One of the more interesting players on this year’s Detroit Pistons squad is former No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson. He came to Detroit last offseason as one of Troy Weaver’s “reclamation projects” and immediately caught the fan base’s attention with his play to start the season. An ankle injury slowed down the hype train, and when he returned the up and down season returned by the highs were never quite as high as earlier in the year.
Coming into this season, it was unclear what his role on the roster would be. It was reported that he had improved his decision making, one of the biggest holes in his game (along with outside shooting), and if true it would go a long way toward cementing his status in a rotation.
For me, he is also a player to watch because of his expiring contract. This season we will find out if the organization views him as a member of the “young core,” or if he ends up getting flipped at the trade deadline or simply moving on after this season. I go to the film to see exactly what we are getting from the 24-year-old.
Game 1 vs Bulls
I started with the opening night loss at the hands of the Chicago Bulls where Jackson came off the bench. The first thing that jumped out to me was his play on the defensive end. I know this isn’t the “sexy” side of the court to talk about, but the value a player can provide on that end is important to note. Everyone will remember Jackson’s chase down blocks, but what caught eye was his effort chasing guys off screens, staying home off ball on Zach LaVine and even his point-of-attack defense against guys like Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan and LaVine. We even saw some of the “improved” decision making early in the game.
This all sounds great right? Give him an extension! …
Then came the stretch of “bad” Josh Jackson around the middle of the fourth quarter. Ill-advised shot attempts, turnovers and a couple “small” lapses off the ball on defense allowed the Bulls to take the lead. The best way I can explain it is while the sheer number of these bad moments aren’t as many as the good, their impact is bigger because they always crop up at the worst times. I break it all down from this game in the video below.
Game 3 vs Hawks
The second game I went to for this breakdown was the blowout loss at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. In this game, Jackson got the start after Frank Jackson could not take advantage of his opportunity. Again, Jackson was very impressive in the beginning.
He shows good decision-making early in the game and even passes up a shot I wouldn’t have minded him shooting, and instead dishes the ball to Saddiq Bey for an open three. Again, I thought he was impressive on the defensive end and his off-ball gravity seems to be enough to keep solid floor spacing even though he isn’t a knockdown shooter.
I will admit, the bad in this game did not show itself as much as opening night, BUT he did have another stretch in the second quarter where a mistake on the defensive end was compounded by bad shot selection on the ensuing offensive possession. I would say that after rewatching these two games, that decision-making on what 3-pointers to attempt and which ones to turn down or attack the close out have shown up the most. Overall, this was an all-around solid game from Jackson. Though, don’t get too caught up in the box score as there was some “garbage time” stat padding.
Game 4 vs Sixers
For the third and final game of this breakdown, I take a look at the eight-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. I felt like we got the FULL Josh Jackson experience in this game. We saw him more often than not make the right decisions at the 3-point line when it came to taking the shot, attacking, or making a “one more” pass. Also, the defensive effort and intensity showed itself throughout the game. BUT, as I have said throughout, you know you eventually are going to get the bad as well. I would like to see him get more involved on the boards, which I do highlight in this video, and the momentum-killing and compounding mistakes continue to crop up. I also get the chance to highlight something that is talked about a lot with Jackson which is a habit of seemingly predetermining what he is going to do with the ball. I also think it should be noted that even though he started this game, he did not finish with the closing lineup in what ended up being a game that went down to the final few possessions.
Through four full games now it sure looks like we might be getting the same Josh Jackson we got last season. An inconsistent, up and down player who on any given night could give you 20 and 8 with a few assists or 6 and 3 with a few turnovers. He is also a player I am not sure I could ever fully trust in “big” or “clutch” moments. He’s still too young in his NBA career to say that he already “is who he is,” but you do have to wonder how high his ceiling really is at this point.
Is it good enough for a second-unit role with this organization moving forward? I wouldn’t mind him signing on for another couple years to see how it goes, but I think we will get our answer at the trade deadline when we see if Troy Weaver decides he needs any more second round picks that he seems to be collecting. That is, if Jackson can play well enough to garner an offer from another team.