John Niyo and Rod Beard preview the 2018-19 Pistons under new coach Dwane Casey. The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — For most of the past few seasons, Reggie Jackson has been the focus of the Pistons’ offense. As the point guard, he initiated pick-and-roll plays and was the engine that drove the offense under Stan Van Gundy.
He handled the ball more than anyone else on the court, but after several injuries, the Pistons have had to find other ways to produce. Jackson is back this season and is getting closer to 100 percent, but new coach Dwane Casey is looking to diversify the offense, finding other options to add to Jackson’s typical workload.
There have been hints in the preseason, but none more intriguing that Friday’s preseason win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Breslin Center, when Casey used a lineup that had four guards and featured Jackson off the ball, as an additional 3-point shooter and scorer.
Casey and the coaching staff knew about how versatile Jackson could be before training camp.
“We knew it; we did our homework and knew to get him off the ball and let him spot up," Casey said Sunday. "He’s one of our better 3-point shooters and he does a good job of finding the opening on the weak side. He has the skill set so that if they do run out at him, to make a play off the dribble. That gives you another weapon and he can guard at different (wing) positions.”
At 6-foot-3, Jackson does have the versatility to play other positions, but having him with Ish Smith, Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard, for example, gives a new meaning to small ball. Casey isn’t afraid to go small and give the defense a different look — a unit heavy on shooters and able ball-handlers, which makes it a tough assignment for opponents.
Paired with Smith, who likes to play at a faster pace, Jackson can be used effectively in other ways.
“I really liked Reggie and Ish together and it helps Reggie because he’s an excellent 3-point shooter and it gives another ball-handler in the lineup,” Casey said. “We’ll see that lineup some this year, with multiple point guards.”
Although Jackson is more accustomed to the pick-and-roll, he can shift easily to other spots and be an effective spot-up shooter, plus create opportunities on the other side of the floor.
“If you give him another look besides coming off pick-and-roll all the time, it allows him to create without the screen and attack rotating defenses, and they can’t lock in on a mid-screen-and-roll or dribble-handoff,” Casey said. “It’s another way of creating a shot for him.”
Along with Blake Griffin, Jackson has been on a minutes limit during the preseason, to ensure he’s ready for the start of the regular season Wednesday.
Jackson had a scare with groin-muscle tightness last week, but that doesn't seem to be an issue now. Still, the training staff and Casey will be conservative with Jackson and Griffin.
“We’ll be smarter probably more in practice than in games because they’re two valuable guys we need as far as game minutes,” Casey said. “Starting out, we don’t have any restrictions on them.”
Stanley Johnson (toe) has been hampered by a toe injury for the past few days and it looks like he’ll carry those concerns into the regular season. Johnson didn’t practice on Sunday and the training staff will continue to limit him, again with the hope of having him as close to 100 percent as possible to open the season.
“His toe was sore from (this week), so we want to make sure we give him a couple more days to let it calm down,” Casey said. “He played through it the other night and did a good job of fighting through the pain, but he was in a lot of pain.”
Johnson looks to have won the starting job over Glenn Robinson III and Kennard, but he still is struggling on the offensive end.