After the Detroit Pistons agreed to a contract buyout with Reggie Jackson, the veteran guard has joined the Clippers. What can the 29-year-old bring to his new team?
As we noted earlier this month, there have only been a few midseason free agency additions that have been particularly impactful since the trend became popular over the past 10 years. However, the change of scenery could certainly reignite Jackson, who is suddenly playing for a title contender.
Looking back, Jackson had a crucial role for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013. It was just his second year in the league, but he played 33.5 minutes per game off the bench during their playoff run. This came after he averaged just 14.2 minutes over the span of 70 games in the regular season that year.
He carried that momentum into the following season for the Thunder, who outscored opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court in 2013-14. Most notably, the reserve scored 32 points (more than the combined output of teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) and grabbed 9 rebounds during a game vs. the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the postseason.
Coming off a season in which his team made an appearance in the Western Conference Finals, the guard was traded to the Detroit Pistons in February 2015. He immediately became a consistent force in the first unit, recording 20 assists (!) in a single game shortly after the deal.
His usage rate after the trade was actually the highest among all point guards in the NBA, via Cleaning the Glass. He received 73.1 passes per game, fifth-most in the East, when he first joined the team.
Detroit was running their offense through Jackson, who led his squad with 74.5 touches per game in 2015-16. That was more touches than superstars like Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Paul George received per game that season.
While that calmed a bit over the years, before this season, he was in the starting lineup for all but two games that he was active for with the Pistons. During four games in the postseason for Detroit last year, Jackson averaged 23.7 points and 9.3 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range.
But his new role with the Clippers will be a return to form for the veteran, who came off the bench in 80 percent of his total appearances while with the Thunder. He can be yet another sparkplug scorer for a team that already has other prolific options off the bench.
Such a fit is likely better suited for Jackson if he shows that he is willing to accept it. Jackson exceeded expectations while with Oklahoma City in such capacity, but he eventually demanded a trade to seek a bigger role. He then failed to live up to lofty goals set for him while on Detroit, a tenure that was largely marred by injuries.
As noted by The Ringer’s Haley O’Shaughnessy, Jackson played all 82 games for just the first time in his career last season. The guard was actually one of just 22 players in the NBA to accomplish this feat during the 2018-19 campaign, but has been unable to follow up the achievement and has been sidelined for most of the year thus far.
Now on the Clippers, though, the guard can offer a size advantage over other backcourt reserves. Standing at 6-foot-3 with a 7-foot wingspan, Jackson offers a somewhat similar profile to former Clippers guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan).
Most importantly, Jackson was the most efficient spot-up shooter among all players who finished at least 10 opportunities with this play type during the 2019 postseason, according to Synergy. He was 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) on his catch-and-shoot three-pointers in the four games that the Pistons matched up with the Milwaukee Bucks. This year, meanwhile, Jackson is currently 17-for-43 (39.5 percent) on attempts from three off the catch.
He has boasted an impressive handle as a floor general, which will help give him more opportunities to stay on the court. His assist-to-turnover ratio (3.1) currently ranks Top 20 among all qualified players so far this season.
On the other end, however, his steal percentage has always been among the lowest in the league among those at his position.
He is not someone who has shown up high on leaderboards for hustle stats like deflections or loose balls recovered. During the 2016-17 season, his net rating (-8.0) ranked as the worst of any player on the Pistons and he finished No. 43 out of 47 eligible point guards on ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus rankings.
The move to add Jackson after a contract buyout was low-risk with high-reward potential for the Clippers, who were already blessed with unique depth in their rotation. If he buys into what the team is preaching and his shooting stroke connects in the playoffs, this is a huge win for the team. It should not, however, change the projections with much significance.