Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson says he isn’t too concerned about signing a contract extension before October 31 or entering restricted free agency next summer. That he’s looking to the newly-signed contracts of Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons for guidance in future negotiations, though, certainly doesn’t bode well for the Thunder.
In an illuminating, wide-ranging interview with Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, Jackson continually stressed that personal improvement is his current and utmost priority despite his uncertain future with the Thunder beyond this season. Just as important, however, is Jackson’s admission that the contracts of similarly regarded young players impacts his situation.
(Mayberry:)To piggyback on that, what did you make of the deals Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons got this summer, and do you look at those extensions as sort of barometers for yourself?
(Jackson:)Yeah. I definitely factor in all those things. Young players getting paid. Especially with Gordon, who I believe was the class before me, and then Chandler who was in my class… But you definitely kind of have to weigh yourself on what’s going on around the league. So you have to look at guys around you in similar classes and similar positions to try to get a barometer for what you should probably make. It’s been some groundbreaking deals going on this summer, and I have to take that into account when it comes to trying to get a deal done.
It’s crucial to note that Jackson maintains that he and Oklahoma City are only in the early stages of extension negotiations, and that he is prepared to both ink a new deal before the October 31 deadline and become a restricted free agent. Jackson also told Mayberry that he doesn’t “ever think about coming off the bench for any team,” important due to his unknown place in the Thunder backcourt after starting alongside Russell Westbrook in the team’s final four playoff games.
Jackson’s importance to Oklahoma City took on new meaning last season in the wake of Westbrook’s lingering knee injuries. He averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists as a starter during the 2013-2014 regular season, helping the Thunder to a 25-11 record without their All-Star point guard. Those are solid individual numbers, obviously, and OKC’s 71.9 season-long win percentage is barely above the 69.4 mark compiled with Jackson in place of Westbrook.
Jackson’s postseason performance in 2013-2014 will loom large in extension and restricted free agency talks, too. He shot far better from the field and three-point range during the playoffs than he did in the regular season, and the Thunder were 2.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than off of it. Jackson and his representation will surely point to his epic 32-point, 9-rebound performance in Game 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies as justification for a huge payday, too.
But the Thunder might be ill-equipped to give it to him entirely, and certainly before the 2014-2015 season begins. OKC already has approximately $55 million in salary committed for next year, and that’s before counting team options for Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Jeremy Lamb, and Perry Jones that it will likely exercise. The Thunder might want to re-sign Nick Collison, too.
Assuming Jackson builds on last season and enjoys a career campaign this season, he’ll surely command at least $10 million annually in restricted free agency next summer. And that might even be a conservative estimate if Scott Brooks elects to start him in 2014-2015 and Jackson looks to the max-level deals received by Hayward and Parsons in negotiations.
We won’t know the luxury tax number for 2015-2016 until next summer, but the Thunder will almost certainly be close to it or exceed it if they re-sign Jackson. And if the latter would prove the case by Oklahoma City matching an offer sheet Jackson signs in July, it will likely elect against doing so altogether.
*Statistical support for this post provided by nba.com/stats and basketball-reference.com
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