If there’s any player that knows how stringent the Oklahoma City Thunder can be in contract negotiations, it’s definitely James Harden. The Houston Rockets superstar and reigning All-NBA First Team honoree was low-balled by the Thunder after winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2011-2012, and subsequently dealt to Houston after it became apparent that the sides would be unable to reach an extension by the deadline that would have made him a restricted free agent the following summer. Just two years later, Oklahoma City finds itself in a somewhat similar situation with super-sub Reggie Jackson. And though GM Sam Presti elected against trading the talented guard even though no extension was reached, that hardly ensures Jackson’s long-term place with the Thunder.
Jackson’s rare talent and the recent market for point guards ensures that he’ll receive a hefty payday come summer. Oklahoma City will have the right to match any offer sheet he signs, and has previously indicated it will likely do so. But Jackson’s expanded role in the wake of injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook complicates matters.
What if a team breaks the bank by inking him to a max-level offer? A 24 year-old capable of averaging 21.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game are few and far between, especially when he doubles as a versatile defender with immense two-way potential. Jackson might not have the star power of most maximum contract candidates, but he’s quickly developing the profile.
The Thunder were unwilling to meet Harden’s demands of such a deal. Will they feel comfortable acquiescing to Jackson’s should that situation present itself? It’s tough to tell, but Harden says that Jackson should force their hand into making such a decision regardless.
Via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
“I went through the same thing,” Harden told The Oklahoman about contract negotiations between Jackson and the Thunder. “Obviously, his is prolonged more…”
“I fell into the same situation, and that could have been my only contract and I’m sure Reggie feels the same way,” Harden told The Oklahoman. “He has to get the money that he’s earned and that he’s worked his whole life for. It’s the nature of the business. It’s going to happen every single year and it’s going to continue to happen.”
Harden is right.
A player like Jackson – who has made no secret of his desire to be a starter, by the way – has little reason to give the Thunder a hometown discount should it ask for one. This is his first big-money contract, and he should milk it for all its worth. Injuries happen, after all, and there’s no guarantee that Jackson will be afforded another chance to cash-in on his current and potential abilities.
If he gets a deal with a salary that is approximately $14 million or higher, there’s a chance that Oklahoma City will be forced to pay the luxury tax by retaining him. Is that something the notoriously thrifty Clay Bennett will be willing to undertake? History says no, but championship windows can close quickly. Signing Jackson long-term is the surest way to showing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – who will become free agents in the summers of 2016 and 2017, respectively – that the Thunder are committed to winning above all else, too.
The Thunder will have the choice to keeping Jackson this summer. But they had a similar one with Harden, and we all know how that turned out. Keep your eye on this as the season plays out. How Oklahoma City handles Jackson this summer will ripple down stream either way.
What do you think?
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