5 Reasons Stephen Jackson Will Return San Antonio Spurs to the Promised Land
San Antonio's acquisition of Stephen Jackson signaled a shift in policy for a Spurs franchise typically content to make do with the talent on hand. The deal almost certainly makes sense on paper and should make for a nice fit in the locker room as well.
To hear general manager R.C. Buford explain the move, San Antonio has had its eyes on Jackson for some time, no doubt looking for a missing piece on the wing who could put San Antonio over the top in a league that seemingly becomes thicker with talent by the day.
To hear Jackson himself react to the last-minute deal, the feelings appear quite mutual.
However, beyond the heart-warming reunion, how much difference will Jackson's addition really make? The optimist in all of us has to believe he could make an already exceptional team even better, perhaps even good enough to win Tim Duncan his fifth ring.
Here are five reasons that optimism may not be so far-fetched.
Jackson Isn't Done Yet
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If you look at Jackson's recent history out of context, you'd understandably think he's either washed up or well on his way.
Since his 2008-2009 season (the same year he turned 30), Jackson has twice averaged more than 20 points per contest, and in his last season with Charlotte he averaged 18.5 points. His field-goal percentages over the years may appear unimpressive at first glance, but they're not all that bad for a guy shooting such a high volume of three-pointers.
The recent struggles in Milwaukee couldn't be less relevant. Jackson played in only 26 games for Scott Skiles, starting in just half of them. That he played less than 28 minutes a contest for such a mediocre team surely added to his frustrations.
A season earlier in Charlotte, Jackson at least got to stay on the court 36 minutes a night. He may not see that kind of playing time in San Antonio, but he'll almost certainly be more accepting of his role knowing that a championship may be in the cards.
A One-Man Show
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The Spurs are the last team on earth you'd associate with an isolation offense.
However, even the best-laid plans sometimes fall apart.
Jackson gives San Antonio yet another option when the shot clock is winding down and the team's motion offense runs out of time. Historically, Jackson has scored nearly a quarter of his points in isolation situations. His abilities to drive, hesitate or step back and shoot give him the tools to come up big in clutch moments.
Whether salvaging broken plays or taking the big shot in close games, Jackson's ability to create his own offense will take some of the pressure and defensive attention off Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.
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Jackson automatically gives San Antonio more length on the wing than it had with Richard Jefferson. In his first game back with the Spurs, he even saw some time guarding the taller Dirk Nowitzki.
For a team that likes to switch on pick-and-rolls, that kind of versatility is key.
More importantly, Jackson immediately becomes the Spurs' best option against athletic forwards like Kevin Durant. He may not be a "lockdown" defender, but he can hold his own against dominant scorers and reduce Gregg Popovich's need to rely so heavily on less proven youngsters like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Finally, Jackson has the quickness and instinct to get into passing lanes and spur fast-break opportunities. For his career, he averages 1.3 steals per contest—a half-steal more than Jefferson.
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Even at 33 years old, Jackson figures to find his way to the basket consistently. In the rare instances that Richard Jefferson decided to penetrate, he looked completely unable to finish around the rim.
Jackson, on the other hand, combines a decently quick first step with long strides to add a slashing dimension to his game. Once in the paint, Jackson gives the Spurs a more explosive weapon capable of finishing with either hand.
Even more importantly, Jackson can get to the line. He averaged more than five free throws a contest with Charlotte, a significant upgrade over the 1.2 free throws Jefferson shot with San Antonio this season.
The NBA's Best Teammate
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It's no secret that the Spurs could use a bit more of an edge. The team can appear complacent at times, and that's not especially surprising given the rings its stars have already collected.
After Jackson's stints with subpar teams like the Warriors and Bobcats, he comes to San Antonio with the kind of hunger this club needs. Even Tim Duncan has made it clear Jackson's intensity will be a welcome addition to a squad that sometimes feels a bit too professional.
He also comes to San Antonio as one of the league's very best teammates.
When Jackson was only 14, he watched his brother Donald die after being attacked by his girlfriend's jealous ex. Some have suggested the experience made Jackson the impeccable teammate that he is today. He is without hesitation the first to come to a teammate's defense, even if to a fault.
When the Spurs do battle against the NBA's elite come the postseason, that's exactly the kind of teammate they will need.