Frank Jackson finds niche off bench to 'keep the scoreboard moving' for Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Frank Jackson caught the ball on the wing and in one swift motion the ball was already on the way to the rim. It’s almost as if the ball didn’t have a chance to settle in Jackson’s hands before he had readjusted and put it in motion for another 3-pointer.

Jackson has been an important piece of the second unit for the Pistons, the instant-scoring option for coach Dwane Casey. It’s something of a security blanket to have a veteran who understands his role and punch the clock and get his work done.

Pistons guard Frank Jackson is having his best season, posting a career-best 11.4 points and 1.6 rebounds.

In Thursday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jackson had one of his best games of the season, with 25 points, on 8-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-11 on 3-pointers. The Pistons had their best stretch of the season in January, when Jackson was mostly absent, due to an ankle injury and a stint in COVID protocols.

Through the five games since his return, he’s posted nice numbers: 16.2 points on 55% field goals and a respectable 34% from beyond the arc. It’s nice to have that type of player, who can be effective on both ends of the court, be ready for that challenge, and to be a willing and able scorer.

“That's the great thing about Frank — he knows who he is. Some guys don't understand who they are; they don't understand who they are, and they think they have about two minutes to warm up to get going,” Casey said Thursday. “Frank doesn't have to have that. That's a trait of a scorer. He's a guy who can come off the bench and get you points. That's very, very important.

“You've got to have somebody come in and keep the scoreboard moving, or advance it, and he does that for us. He does a great job at it.”

Jackson also is finding his way to the free-throw line with his dynamic offensive game, both hitting from outside, and getting in the lane to make defenses pay attention. At 6-foot-3, he’s not an imposing presence, but he brings so much more with his know-how and experience.

In his five seasons, he’s been with the New Orleans Pelicans and Pistons, but he seems to have found a niche where he can stick around for the long term. He’s having his best season, posting a career-best 11.4 points and 1.6 rebounds. Though his 3-point percentage is at 34%, he’s hitting a career-high 56% on inside the arc, a testament to his versatility.

“I was just talking to (Pistons player development) coach Alex Zampier, one of the best dudes I know, just about how the game is just starting to really slow down, I think starting to just sit back and let the play develop a little bit and it's just really allowed the game to slow down,” Jackson said. “This is my fifth year being around some really talented and really awesome coaches who helped me to get to where I am.

“It's all glory to God on this one, and I'm just lucky to be here. I'm just going to keep rolling.”

Jackson is only 23 and he fits in with the young core of the Pistons’ roster, so it’s not so much a question of whether he fits with the rebuild, but how big a role he will have in the long term. There’s been so much talk about chemistry with this group, and Jackson has shown that he can fit in, both on the court and off the court.

His game is speaking for itself, and as he’s becoming more of an asset in the second unit, he’s showing he can have some longevity to his career, which isn’t an easy thing to do. Shooting from the outside and just being a scorer with ease is going to allow Jackson to have an extended NBA career.

“Frank is the way the game is played today,” Casey said. “He's a 3-point-shooting threat. He can put the ball on the floor and create his own shot.”

Cunningham out again

Cade Cunningham, who missed Thursday’s game, was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics because of his hip pointer. It’s unclear how much time Cunningham will miss with the injury, but it seems the Pistons are being cautious and not trying to rush their No. 1 overall pick back too quickly.