Name: Reggie Jackson
Years in the NBA: 9
Key Stats: Averaged 9.5 points and 3.2 assists in 17 games after joining the Clippers shortly before the coronavirus shutdown. The guard was a core member of the second unit down the stretch and played a regular role off the bench in the playoffs, too.
Future contract status: Jackson is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
The Clippers needed experience and an ability to start or come off the bench from either guard position, and snapped up Jackson after he got a buyout from his monster contract with the Detroit Pistons in February. On paper, Jackson is a player who always seemed like the cast around him at the Pistons wasn’t helping him reach his highest potential, and what better place to come to than the Clippers, pushing for a title?
But this season, Jackson had to transition back to a role that was mostly coming off the bench, and for a player put in a particularly tight spot based on the timing of it all, the road was bumpy, especially with Doc Rivers’ reliance on what seemed to be subpar defending from Jackson in the playoffs.
Jackson’s 3-point shooting percentage of 41.3 percent was best on the team among the primary core, and his assist percentage was behind only Lou Williams and Kawhi Leonard. Jackson did have plenty of experience in a variety of roles, both positionally and in the rotation, and relatively speaking he slotted in pretty quickly for a Clippers team that sought coherent team chemistry all season.
Compared to his days in Detroit when he was often the first or second scoring option, Jackson had to be more discerning with his looks in LA, and his field-goal percentage with the Clippers was the second-best mark of his career, so he took better advantage of the shots he did get.
Jackson’s experience and versatility are certainly positives, but I think there’s long been a sense he is on the verge of really breaking out. It’s pretty clear at this point he can have a hot game or three, but he’s not going to transcend his ceiling, which is a tweener starter/bench player.
Aside from his shooting percentage, Jackson’s numbers largely went down compared to his Pistons stint, but much of that is down to the change in roles between the teams, so there’s some noise in the stats.
What really hurt the Clippers in crunch time was Jackson’s defense in the playoffs. The Clippers struggled to handle Luka Doncic in the first round, and while Doncic has Ginobili-esque powers to make opposing defenders look silly, the perimeter defense was shockingly bad from the Clippers at times. Jackson was far from the only player who struggled in this phase, but with the Dallas Mavericks giving the Clippers many struggles, Jackson was often at the center of the action, not in a good way.
And then it got worse in the second round against the Denver Nuggets. Jamal Murray ran hot and cold over the course of the series, but Denver’s ability to get 3-point contributions from their entire lineup meant that Jackson was among the Clippers who couldn’t keep up. Plus, he’s always had a penchant for picking up fouls, and when half of the Clippers also struggled with foul trouble in the playoffs, giving opponents numerous chances from the charity stripe certainly didn’t do the Clippers any favors, and there was a perception among the fanbase that Rivers’ reliance on Jackson was a sign the coach couldn’t adjust when necessary.
Future with the Clippers:
It’s hard to say, honestly. Perhaps if the price was right and Jackson appeared to offer something in a leadership role in the locker room, there’s every chance he could return next year. Finding a decent backup point guard isn’t exactly easy, and Jackson is best friends with Paul George.
But it wouldn’t be shocking if the team under Tyronn Lue now went in a new direction, and sought to find an upgrade in that position one way or another. If anything, the team could use a player to push for a starting role at the position to offer more offensive impetus than Patrick Beverley, and while Jackson can do a job, he’s probably not going to be a bedrock piece for a contender, especially at this point in his career.
Jackson got thrown on the Clippers, played for a couple weeks, had to wait four months to play again, then ended up as a scapegoat of sorts for a team that never pulled it together. It’s not fair he was a scapegoat considering his limited role, but he also never really offered proof he was the big midseason upgrade the Clippers needed, either.