The Detroit Pistons acquired Reggie Jackson in a last-second deadline deal that gained far less fanfare than the blockbuster trade that sent Goran Dragic to Miami. Jackson wasn’t even the headliner in his own deal, as Enes Kanter being sent to the Thunder was viewed as the biggest aspect of the trade. Over a month later, it’s starting to look like Jackson is the one everyone should have been talking about.
After a tough start in Detroit, Jackson is now fitting into Stan Van Gundy’s system seamlessly. So much so that the Pistons, who have endured a very dysfunctional season, will have to think hard about paying Jackson this summer as he enters restricted free agency. Let’s take a look at Jackson’s play with Detroit so far and if the Pistons should spend whatever it takes to keep the young guard this summer.
Reggie Jackson w/OKC Reggie Jackson w/DET
Although he has increased his scoring per 36 minutes from 16.5 with the Thunder to 20.0 with the Pistons, Jackson’s efficiency has stayed the same. Oddly enough, his true shooting percentage remains exactly the same in Detroit as it was in Oklahoma City. (51.1 percent)
Jackson has finished worse in the paint with Detroit, but has increased his takes at the rim. His shooting from downtown has also improved with the Pistons, upping his three-point percentage from 27.8 percent with Oklahoma City to 34.2 percent with Detroit. The scoring increase has come from an increase in volume, as Jackson’s usage percent with the Pistons has skyrocketed to 28.9, up from 22.2 with the Thunder.
Jackson isn’t an efficient scorer, and probably never will be, but he can take over a game when he’s feeling it. Jackson has an electric first step and uses his length to finish over smaller defenders. SVG has utilized Jackson in countless pick-and rolls-since he has come over to Detroit, and he leads the NBA with nearly 60 percent of his plays coming from the pick-and-roll, according to Synergy. Jackson has been solid scoring the ball in these situations, ranking in the 72nd percentile of the league as the pick-and-roll ball handler, but passing the ball in these sets is where he has become dangerous.
Jackson has been a magician with the ball since taking over starting duties with the Pistons. Jackson ranks fifth in the NBA post-All-Star break with 8.7 assists per game. His assist percentage has increased from 24.7 with Oklahoma City to 50.7 with Detroit, meaning Jackson assists on over half of the Pistons’ field goals while he’s on the floor. According to SportVU, he ranks seventh in the league creating 19.8 points per game by assists since he came to Detroit.
Jackson has quickly built chemistry with Andre Drummond, assisting the big man a team-high 55 times, more than Brandon Jennings‘s 44. Jackson has played 695 minutes with Detroit while Jennings played 1,173 before tearing his Achilles:
Jackson and Drummond have become the most deadly alley-oop partners in the league. Drummond uses his 6-foot-11, 279-pound build to gain separation as the PnR roll man, and Jackson does an outstanding job of throwing pin-point lob passes as Drummond rushes towards to the rim. Drummond also runs the floor as frequently as any big man in the league, so Jackson regularly locates him for lobs in transition. Drummond is still a work in progress in the post, so feeding the big man easy baskets is paramount. Jackson has done that better than any point guard Drummond has played with in Detroit.
Jackson’s net rating of 1.2 doesn’t sound like much, but that number is actually the third-highest mark on the Pistons, according to NBA.com. Detroit is 3.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Jackson on the floor while the defense hardly changes. Real Plus-Minus tells a different story, as Jackson has a 1.35 ORPM, but a -1.57 DRPM, although that includes his time in Oklahoma City. Even if Jackson is a negative defensively, his offensive contributions usually more than make up for his marginal defense.
The Pistons would be crazy to not re-sign Jackson this summer. Given his success with Detroit, there will be no shortage of suitors, but the 24-year old point guard has become too valuable to the Pistons. He’s averaging 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 8.7 assists since the trade with a career-high 19.9 PER. Jennings was flourishing with Detroit before he got hurt, but there’s no guarantee he’ll return as the same player. Even if he did, Jackson’s a much better fit.
Jackson should be the priority for the Pistons this summer, even over unrestricted free agent Greg Monroe. Jackson can get wild at times and may be a regression candidate, but Detroit can’t afford to let him walk. Not if they want to make a return to the playoffs anytime soon.