With J.J. Redick (fractured right hand/torn ligament right wrist), Matt Barnes (retinal tear left eye) and rookie Reggie Bullock (sprained left ankle) nursing serious injuries for the foreseeable future, the Los Angeles Clippers signed veteran swingman Stephen Jackson on Tuesday in an attempt to bolster their depleted crop of wing players.
As a result of all the recent injuries, Doc Rivers has had to rely on Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley and Willie Green much more than he would like, and the Clippers’ 3-point shooting and perimeter defense has fallen off dramatically over the last few games. The hope is that the 35-year-old Jackson can provide temporary production as a rotational stopgap and, potentially, become a mainstay when the postseason rolls around.
The next month will serve as an audition for Jackson, who reportedly was let go by the San Antonio Spurs last season because he wouldn’t accept a diminished bench role.
With Jackson making his season debut against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, here is a scouting report of how he fits with the Clippers:
Jackson remains a potent, though streaky, offensive weapon.
Similar to Jamal Crawford, his greatest offensive strength is his ability to create shots from nearly any spot on the floor, even if they’re not always high-percentage looks. Age has sapped some of his athleticism and ability to beat defenders off the dribble, but he can still attack defenses off of weak-side closeouts and either finish at the rim or pass out to shooters.
Despite his transformation into more of a spot-up shooter with the Spurs (60 percent of his baskets have been assisted the last three years), he’s a below-average threat from beyond the arc -- he’s a career 33.4 percent 3-point shooter and has been below 29 percent each of the last two seasons. He’ll need to regain his shooting touch to be effective in the Clippers’ offense, as he’ll most likely be stationed in the corners and running the baseline on most sets.
The most underrated part of Jackson’s game is his passing ability. He’s not always a willing passer -- he can go through bouts of tunnel vision -- but he’s been an above-average distributor when surrounded by talented supporting casts.
Given his lanky 6-8 frame and general fearlessness, Jackson is also capable of sliding over to power forward in small ball lineups and acting as a pseudo-point forward. Therefore, it’s possible Rivers could use him as a secondary ball-handler to aid Crawford and Darren Collison.
Defensively, Jackson uses his considerable length to gain leverage when closing out on shooters or trailing players off screens or cuts. For his career, Jackson averages 1.5 steals per 36 minutes, as his wingspan allows him to gamble and play passing lanes. He’s also an above-average defensive rebounder for a wing, which is a key reason why he can play as a big man in smaller lineups.
His athletic decline is most obvious on the defensive end, however, as he’s susceptible to getting blown by -- especially when guarding smaller, quicker wings. His feet are slower and he can’t stop on a dime the way he used to, which causes him to often close out too hard. As such, he’s better suited just sticking to both forward spots and avoiding defending guards.
Jackson is a fiery trash-talker who sometimes dishes out hard fouls and isn’t afraid to mix it up with opponents. It shouldn’t be a surprise if Jackson comes to the defense of Blake Griffin, who is normally fouled unnecessarily hard once or twice a game.
Jackson’s size and energy are two assets the Clippers are in need of defensively. He isn’t an individual stopper at the level of Barnes or Jared Dudley, but he’s bigger than the rest of L.A.’s wings, and gives Rivers another tool to experiment with. He also adds a level of rugged toughness and locker room leadership that few players can provide.
Stats used in this post are from ESPN.com, NBA.com/stats, 82games.com, MySynergySports.com and Hoopdata.com.