Grading Reggie Jackson’s third season:
Starting stint: B
Dating back to the 2013 Rockets series, Jackson did an admirable job filling in for one of the most irreplaceable talents in the NBA. Without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder played understandably worse. But not that much worse, going 25-11 without their All-Star point guard this season. And some of that was due to Jackson, who didn’t overcompensate or press when thrust into a tough situation. He ran the show, remained steadily productive, took over in brief stretches and allowed Kevin Durant to do his thing. OKC doesn’t get near 59 wins without him being able to switch roles.
Without Jackson’s season-saving Game 4 performance in Memphis — 32 points on 16 shots, including eight big ones in overtime — the Thunder’s season would have ended in Round 1 and this offseason would look a lot different. It was indicative of a blossoming talent. But it didn’t come consistently enough. OKC didn’t need 32 a night from Reggie. Didn’t need 20. But he only averaged 11 in the playoffs, failing to reach double-digits in nine of the 19 games. Great in spurts, invisible in others.
A young and athletic guard with an incredible 7-foot wingspan and great lateral movement, Jackson has all the physical tools to be a disruptive perimeter defender. But during his third year in the league — and first full campaign in an NBA rotation — Jackson’s shortcomings were exposed. Too often, he allowed easy lanes to the rim. Too often, he fell asleep and gave sharpshooters unopposed looks. Too often, you’d look up and his guy would be shooting his way toward a career-high. Point guard may be the deepest position in the league, making Jackson’s task tough on a nightly basis, but he’s still got to be better.
3-point shooting: B
Maybe the area of his game Jackson has improved the most. Entering the league, he was a below-average outside shooter, making a combined 37 of 166 (22 percent) from deep his first two years. But this past season, he made 83 of 245, raising that clip up to a respectable 34 percent. Still not among the league’s most feared sharpshooters, but trending in the right direction. He’s converting enough to where it must be guarded.
In his first season, Reggie Jackson was a project — a late first-rounder that many scoffed at on draft day. By Year 2, he still struggled to find a grip on a rotation role. But after a breakout postseason in 2013, Jackson was handed the Thunder’s all-important sixth man role. And he flourished, rewarding Sam Presti’s trust and turning into one of the league’s most potent bench scorers. Player development has been a staple of the Thunder organization since moving to OKC. Jackson is the latest and one of the greatest examples.