A week ago, our own Chuck Myron unveiled our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings, a list that profiles the top 10 targets for next summer and also lists the next 10 best. Absent from that compilation is restricted free agent-to-be Reggie Jackson, who has been on a mission over the past week to keep the Thunder afloat while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook heal up. The fourth year point guard — whose extension talks with Oklahoma City fell apart in October — is averaging 21.5 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds in the team’s first 11 games. All of a sudden, the Boston College product seems destined for quite the payday come summertime.
With the Rockets in town yesterday, Jackson’s recent play led Houston’s James Harden to weigh in on the backup point guard’s situation. Harden is uniquely qualified to comment, as the Rockets’ superstar was once the tertiary option himself in Oklahoma City. After he played a major role in the Thunder’s 2011/12 Finals appearance, Harden was shipped to Houston once it became clear the two sides couldn’t agree to an extension. He immediately emerged as a superstar in Houston, averaging over 25 points since in 161 career games with the Rockets.
Sitting at 3-8 with their two megastars on the shelf, the Thunder are feeling the ramifications of that trade at this very moment. Some think small-market OKC didn’t want to pay the luxury tax, which would have been inevitable had they ponied up the necessary money for a Harden extension. Others say the Thunder, already armed with Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, thought that the package of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first round picks was enough to ensure long-term success.
More than two years and zero additional Finals appearances later, it’s safe to say the decision to move Harden was a bust. The question is, what does that mean for Jackson? He might not possess the All-NBA potential of Harden, but Jackson has showed so far this season that he can fill up a box score with the best of them. Have the Thunder learned their lesson? Jackson is sure to get lucrative offers next summer from teams hoping to pry him from OKC. What do you think the Thunder should do?