ORLANDO, Fla. — Follow the money.
Avery Bradley agreed to re-sign with Boston for $32 million over four years.
Kyle Lowry will remain with Toronto for $48 million over four years.
Chandler Parsons received a near max offer from Dallas.
Gordon Hayward got a max offer from Charlotte.
One look at the coin players are commanding on the free-agent market this summer should be enough to send a scare through all of Oklahoma.
It’s proof that Thunder guard Reggie Jackson won’t come cheap.
Jackson, of course, is now eligible for a contract extension. If the two sides don’t agree on a deal before the Oct. 31 deadline, Jackson will become a restricted free agent next summer. The Thunder would then have the opportunity to match any offer Jackson receives from another team.
Good luck with that.
Because by the looks of it, that deal will be hefty chunk of change.
Jackson plays the most pivotal position in basketball, and he’s getting better and better. A third of the league’s teams would love to get their hands on Jackson, and if they did, he’d be an immediate upgrade for most. He has prototypical size for his position and a wonderful mix of athleticism and versatility. And, at 24, Jackson’s future looks awfully bright.
The best thing the Thunder could do is lock up Jackson as soon as possible and never let him see the open market. Deep-pocketed teams such as Dallas, New York, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers could all make a serious run at him next summer.
So why would Jackson re-sign now with the types of deals his peers are getting as well as the knowledge that others teams are in prime position to pursue him?
More and more, it looks like Jackson won’t.
Obtaining long-term security as early as possible is always a safe bet for players. But the safe bet might not be the right bet if it means millions of dollars are left at the negotiating table.
Bradley’s average $8 million deal figures to be starting point of negotiations between the Thunder and Jackson. Lowry’s average $12 million contract could represent the high end.
But the closest comparison to Jackson’s talent is Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe, and whatever deal the Suns’ restricted free agent lands could set the bar for Jackson. Many believe Bledsoe has played his way into a max contract, or something close to it.
As of today, Jackson is not a max player. But a stellar 2014-15 season could change the perception and put him closer to that coveted eight-figure salary.
Players such as Hayward and Parsons, while they play different positions, just commanded those high-dollar deals even though few consider them worthy of that kind of money. But, remember, all it takes is one.
Channing Frye’s new contract with Orlando, one that will pay him $32 million over four seasons, is another example of how messy things often get on the open market. Other instances this summer include Marcin Gortat’s $60 million deal over five years with Washington and Jodie Meeks’ $19 million deal over three years with Detroit.
And with the salary cap annually going up, up, up, many more clubs will be able to throw major money at Jackson without batting an eye. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, always will have Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka ahead of Jackson in the pecking order.
The good news for the Thunder is it has prepared for this day for years. It’s why Oklahoma City hasn’t chased free agents or exceeded the tax level. Whether Jackson’s number comes in big or small, the Thunder is in position to handle it, especially with Kendrick Perkins’ contract coming off the books next summer.
Another reason for optimism is the plethora of guards who are hovering right around that $8 million figure: George Hill, Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague, Goran Dragic and the aforementioned Bradley.
Still, this negotiation certainly will be the Thunder’s most complex since James Harden.
Just like with Harden, the Thunder could be asking Jackson to take less money and a lesser role.
What we’re seeing this summer proves Jackson won’t have to.