Thursday, April 16, 2015

2014-15 Season Review: Point Guards

With Brandon Jennings transforming his game following the release of Josh Smith and then tearing his Achilles, DJ Augustin's brief period as the starter, the emergence of Spencer Dinwiddie as a viable backup and the acquisitions of Reggie Jackson and John Lucas III, the Pistons' PG rotation saw more changes than any other spot on the roster in the 2014-15 season.  Through all of the uncertainty at the position, the Pistons received solid play all year long, with Reggie Jackson's dynamic play in the final month of the season providing an excellent exclamation point.   With John Lucas III the only point guard on the roster not under contract for next season, the Pistons should see more continuity next year, although the question of where Brandon Jennings is going to find his minutes will be a prevalent one.




Reggie Jackson
GP
PER
PPG
APG
AST%
TO%
SPG
TS%
FG%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
50
(OKC)
15.6
12.8
4.3
24.5%
12.7%
0.8
51.1%
43.2%
27.8%
.274
86.1%
.200
27
(DET)
19.8
17.6
9.2
51.2
17.0%
0.7
51.1%
43.6%
33.7%
.198
79.6%
.245

Reggie Jackson's play early in his Pistons career suggested that it may not be worth even extending him a qualifying offer this summer.  Then Greg Monroe missed 11 games with a strained knee and the light came on.  Jackson became a pick-and-roll terror with Andre Drummond with Anthony Tolliver stretching the floor at PF, giving them more room to operate.  At this point it looks like Jackson is a great fit in Stan Van Gundy's offense, and he should provide stability for the next several years at the PG position, assuming he signs a new contract.  Even when Monroe returned for the team's final five games, Jackson maintained his stellar play.  At this point, it would be devastating for the team to let Jackson get away in the offseason; any offer that isn't completely absurd will certainly be matched.

Although the 27 games he played with Detroit isn't a large sample size, it's also not small enough to be completely dismissed.  The most encouraging statistical thing that Jackson did was post an Assist Rate that would have led the NBA this season.  As a point of reference, Chris Paul led the NBA in AST% this season at 47.4%.  Jackson's ability to distribute the ball essentially came out of nowhere and was elite.  The credit for that should go to Jackson for embracing the importance of his role as the lead ball-handler and to Stan Van Gundy for working wonders on this team's point guards.

There's a large variety to choose from when trying to find the highlight of Jackson's time with the Pistons this season.  You could go with either of his two triple-doubles.  You wouldn't be wrong to say that his 23 point, 20 assist game in a win over Memphis was his top performance.  There was also his 31 point showing in a win over the Heat, in which he went coast-to-coast with a few seconds left to hit the game-winning layup.  In terms of highlights though, I'm partial to Jackson's dunk over Lou Amundson in the season finale:
Jackson is a Restricted Free Agent this summer, and is a lock to receive a qualifying offer from the Pistons.  Assuming the Pistons sign him to a deal in one way or another, Jackson's the day-one starter, and will hold that position regardless of whether or not Jennings is around.  A full offseason of knowing he's the key cog and working hand-in-hand with Stan Van Gundy and the rest of the staff should do him well.  

Brandon Jennings
GP
PER
PPG
APG
AST%
TO%
SPG
TS%
FG%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
41
19.7
15.4
6.6
40.3%
12.9%
1.1
52.2%
40.1%
36.0%
.389
83.9%
.263

Even before Josh Smith was waived in December, Jennings had shown improvement in his first year playing for Stan Van Gundy.  He displayed improved quality and production as a distributor, posting a career high assist rate, while managing a fairly low turnover rate.  Had Jennings played enough minutes to qualify for rate statistic leaderboards, his 40.3 AST% would have ranked 5th in the NBA.  Jennings also produced the highest True Shooting Perecentage of his career, thanks to solid three point shooting.  

