3 goals: Reggie Jackson – use second-half surge, healthy summer as a springboard
(Editor’s note: Today continues a series looking at the 17 players – 15 under standard contracts, two on two-way deals – who comprise the 2019-20 Pistons roster heading into the home stretch of the off-season. Today: Reggie Jackson. Coming Thursday: Tim Frazier.)
It got obscured by any number of other storylines, but Reggie Jackson’s second-half turnaround was one of the driving forces in the Pistons getting to the playoffs in Dwane Casey’s first season.
And it was a revival predicted by longtime Pistons training guru Arnie Kander, now a consultant for the team. After Jackson endured debilitating leg injuries that undermined both his 2016-17 (left knee tendinosis) and 2017-18 (grade-3 right ankle sprain) seasons – and, more germane, precluded Jackson from doing anything other than the most menial on-court work or conditioning in each subsequent off-season – Kander told Jackson it would be mid-season by the time he felt back to himself.
Jackson cocked his eyebrows at the time, figuring as long as his injuries were behind him it would come much sooner than that. But, sure enough, he found Kander to be spot on. While everybody else was hitting the wall and feeling heavy legged a few weeks after the All-Star break, Jackson felt the wind in his sails.
Jackson averaged 15.4 points and shot .421 overall and .369 from the 3-point arc for the season, but check out his numbers before Feb. 1 compared to the final 32 games: 11.8 points before, 16.9 after; .402 overall shooting and .342 from the 3-point arc before, .448 and .411 after.
And perhaps the most encouraging statistic of all for Jackson last season: 82 games.
Given his first healthy off-season since his 2015-16 career year when Jackson averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists and ranked in the top 10 in drives per game, the Pistons can go into training camp with valid optimism that they’ll get the post-Feb. 1 version of Jackson from the get-go this time around.
Dwane Casey’s practice is to present his players with a three-item card with their core values to the team before training camp starts. In keeping with that protocol but with a twist, we’ll look at the three goals for each player on the roster heading into the 2019-20 Pistons season. For Reggie Jackson, those are …
CONTINUE ADAPTING – Nobody was asked to bend his game more to meld with an offensive blueprint significantly different than what the Pistons had operated prior to Dwane Casey’s arrival than Jackson. The Pistons ran far fewer point guard pick and rolls with Jackson than they had before – a process that began before Casey with the arrival of Blake Griffin – and also asked him to spend much less time probing with the dribble. Casey preached a “point-five” mentality that encourages decisions with the ball – to shoot, pass or initiate a dribble move – to be made in half a second. Casey piloted a similar transformation – with resounding success – for Kyle Lowry in Toronto and kept insisting that Jackson would be just as capable of adapting. You can’t separate Jackson’s physical gains from his gradually increasing comfort level with the offense, but it’s fair to guess there was a combination of both that contributed to his second-half surge.
PICK YOUR SPOTS – A more explosive Jackson gives the Pistons one of the most effective penetrators in the NBA and Casey’s offense always will accommodate efficient takes to the rim. If Jackson finds in training camp that the ease with which he once got inside the defense prior to the knee and ankle infirmities has returned, then he’ll be given the latitude to determine when to attack and when to pull back and play through Griffin. Jackson has proven himself one of the NBA’s most effective fourth-quarter scorers where his penetration and free-throw shooting accuracy have created efficient scoring chances for him. That becomes a more difficult needle to thread when it’s no longer the first, second and third option for a point guard, but as Jackson becomes more acquainted with Casey’s system and builds his history with Griffin as he once had to do with Andre Drummond, he can become an even more efficient weapon.
BOMBS AWAY – One byproduct of Jackson immersing himself in Casey’s offense – aside from fewer pick and rolls – was a dramatic spike in Jackson’s 3-point rate. Through his first seven NBA seasons, Jackson took slightly less than 30 percent of his shots from the 3-point arc and was coming off seasons of 20 and 23 percent 3-point rates. Last season, that jumped to 45 percent. Jackson is a terrific catch-and-shoot and corner 3-point shooter and he’ll continue to get plenty of those chances when the offense runs through Griffin. Jackson might get even more opportunities to play off of the ball this season with the addition of Derrick Rose. If Casey chooses to play them in tandem, they can pick and choose which one plays with the ball based on defensive matchups. When Rose has the ball, Jackson can set up shop on the weak side at the 3-point line and become an even bigger weapon in year two under Casey.