Everyone around the league knew James Harden had a max contract coming after his rookie deal and that with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook under contract, the Thunder were going to have to pay the tax or move him. We all know how that ended.
Now it is Reggie Jackson who is the emerging sixth man (who wants to start), the key third player on the Thunder up for a rookie contract extension — and GM Sam Presti said this time it will be different.
In part because Jackson is not a max contract guy, but in part because they are not going to trade him. That is what he told Royce Young of ESPN.com.
“We don’t look at [Jackson] as anything other than a core member,” Presti said. “We want to invest in Reggie. There’s not a lack of clarity in that regard. Figuring out how best we do that is my job. And I’m going to do everything I can because I believe that he’s a great example of a lot of things that we try to do here. He was drafted, he’s been developed by our coaches and our support staff and the next step is to keep him with us for a long time….
“That’s just not something we’ve considered,” Presti said about the possibility of repeating a trade with Jackson. “I think with him in particular he’s a guy we see being here for a long time.”
Jackson and the Thunder have until Oct. 31 to reach terms on a contract extension or he becomes a restricted free agent next summer (the Thunder could match any offer he gets). The two sides are talking and both say they are motivated.
That’s all swell. However, with a tough point guard free agent market right now (how long did Eric Bledsoe’s deal take, for example) there is no need for the Thunder to overpay. The more likely outcome is the Thunder lets the league set the market for him next summer, then they match. Even if it is a little more than they are comfortable with there will be a fast-rising salary cap with the new television deal coming in to cushion that blow.
Jackson wants to start and he could get that chance this year. For the past three seasons Scott Brooks started Thabo Sefolosha at the two guard spot and that made some sense as he defended well and stretched the floor with his three point shooting. But last season Sefolosha lost his shot and his usefulness deteriorated. By the playoffs Scott Brooks was playing Jackson and Russell Westbrook together as a backcourt and by the end of the Spurs series he was starting. But that was not enough against San Antonio.
Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Anthony Morrow all likely play time at the two, but more minutes for Jackson could mean more money in the next deal. Which circles back to the start of all this.