There's little doubt in my mind about what the highlight of Jennings' second season with the Pistons was:

Jennings is under contract for one more season, at $8,344,497, which makes him the team's highest paid player under contract for next season.  Although Jennings' improved play after waiving Smith was one of the highlights of the season, his role stands to significantly change next year.  Jennings will likely be ready to return from a torn Achilles by training camp, but it's hard to say just what he'll be.  Assuming Reggie Jackson is back, Jennings will either be forced to the bench, moved off the ball to SG or some combination of the two.  Stan Van Gundy has said Jennings is a part of the team's plans going forward, but it's hard to picture him starting at the 2.  I imagine he'll be the team's sixth man next year, and if he plays that role well, a decent trade chip as the season moves into February.

Spencer Dinwiddie
GP
PER
PPG
APG
AST%
TO%
SPG
TS%
FG%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
34
10.3
4.3
3.1
35.2%
15.2%
0.6
39.4%
30.2%
18.5%
.385
91.2%
.201

Dinwiddie's season was a bit of a mixed bag after he returned from a torn ACL suffered in his junior year at Colorado.  He was the Pistons' lone rookie this season, after being selected 38th in the 2014 NBA Draft.  Although his shooting left a lot to be desired, Dinwiddie's ability to distribute the ball came in above expectations.  After shooting 38.6% from three as a college player, it wouldn't be unfair to expect that Dinwiddie will bounce back as a sophomore.  When measured against the players drafted after him in the 2014 draft class, it looks like Dinwiddie was the right choice.  At this point, you could only argue that Jerami Grant and Markel Brown are off to a better start in the league.

The high point of Dinwiddie's season was his huge second half in a loss to the Wizards on February 28th.  Dinwiddie's 20 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds helped rally the Pistons from a 16-point halftime deficit, including a late go-ahead bucket.  Although the rally fell short, Dinwiddie showed some scoring punch:
A close second for Dinwiddie's top moment this season was his lone start, in which he got the better of Derrick Rose and the Bulls, notching 12 points, 9 assists and 3 steals in a Pistons victory. 

John Lucas III
GP
PER
PPG
APG
AST%
TO%
SPG
TS%
FG%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
21
13.0
4.7
2.9
36.0%
13.1%
0.4
46.1%
40.4%
31.0%
.279
100%
.048

The Pistons signed Lucas as a stop-gap option after Brandon Jennings tore his Achilles, first to two ten-day contracts and then for the remainder of the season at the end of February.  Lucas exceeded fairly low expectations as he mostly alternated games backing up Augustin and Jackson with Spencer Dinwiddie.  Lucas is a free agent this off-season, and will almost certainly not be back in Detroit, due to the presence of Jackson, Jennings and Dinwiddie.

DJ Augustin
GP
PER
PPG
APG
AST%
TO%
SPG
TS%
FG%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
54
15.9
10.6
4.9
33.5%
17.0%
0.6
53.6%
41.0%
32.7%
.325
87.0%
.367

Augustin was dealt away at the trade deadline in the deal that brought Reggie Jackson to Detroit.  His season followed an arc similar to Jennings, as he struggled early and produced well after the release of Josh Smith.  Augustin slumped shooting the ball early in the year, shooting 21-91 from three in October, November and December.  He perked up as the season moved along though, and his performance peaked after the injury to Brandon Jennings.  Augustin averaged 18.7 points and 7.8 assists in 13 starts for Detroit.  Without Augustin's strong play in January and February, the Pistons very well may not have Reggie Jackson right now.

The highlight of Augustin's season was a 35 point, 8 assist performance in his first start after the injury to Brandon Jennings.  Although the showing came in a loss to Toronto, Augustin's play that night suggested the Pistons weren't done for just because they lost Jennings.  Augustin finished the season backing up Russell Westbrook.  He's under contract with the Thunder for one more season, at $3,000,000, making him a very cost-effective backup.  Augustin is proof that Stan Van Gundy can find solutions in free agency without paying top dollar.

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