Steinmetz: Jackson could get better

Sometimes everyone needs a reminder.

It’s OK for Stephen Jackson to be your favorite Warrior. I’ll admit it, he’s mine.

But you have to also realize that Baron Davis is the best Warrior.

It’s easy to give Jackson a lot of credit for the Warriors’ 14-11 start, particularly when they’re 13-5 since his return from suspension. He deserves it, too. Jackson is clearly a defensive catalyst as well as a skilled, secondary playmaker and emotional leader.

The Warriors got tougher the moment Jackson stepped foot in Oakland after coming over from Indiana in a trade in January. The Warriors don’t make the playoffs or beat Dallas in the first round without him. That’s obvious.

What is also obvious, though, is that Jackson is less efficient at the offensiveend this season. With Jason Richardson gone, he’s had to assume more responsibility. Jackson has had big games and has hit big shots, and his defense is there virtually every night.

But he has had a tendency to either hold the ball too long or turn it over too much on offense. As far as bang for the buck, the Warriors got more from Jackson last season.

Yes, Jackson is averaging a career-high 20.8 points per game, and his rebounds (5.1) and assists (3.8) look pretty good. But a closer look tells a different story.

Jackson is averaging a career-high 40 minutes per game, significantly more than he’s ever averaged during any of his seven previous seasons. His scoring should be up; so should his other numbers.

But he’s shooting only 41 percent from the field, which is below his marginal career field-goal percentage of 42 percent. The most troubling stat is this: Jackson averaged more assists last year than he does this year even though he played six fewer minutes per game a season ago.

Jackson is shooting worse from the foul line than last season and worse from 3-point range. He also turns the ball over more than any other player on the team by a wide margin.

In other words, Jackson is doing less with more — at least on offense. It’s a classic case, really, of a player trying to do too much. Not a huge deal. It happens.

Pointing out these numbers has less do with Jackson’s deficiencies than it does with considering how much better he could be if he just cleaned up his game a little bit, smoothed over some of the rough edges, if you will.

Jackson’s value to the Warriors is undeniable, and statistics aren’t going to change that.

But as good as Jackson has been, there is still considerable room for offensive growth.

Still, you have to acknowledge that Jackson is playing at a level that few thought he could play at. But if he wants to take even another step — and help the Warriors take one, too — he’s got to reign in the loose parts of his game.

In the meantime, let’s tip our hat to Baron Davis, the Warriors’ MVP.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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