What are the Pistons getting in Reggie Jackson?
A supremely confident, athletically gifted, competitively hypercharged point guard on the cusp of his prime years.
"Two things, more than anything, other than just his overall play," Stan Van Gundy cited about what drew the Pistons to Jackson as a core piece to slot alongside Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and – if it works out for both sides in free agency – Greg Monroe. "No. 1 is how he's played when he's had the chance to be a starter. He's been outstanding. And how he's played in big games, particularly in playoff games. This is a guy who's been very good. I don't think there was much question around the league as to this guy's ability."
If there were any questions in the aftermath of Thursday's deal that sent Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin to Oklahoma City and also cost the Pistons second-round draft choices in 2017 and '19 about the Pistons' interest in Jackson beyond this season, Van Gundy buried them emphatically.
"We wouldn't have made the move we did if we didn't feel ready to make it a long-term commitment," Van Gundy said Friday. "There's no guarantees. He's a (restricted free agent). We know we can keep him through next year no matter what he does, but we feel good about making a long-term commitment to him and hopefully he'll feel real comfortable making a long-term commitment here and we'll get it done.
"We've got a chance to put together a really solid young core and continue to develop them. You've got to have some patience, but I'm not all that patient, so hopefully it will come together sooner. But you do see a window there and it's not a short window. It's not a two- or three-year window."
Van Gundy sees in Jackson a terrific pick-and-roll player who should flourish in that role when paired with Andre Drummond. Jackson's primary pick-and-roll option in Oklahoma City was finding an open Kevin Durant, so there'll be an adjustment period, but the center-point guard pick and roll is the staple of Van Gundy's offense and he now has two young players – Jackson, 24, and Drummond, 21 – he hopes will be running it for as long as his five-year contract with the Pistons lasts and beyond.
The Pistons have dramatically beefed up their analytics department under Van Gundy and the analytics on Jackson give him demerits for relatively few free-throw attempts and sub-average 3-point shooting. Those shortcomings are neither news nor worrisome to Van Gundy.
"We're well aware of that, but (analytics) also shows he's a guy that gets into the paint, he's got a really good in-between game with his floater and he's a very, very good pick-and-roll player. He's got the potential, with his size and athleticism, to be really good defensively. I don't think he's there yet, in watching him, but I think he can be and he's a guy that we think with more minutes is going to be good. When you look at his shooting stroke, there's no problem there. He's an outstanding free-throw shooter. I think (3-point shooting0 will come around. When you're getting one or two attempts a game, that's always a difficult proposition. He's certainly got a lot of growth to go and we're looking forward to going through that process here."
Van Gundy cited a few other decorated point guards, Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, who come up short in various analytics measurements. Rondo is a career 26 percent 3-point shooter who attempts 2.9 free throws per 36 minutes; Jackson is a career 29 percent 3-point shooter who gets 2.7 free throws per 36. Rose is a career 31 percent 3-point shooter.
"Some of the analytics on (Jackson) are very, very good. There's very few guys that are across-the-board killing it in analytics. Reggie, in a lot of areas, stacks up very good analytically. He's in the top 10 percent of players in the league in points per possession on pick and rolls. We obviously run a lot of pick and rolls and he's one of the best pick-and-roll guys in the league."
Something else about Jackson that has Van Gundy excited: His supreme confidence in himself and his fervent embrace of the opportunity to run his own team after being lost in the oversized shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
"He's got great confidence," Van Gundy said. "I think he thinks he's as good as anyone. You've got to believe that and I think that's why even two years ago, when he was only 22, he was playing well in playoff games. He's got great ability and he's got great faith in that ability and you've got to have that. I think he knows he belongs and so do we. That's why we're excited about the move."