For all his promise, Jackson is not the same caliber of player. But with averages of 13.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 28.5 minutes last season, Jackson proved in his third season that he’s a budding star in his own right.
The good news for Oklahoma City fans is the Thunder franchise has signed first-round picks to extensions six times in the last decade, most among all teams over that span. Two of those, Luke Ridnour and Nick Collison, came in the Seattle era. The last four were extended in Oklahoma City. The Thunder agreed to extensions with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka. Durant and Westbrook were no-brainers. Sefolosha and Ibaka better illustrate the Thunder’s willingness to get deals done.
Failing to come to terms prior to Oct. 31 carries risks for both sides. For the team, the player could exceed expectations and play himself into a more lucrative contract, a situation the Suns stumbled into this summer with Bledsoe. But the player also could have a disappointing season or get injured and see his value diminish, thus often making it beneficial for players to obtain long-term security as soon as possible.
When he expressed his desire last month to be a starter, Jackson sent a scare throughout the state and, for many, evoked memories of James Harden. We all know how that turned out. It’s a real issue given Westbrook’s stature, and one that could complicate contract negotiations.
The Thunder doesn’t seem concerned.
“You’ve heard probably everyone say before that every player wants to start,” Presti said last month in response to Jackson’s statements. “So let me put that out there in front of you first. And the next thing I’d say, he’s a guy that fits the profile of a Thunder player in that he’s got size for his position, he’s got length and reach, quickness in tight spaces. And he’s got a competitive will that we value. Those are things that we want our identity to ultimately be.”
Jackson is undoubtedly a starting caliber point guard. But how that all plays out, whether he plays alongside Westbrook or continues coming off the bench, will be determined by coach Scott Brooks.
“However, at the end of the day, I think Reggie would agree, we have to do what’s best for the team,” Presti said. “Whether that’s starting, coming off the bench. I think we’ve always made our decisions on how to get the most out of what we have, and how to put everybody in position to be successful and play to their strengths.”