The Detroit Pistons are barely holding onto the eighth seed in the East, and it’s been reported that they’re assessing the trade value of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond

With a 26-30 record, the Pistons are one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoff race and also just a single back of the Chicago Bulls for the seventh seed. The consensus around the league in the offseason was that they were only going to get better and build on the impressive (and surprising) 44-win season they threw together last year. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond were going to improve and potentially cement the Pistons as a top-six team — only it hasn’t panned out that way, and ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that the organization was assessing the value of their franchise players.

The trade deadline is rapidly approaching, but it was noted that Detroit was “disappointed with the potential return.”

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Jackson missed the club’s first 21 games because of knee troubles, and he hasn’t been able to gel into the offense since coming back. Statistically, he’s only marginally worse than what he was last year which was his best season to date. Through 35 games, Jackson’s averaging 15 points on 42.2 percent shooting and 5.6 assists, down from 18 and 6.2 last year, but he’s been so detrimental to Detroit’s defense that it’s foolish for Stan Van Gundy to go with him over Ish Smith.

Smith isn’t as deadly as Reggie on offense, but the Pistons as a group are less than stellar when it comes to putting points on the board. Neither Drummond nor Jackson has routinely acted as the go-to guy, and the only brand of offense they have is playing in the halfcourt; Detroit’s pace is sluggish, they don’t shoot many threes, and the ball doesn’t move as crisply as some would like. As Lowe alluded to, the Pistons wanted to utilize Jackson’s off-the-bounce explosiveness. They can’t do that now yet.

Instead, they lock up on defense and are fifth in points allowed per game (101.9) and seventh in defensive rating (107.1), per Basketball-Reference.

What’s disheartening about Jackson’s slump is that he’s in the first year of a five-year, $80 million contract and I can only imagine the Pistons (and their fans) feel like they aren’t getting what they paid for. Even though Jackson hasn’t come back the same player, moving him this quickly would be irrational and re-designing their non-existent offense wouldn’t be crazy. Of course, it would be much easier for the coaching staff to do that if Drummond develops a better post game.

Having an arsenal of five or six moves isn’t going to benefit him, but being able to counter when defenses take away his hook will. According to NBA.com, Drummond’s attempted 175 hook shots this year, and it’s — by far — his favorite shot to take. What’s discouraging is he only converts on 38.3 percent of them. Adding a step-through or an up-and-under would go a long way because opponents would bite on his faked hook more times than not, and he’s typically single-covered because he’s not a huge threat on the block.

On this play, Drummond can fake right and use one dribble to either step through or spin back left for an uncontested layup on the left side.

He’s scoring 14.7 points on 12.1 shots, down from 16.2 on 13.1 last year. Drummond’s a defense-first player, and it’s evident by the numbers this year, but the aggregate of talent on that end is quality enough for him to focus more on offense. Once he starts to become more reliable with the ball in his hands, the Pistons will need to have shooters at the ready because teams will start to double.

Detroit is stuck in no man’s land, but splitting up a young core like this would mean going all the way back to square one. Drummond’s insatiable work ethic has been documented throughout the last year or so, and, be honest, who expected Jackson not to struggle fresh off of a knee injury? Falling out of the postseason race wouldn’t be the worst thing possible, and the Pistons are just a few minor tweaks away from reversing their fortunes. On top of that, they have a reputable coach who’s good at what he does, and that’ll inevitably trickle down.

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