The Detroit Pistons have been on the lower end of NBA teams ever since they traded away and/or released players like Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace. The last time Detroit made the playoffs was the 2008-2009 season. Since then the Pistons have won about 25-35 games each season, and while the talent was there, Detroit has not had the chemistry and unselfishness to make it as a playoff team. Things are looking up for Detroit now though; Stan Van Gundy is creating a team that mirrors the 2009 NBA Finalist Orlando Magic team around Andre Drummond, but one key to the 2009 Magic’s success was the all-star play of point guard Jameer Nelson. In order for the Pistons to find success with Van Gundy, the play from the point guard position has to be at a high level. Detroit has two good point guards in Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson, but only one can start at the position.
Brandon Jennings has been very up and down for his career. Jennings has never had problems scoring the ball, but the issues with his game comes from his efficiency and decision making. He doesn’t have too many turnovers, but he takes many bad shots as shown by his 39.1 career field goal percentage.
When Jennings is efficient though, he is capable of amazing things. Jennings had a 55 point game as a rookie, a mark that tied Wilt Chamberlain for the highest amount by a rookie. While the Pistons had a bad record of 32-50, one of the nine starting lineups they had, which included Jennings, went 12-4 in the 16 games they played together. While Kyle Singler and Greg Monroe, other members of this starting unit, are both gone, this is shows that Jennings can win games manning the point guard. Jennings also has an extra year of playing under Stan Van Gundy, and his three point shooting is consistently better than Jackson’s. Jennings also had an offensive rating that was four points better than Jackson’s last year with Detroit.
Then there is Reggie Jackson. The pass-first point guard that was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder right before the trade deadline last season by Detroit. Jackson was obtained because of Jennings’ season ending achilles injury, and Detroit needed a point guard. And it was a bit of a change to go from Jennings to D.J. Augustin to Spencer Dinwiddie for one game, and then finally to Jackson. Jackson had some struggles; he was outscored by 3 points per 100 possessions compared to Jennings, who outscored his opponents by a point. Jackson also had 1.3 more turnovers per game than Jennings. Jackson also fouled 1.1 more times per game.
This is understandable, however, coming from a player who has never been a permanent starter. What Jackson did with Detroit’s players is actually remarkable. Jackson’s chemistry with players integral to Detroit’s future is better than Jennings’ despite his less experience with them. In the 739 minutes and 57 seconds they played together, the Reggie Jackson – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope duo out scored their opponents by 6.6 points per 100 possessions. In comparison, the Brandon Jennings – Caldwell Pope was only 2.2 points better. The Reggie Jackson – Andre Drummond duo outscored their opponents by 5.9 points per 100 possessions compared to the Jennings – Drummond duo, which actually was outscored by 0.2 points by their opponents. Reggie Jackson’s plus/minus was +7.2 compared to Brandon Jennings’ +3.2.
So which one to choose? They both do good things on the court, and it would be almost harmful to the team to not give each of these players starters’ minutes. Playing both in the starting line-up makes the most sense. Start Jackson at the point guard on offense and have him and his bigger frame guard shooting guards on defense. Start Jennings at shooting guard on offense where his shoot first style of play will no longer be frowned upon, and 5 assists per game is above the position average instead of below it. On defense Jennings can guard the quicker point guards that Jackson may not have the speed to guard.
In the end it is Stan Van Gundy that has the final call on this matter. No matter who starts for the Pistons, they will be good to go at point guard position. This could finally be the year the playoff dry spell ends in Detroit.