Although it has been Kevin Durant who has been in the headlines and under the spotlight in regards to his free agent status, the Oklahoma City Thunder have another decision to make.
Reggie Jackson is an integral part of the Thunder unit. His role off the bench and also in holding down the starting role while Russell Westbrook was out was nothing short of sensational. Jackson is a brilliant young talent, and a valued member of the team – but OKC are going to have a decision to make.
Jackson wants to start – but unfortunately for him, the Thunder have All Star Westbrook at the point guard position. That makes the going pretty tough.
Throughout last season’s playoffs, the Thunder and Head Coach Scott Brooks made some adjustments to his rotations and lineups, and played a backcourt comprising BOTH Westbrook and Jackson. It worked well – but can it work consistently over the course of a season?
While starting both young guards in the backcourt might ease the angst felt by Jackson, is it really the best thing for the Thunder and will Jackson be happy playing off the ball a little more? When the season came to a close and the exit interviews were conducted, it appeared as though Jackson was fairly adamant about starting AND about running the offense.
Both those “needs” may not be able to be met by the Thunder and therein lies the problem.
Jackson could start for most NBA teams. Unless you have a top 10 PG on your roster, Jackson is likely going to be an upgrade. He is a smart young ballplayer, who causes havoc on both ends of the floor, is athletic and can finish at the rim. He also gets in the passing lanes and kickstarts the transition game.
The Thunder love what he brings to the team, but other teams are going to come calling and they are going to be able to offer a great deal of money and playing time – two assets the Oklahoma City Thunder are lacking. So as the season starts to near, and the rest of the free agents are snapped up, the Thunder are going to try and get Jackson to commit to them long term.
What OKC lack in playing time, the starting point guard role and money, they do make up for in other areas. For starters, the Thunder drafted Jackson late first round – when no-one else was willing to take the chance. Then, OKC really put time and effort into developing him into the player that he is. Jackson has seen plenty of playoff action and a huge number of regular season wins. And for the most part, he has played a very big role in all of it.
Money and minutes – they are two really driving factors. As we have seen over time though, winning is a hot commodity also, and if Jackson wants to win a title, then he may be better of staying with the Thunder. Much like Eric Bledsoe (who was stuck behind Chris Paul with the Clippers), Jackson is talented enough to be a starter. Where Bledsoe went to Phoenix for the money and a role, he also went to a team that failed to make the playoffs.
Success is just as valuable. It can open doors and revenue opportunities outside of the NBA salary you draw each year. Winning teams and popular franchises provide that opportunity – losing ones generally do not. What OKC lacks in terms of “market” it makes up for with success. Reggie Jackson is on Sportscenter and in magazines because he is playing a valuable role on a team that wins.
The Thunder have been in this predicament before. When they couldn’t find a way to get Jeff Green to buy in, they moved him on for other assets. And of course, who can forget the James Harden trade, where the Thunder offered him a very respectable contract which he declined and OKC made the decision to move him on before the start of the season.
Now it is Reggie Jackson’s turn.
Oklahoma City are going to try and convince Jackson to stay with the Thunder by offering him market value, a valuable role and an opportunity to win. It might not tick all the boxes Jackson would like, but will it tick enough of them to make him stay.
Time will tell, but if an agreement can’t be reached by the end of October, the decision might be made for him.