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.