The Oklahoma City Thunder are going to find themselves once again trying to retain the services of one of their budding young stars. Reggie Jackson will sooner or later be working with OKC’s front office trying to hammer out a deal – or potentially a trade.
Drafted in 2011, Jackson is fast approaching decision time. He has repeatedly stated that he loves the Thunder organisation, but makes no secret about the fact he wants to be a starting point guard. You can read more about that here.
So, it appears as the Jackson is holding all the cards. Or is he?
Sam Presti is a notoriously slick General Manager. He has guided the Thunder through the last few years, keeping them competitive, making improvements, making tough decisions and ensuring they have sustainable success. This year, Presti was at it again. You may not see it yet, but like a great chess player, Presti is already sizing things up.
Two words – Semaj Christon.
A first round talent, who slipped right back in the 2014 Draft eventually being taken with pick 55, Christon is a talented young guard. He is a little reckless, has plenty of room for improvement – but he is very skilled. What seems like an interesting draft night move, now starts to make sense when you think long term.
Although Christon will spend his first season in the D-League, he will gather plenty of experience and he will learn the structures of the Thunder. He will develop right under the watchful eye of OKC’s brass, and he will be given every opportunity to succeed.
This off-season, the Thunder brought in Sebastian Telfair. This move seemed rather interesting considering the Thunder had Westbrook, Jackson and had drafted Christon. However, while Semaj learns just what is required of him at pro level, Telfair will teach and provide poise to the Thunder reserves.
If the Thunder are worried about keeping Jackson, it makes perfect sense to have a contingency plan. OKC will make signing Reggie Jackson a priority, but you don’t sustain success by putting all your eggs in one basket. Jackson has a few options. He can negotiate a new deal and stay with OKC, he can play out this contract and become a restricted free agent, he can sign an extension – the ball is in his court.
Looking at the free agent market for players like Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison, Lance Stephenson and many others, it looks like Reggie can look to get paid. The Thunder are always wary of over paying, preferring to keep financial flexibility moving forward. So this is where it will get interesting.
Now we get to the crux of the Semaj Christon signing.
Christon is a 21 year old, 6’3″ point guard with silky skills and explosive athleticism. He averaged 17.0ppg and 4.2apg in his sophomore year in the NCAA with Xavier. He also added 1.3spg and is a menace on both ends of the floor. Most recently, he took the floor for the Thunder in Summer League play and performed admirably. He isn’t ready yet – but the Thunder don’t need him right now – and he looks likely to blossom into a very good point guard.
He even looks eerily similar to Jackson.
Thunder fans can rest a little easier. While keeping Kevin Durant is clearly the #1 priority, keeping Jackson has to come in second. The good news is that if they cannot afford to pay Reggie, they are already developing his replacement.