This had to be a different Reggie Jackson.
It couldn’t have been the same guy who averaged all of five points per game in last season’s playoffs. It certainly couldn’t have been the same guy who was bought out by the Detroit Pistons earlier that same year. Right?
Wrong. Same Jackson. Different usage.
“That group revitalized me,” Jackson said of his move to the Clippers, via the LA Times’ Andrew Greif.
Revitalized, though, implies returning to the same standard. The version of Jackson that exploded in the 2020-21 playoffs for the LA Clippers not only coupled increased assertiveness with an improved shooting stroke, but also filled a notably different role in offensive sets than in previous seasons. As Jackson is set to earn a big payday this offseason after dropping nearly 18 points per game across his postseason run, his next employer should take note of how he was utilized by the Clippers and coach Tyronn Lue to ensure that “Mr. June” sticks around for good.
Jackson’s explosion might seem unfathomable. He was solid in the regular season for the Clippers, putting up 11 points a game on a career high 58% true shooting, but became the team’s legitimate third-best player – and second-best after Kawhi Leonard went down with an injury – once the calendar hit June. On a team that made the Western Conference Finals, no less! Reggie Jackson!
Clipper fans gave Reggie Jackson a lot of love during these playoffs. He went from a player fans didn’t like last year, to arguably their favorite this year. Moved him to tears during his postgame press conference.
— Farbod Esnaashari (@Farbod_E) July 1, 2021
Part of Jackson’s scoring barrage – dropping at least 20 in five of his last seven postseason games – certainly came out of an increased role with Leonard injured. Perhaps, then, “Mr. June” was simply lurking beneath the surface of the player we saw in the regular season. Yet the frequency of how his offensive possessions were spent was notably different, as he was put in more situations that enhanced his effectiveness.
Jackson was once a prolific ballhandler in the pick-and-roll in Detroit as a natural point guard. In his last full season with the Pistons, they comprised 36.6% of his offensive possessions, and he made decent use of them, ranking in the 65th percentile of players in scoring efficiency with that play type.
Yet whatever the reason – different system, role adjustment, etc. – Jackson didn’t have nearly the same success this season with the Clippers, ranking in about the 42nd percentile. He spent less time running pick-and-rolls, with frequency of 27.9%, but that still made up a large chunk of his offensive possessions.
Here’s the kicker – in the playoffs, Jackson’s frequency of orchestrating pick-and-rolls careened to about 18%. He still wasn’t generating much offense out of those, ranking in the 45th percentile, indicating this was pretty much the same Jackson we saw in the regular season. But his overall scoring erupted. That doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
Rather than working as a primary conductor of offense, Jackson saw his role expand in isolation. Just 10.6% of his possessions in the regular seasons ended in isolations, compared to about 20% in the playoffs. Again, this was basically the same player – he generated 1.09 points per possession (PPP) in the playoffs and 1.03 in the regular season in isolation, with a menial percentile difference – just one in a notably different role. It might seem odd to suggest to a future coach that a once-prolific point guard like Jackson should spend more time creating for himself than running the two-man game, but the basic concept this suggests is that he’ll find more success as a secondary ballhandler and shot-creator rather than a primary facilitator.
Where Jackson did seem to truly evolve was in transition. Those possessions took up about the same overall percentage both before and during the playoffs, but Jackson stepped up his efficiency from just the 27th percentile to the 61st. That was apparent in the eye test, too, as he tortured the Phoenix Suns with pull-up threes off the catch and…coast-to-coast breakaway dunks, apparently?
That’s a 6’2 guard with eight total dunks in the regular season doing that, just to clarify.
Yet his success finishing plays in transition doesn’t invalidate the role his other stats suggest he should fill. Jackson is more than capable of pushing a fast break on or off the ball; he just seems more suited to play off a primary ballhandler in the halfcourt, as he did this postseason with Paul George. He’d fit in beautifully next to, say, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the Celtics, Luka Doncic on the Mavericks or, heck, just staying put and keeping the good vibes rolling in Los Angeles.
Reggie Jackson said he’s thankful for the team. Said he doesn’t know what the future holds but he’ll “forever be a Clipper.”
— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) July 1, 2021
If Jackson’s next team continues the blueprint for how he was used on offense this postseason, “Mr. June” could become a man of all months.
All playtype stats as of June 29, 2021 via NBA.com.