Frank Jackson is Wayne Ellington but 10 years younger. He’s the modern Microwave. He’s the new Langston Galloway. A born bucket getter. In layman’s term’s, he’s a modern-day 3-point specialist, and that might make him the most valuable bench piece on the Detroit Pistons’ young roster.
He came here to chew bubble gum and hit 3-pointers, and he’s all out of bubble gum. And if you don’t understand that reference, pleas enjoy this GIF from a 33-year-old movie. And if you’re still confused after watching the GIF, well, bless your heart, I can’t really help you.
But back to Frank Jackson. He was a bit of a revelation last year. A less splashy version of what the team experienced the year before with Christian Wood. Size gets you paid, and Wood jetted for a nice $14 million per year payday from the Houston Rockets. Jackson, meanwhile, had to settle for a two-year deal worth just over $3 million per season.
I’m not saying that Jackson is better than Wood, but he will be extremely valuable for the Pistons assuming the growth in his 3-point shot is the real deal. Jackson spent two years with the New Orleans Pelicans, but Jackson didn’t really know who he was as a player and the Pelicans didn’t really know what to do with him. Come to think of it, this is a lot like the Pelicans’ experience with Christian Wood.
Troy Weaver scooped up Jackson after the woeful Oklahoma City Thunder let him go in training camp last season. He got a two-way deal as a reclamation project during year 1 of the Pistons rebuild, and Jackson took the opportunity and ran with it … eventually.
He struggled early on in Detroit as he was getting inconsistent playing time and the Pistons were putting the 6-foot-3 guard in the point guard role. It was a job he was not suited for. Once they permanently moved him off the ball, it was like a switch flipped. Apparently, that switch was a green light, and the team told Jackson to fire away from deep, which he did with abandon.
Know Your Role
Jackson went from less than 1.5 3-point attempts per game in the season’s first two months to more than 4.5 for the rest of the season while ending the season shooting better than 40% from deep.
He also studied under the master Wayne Ellington, and his job is to carry those lessons forward into this season. Ellington’s genius was not just the quick release but his ability to use a screen and hoist immediately, to grab an outlet pass and side step into his shooting motion while a defender scrambled to the space Ellington one was.
In this three-shot sequence you see two of Jackson’s top skills. First, you see that Ellington sidestep into the open look. Second, you see a couple corner opportunities where Jackson catches it right into his shooting pocket and gets the shot up lightning quick. No wasted motion, not a ton of movement in his body. Just a pure catch and shoot.
He’s also able to stretch defenses to the breaking point by utilizing a dribble hand-off or using a screen and stepping back into that 28-foot range to bomb deep 3s.
But his bread and butter will be to be lethal from the corner. He shot 51.6% on corner 3s last season including 72% from the right corner. He only shot 32.6% on above-the-break 3s, and there have been reports in the offseason that Jackson was working on speeding up his shot release and working to become an even more lethal 3-point shooter.
The eye test says don’t doubt him. His form is clean and repeatable, and the arc on his shot is pretty. He’s also a solid athlete who graded out very well out of college. It just took him a few years to put it all together, find his niche, and further refine his game.
That isn’t terribly uncommon for any player, and that’s especially true of players who struggle to fit in as undersized two guards. But Jackson never gave up on himself, he found a team who believed in him in the Pistons, and now both are better off.
If there is any concern it comes down to that size again. Jackson has good awareness on team defense, and the effort is there, but he does lack size. And he joins a team that roundly lacks size overall. In a fight for bench minutes, if it comes down to Jackson who can hit shots but is limited on the defensive end or his fellow Jackson, Josh, who can guard three positions and deliver offense (albeit inconsistently), Frank might just lose out in the rotation.
But at the same time, it’s hard to see this team not needing that consistent dose of 3-point shooting that he provides. He opens up the offense so much and provides the scoring punch off the bench this team will desperately need. I could see him forming a nice little three-man game with Kelly Olynyk and Cory Joseph as the extra screen and pop man or the guy who leaks out to the corner you can’t forget about. This would give both Olynyk and Joseph an outlet on a drive or an easy path to the bucket.