Frank Jackson's return adds 'versatile' piece to Pistons' backcourt for now, and future
Detroit — With their starting backcourt each suffering a sprained ankle in the preseason, most of the attention has been on the Pistons’ young duo of Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes.
There was a third ankle injury to a critical piece of their backcourt: Frank Jackson.
Jackson was out for about a week, but he returned to practice Friday and was one of the standouts at the Pistons’ open practice on Saturday. At 6-3, he’s not the imposing physical specimen Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo are, the ballhandler Hayes is or the complete package Cunningham projects to be.
Frank Jackson is more of a blend of all of those backcourt players, bringing his own style and a sneaky athleticism that has put him in the middle of an intriguing positional competition for playing time at one of the wing spots.
“I am a catch-and-shoot (guard), but I feel like I can do a little more. I'm versatile, and I'm just excited to get this year rolling,” Jackson said. “(The versatility) is something I definitely have worked on, and I've been proud of myself, and will continue to work on it. That's a role I have on this team, to shoot the three.”
While most of the attention has been on getting Cunningham and Hayes healthy, Frank Jackson also is a key component in the Pistons’ depth chart. He was something of a surprise last season after signing a two-way contract and shooting just under 41% on 3.8 3-pointers per game.
Frank Jackson became one of their most reliable 3-point shooters and although he was a free agent in the offseason, he was confident that he’d be back with the Pistons, seeing the foundation coach Dwane Casey and general manager Troy Weaver were building.
“I think my relationship with (Casey), especially, and with Troy has been solid this last year and we had good conversations throughout the year,” Jackson said. “I was fortunate enough to come back and be part of this organization and it's been great.”
The rebuild that Weaver and Casey are engineering is built on a trust with players and a vision for their development. Along with Frank Jackson, Diallo and Cory Joseph also returned, which is a stamp of approval on the plan the Pistons are building.
The focus is on the young core of draft picks in the past two seasons, but Jackson is just 23 and is entering his fourth season. He fits into the same category as some of those critical pieces, where the camaraderie off the court is as important as putting together the chemistry on the floor.
“In the last week that's really come to fruition. It's been nice to see certain guys play together and kind of get more comfortable,” Jackson said. “I think we're stacked at a lot of positions, so we're going to compete, play hard and try to do the best we can.”
Striking a balance
In the four-game preseason, there’s some pressure to get a good look at all of the offensive and defensive sets and to install as much as possible for the long regular season, where there will be less time and fewer practices to work on things as extensively.
Casey said they’re still working on which things to feature, because there is so much for the players to process, so they’re careful not to try to do too much all at once. The preseason gives them a chance to see those things in action, but with only four games, there has to be a balance.
“We’ve added some different looks and things we ran last year or in the past. We’re going to continually add some different things as we get closer (to the regular season),” Casey said. “That way, we can have as much of that stuff in as possible and see how it plays in the exhibition season.
“We’ve added some different looks defensively and we’ll continue to add as we go along.”
Grant's role remains same
Last season, Jerami Grant was one of the best playmakers with the ball in his hands, but with the addition of Cunningham and the versatile game Saddiq Bey has brought, there will be multiple ballhandlers and creators on offense.
That won’t impact Grant’s game, and his potential to repeat as the team’s leading scorer.
“Jerami’s game translates," Casey said. "The way he plays is probably more efficient at certain points of the game — especially late in the game or at the end of possessions when you need a bucket — and he can create his own shot.
“Jerami is such a talented scorer, his game will mix into any style of play.”