Most fans don't put much stock into pre-season performances, but if you're a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder you have to be at the very least tickled by the performance of guard Reggie Jackson. The Boston College product (drafted 24th overall by the Thunder in 2011) has stepped into the Thunder's starting lineup and, while it's unexpected that he'll be able to fill the giant void left from the injury to Russell Westbrook, Jackson is doing his best. If his 29 point, 8 assist, 6 rebound effort is any indication, the Thunder may just be stabilized until their All-NBA guard returns to the lineup mid-season.
It's been a slow road for Jackson who, to his credit, has stayed patient and waited for his opportunity. He's been sent to the Development League several times and has taken the assignment as an opportunity to utilize his minutes.
Via Welcome to Loud City:
Less than 24 hours after he was sent down, he was called up in time to sit on the bench against the Heat. In that span of time, Jackson managed to play in one game for the 66ers, against the Iowa Energy. He got just under 41 minutes as the starting point guard, and put up near triple-double numbers, going for 22 Points, 7 Rebounds, and 8 Assists. He did go a disappointing 0-5 from three, though that's no worse than Derek Fisher has done over the past few games.
The Thunder's strange practice of sending players down to the D-League temporarily is pretty cool. It gives the younger guys who usually would only get less than 10 minutes on the floor a chance to get some burn. With the tighter schedule between games this year, I don't imagine that the Thunder get much time to put in practices. And with the Thunder being so competitive in the West, they can't give their young guys time to adjust on the court. So the D-League offers an easy way to keep the young guys active and improving.
In fact, the move is straight up genius. Why don't more guys go to the D-League?
The simple answer is because the money isn't there for everyone. Jackson is still on his guaranteed rookie deal with a team option after next season, so he literally has a million reasons to wait, be patient, and develop.
Many players don't have that luxury when not taken in the first round, but when you look at how the Thunder have utilized the draft and the Development League to their advantage with Jackson and other players like Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb, it's a wonder why more teams don't follow the model. It allows for more depth for players who are constantly getting minutes at either level, in case of injury or an impromptu trade like the situation with James Harden last year.
I had Jackson in my top 3 two-way point guards coming out of Boston College, and I was absolutely shocked he fell to the Thunder. While in Chestnut Hill, the guard was a scoring machine, who was also a fearless and willing defender. But to me, it was his combination of freakish athleticism, vision, and patience that stood out as he attacked the basket.
As far as consensus around the league, I spoke to one NBA agent who has Jackson on his short wish list of players he would sign if he could.
"He does everything and he's a freak athletically," the agent said. "Shooting is still an issue but if he continues to be disruptive defensively and get out in transition, it's going to be hard to take him off the floor. He's going to be around and be productive for a long time."
Jackson has struggled from distance in college until his third and final year, and has continued to struggle since turning professional. It's something he has to improve on if he wants to be a starter in the NBA going forward. Right now, at the very least, he will have every opportunity to get better over the next few months. When you consider the path his career has taken, you have to be impressed by his patience, professionalism, belief and understanding that his opportunity would eventually come on the big stage.
Tommy Dee is the Director of Business Development for CHARGED.fm and was founder/executive editor of TheKnicksBlog.com from 2008-2013. He has contributed his scouting notes to Hoopsworld.com and SheridanHoops.com and is a regional scout for Blake and Associates. He is a big fan of studying development.