Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson has shown drastic signs of improvement so far this season. His play has spawned both media members and current players to comment on his impressive start. For example, after the Thunder’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, ex-Thunder and current Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin declared this about Jackson:
Kevin Martin on Reggie Jackson: “He’s a great back-up to Russ, but he’s definitely a starter in this league.” — Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 2, 2013
Reggie Jackson is making ‘The Leap.’ — Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) December 5, 2013
That’s high praise from two widely respected voices in the NBA community. But what can we make of Reggie Jackson’s strong performances this season?
In Reggie Jackson’s three seasons as a pro, he’s seen his role increase astronomically. The 24th pick in the 2011 draft showed flashes of the potential he’s realizing right now in his rookie year. While his athleticism has always been astounding, he averaged only 11 minutes per game in his first year due to some iffy shooting. He shot 32 percent from the field and put up an atrocious 21 percent from 3. This culminated in a mere 90 offensive rating and a gruesome 0.11 win shares per 48 minutes. He took a little trip to the D-League in this year to try and right some of his issues and considering his play now, that sure helped.
In his second year, he made some drastic leaps as a player. His field goal percentage shot up to 46 percent, and he looked a lot more confident running an offense. He still struggled with 3-point shooting, but that doesn’t take away from his pre-breakout year. He also showed improvements on the glass as well throughout the year, increasing his average from 1.2 to 2.4 (baby steps). But once Russell Westbrook went down with his injury in the playoffs, the offense was thrust upon Jackson. In the ultimate trial by fire, Jackson held his own throughout the playoffs. Although the Thunder lost to the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semifinals, Jackson slowly started to chip away at the potential he had buried deep down. In games like this below, Jackson’s confidence shined.
It’s that very confidence he gained in the playoffs last year that has helped him burst onto the scene this year as a backcourt stud. In the 17 games of the 2013-14 season, he’s had a huge increase in playing time and production. He now averages 24.3 minutes and 11.2 points per game. He’s improved his percentages in all shooting stats, especially from behind the arc. While 31 percent isn’t great, that demonstrates he has the ability to change his shooting mechanics for the better. With the help of our old buddy SportVU, let’s take a closer look at his stats this year.
While Jackson has always been aggressive at the rim, this season he’s had the most success. He’s shooting 53.4 percent on drives to the hoop, which is better than guards like Damien Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Jeff Teague and Jrue Holiday. That also has translated to a 66.7 percent shooting stroke on close shots (within 12 feet). This proves that since he knows he’s not the strongest jump shooter, he tries to make things happen at the hoop. And he’s done quite well with it so far. However, he picks his spots to drive and try to score around the rim carefully. He only drives 5.2 times a game, which is pretty minimal considering his position. But that translates to a very solid 8.5 points per 48 minutes on drives. Attacking the rim is now Jackson’s primary offensive threat, and it’s one that defenses will be forced to plan around.
However, his jump shooting still lacks behind. He’s shooting 30.8 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts and 37 percent on pull-up attempts. Those aren’t great, but it is clear that his confidence is rising. His poise on the floor proves that he believes he can play with the best in the league. Just consider this:
Reggie Jackson had KD open on a swing, said ‘Nah’ and drilled a three. Confidence keeps building.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 5, 2013
While that’s not the highest percentage of shots, I like the confidence. That will only help him in the future.
Is he making “the leap?” I’m not sure. He’s having a great season, and should be strongly considered for the Sixth Man of the Year award. His jump shooting will need to improve for him to be considered a starter in this league, like Kevin Martin believes. But he’s in a great situation with the Thunder, and will be integral to their success this season.