourages those 3-point specialists to fire at will.

Blake Griffin is an isolation threat from the post, and can serve as a point forward if need be.

Most importantly, Drummond’s game has evolved. He’s catching entry passes from farther out, more aggressive when using his dribble, and has become a willing passer from the high post.

If Jackson can continue to hit pull-up jumpers (he averaged 0.874 PPP on jump shots last season) like the ones shown below, Detroit should be in good shape.

This is especially true when the defense fails to close out.  Keeping defenders honest plays right into your hands as a ball handler. Rather than settle for every 3-pointer, he should seek to attack if space is available in front of him.

Jackson shouldn’t abandon the 3-point line entirely. But he’s much more dangerous off the dribble. After all, most point guards are.

light. Related Story. Blake Griffin season preview

It’s hard to predict anything in the NBA these days.

But if there’s one thing that’s certain about the Detroit Pistons, it’s this: They’ll go as far as Reggie Jackson can take them.