Reggie Jackson is the X-Factor for the Los Angeles Clippers

Reggie Jackson is the X-Factor for the Los Angeles Clippers ...

With Kawhi Leonard out due to a knee injury, the Los Angeles Clippers crushed the Utah Jazz in the 2020-21 playoffs and were within shouting distance of the NBA Finals, losing to the Phoenix Suns in six games in Western Conference Final. Paul George, Nicolas Batum, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris, Paul G., Nic Batam, and Terrance Mann were among the players who helped keep the Clippers afloat without Kawhi. Reggie Jackson, on the other hand, exceeded all expectations.

As Los Angeles approaches the 2021-22 regular season, with Kawhi expected to miss most or all of the year, Jackson will once again assist determine to what extent the superstar wings absence is felt. Jackson has been a dynamite long-range gunner during his year and he half with the Clippers, shooting 42.9 percent of 345 triples, and was regarded as eminent tertiary option during the regular season, when achieving 10.7 points on 57.6 percent shooting.

Yet the evolution of his role and game in the playoffs was equally as intriguing. He was a spot-up guy in the early stages and acted as if he were merely putting up numbers, but rehabilitated many of his defensive deficiencies and was an effective on-ball creator by years end. He was drilling pull-ups and step-backs, floating in runners, and attacking the cup.

He scored 17.8 points on 62.62 percent true shooting, including 40.8 percent from deep and a staggering 58.2 percent on twos, over 19 games. The dude went supernova and was a powerful secondary scorer alongside George. In eight games without Leonard, the veteran guard was even better, posting a 21-4-4-1.5 line on.485/.369/,864 splits. He was a flamethrower during that stretch and critical to Los Angeles ability to remain competitive in spite of its franchise stars injury.

Playoff victories are often relegated to a small sample stardom like that, however. Expecting Jackson to grow so quickly over the course of an entire season and help the Clippers maintain an elite offense is a difficult proposition. Hes 31, has a long injury history, and has never been as good as he was in the 2021 postseason. Perhaps that is the beginning of a full year of step-backs, runners, and baffling shot-making. Sometimes, all a guy needs is the perfect opportunity and context to foster the self-belief needed to live like he never had before.

Collectively, those eight games following Kawhis injury should instill a sense of confidence that this Clippers team can do more than survive without him. George is a superstar for the band. Tyronn Lue is a great head coach. Good role players are scattered throughout the roster. Mann looks set to follow his playoff emergence, which included a 39-point detonation in the closeout Game 6 against Utah, with heaving swagger.

Jacksons ball-handling, shooting, and creation are all critical to the Clippers' continuing great play, despite all those components. He broke down defenses, spaced the floor for others to attack, delivered when the ball swung his way for open looks, held up defensively, created for other players, and complemented George beautifully as offensive focal points. The Clippers constantly had opponents scrambling, and Jackson was a primary reason for that.

Los Angeles seems to be a favorable environment for him to achieve success. But, while there are layers to success, what he has in store for him this season could be the difference between a Clippers team seeking to avoid the play-in and relegated to homecourt advantage.

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