(WTLC begins its final preparation for the regular season with our annual player profile previews. Each player gets a dual analysis as well as a grade of our expectations for each. See the grading scale at the bottom.)
|Year in NBA||3|
|2012-13 Stats (College)||13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 0.5 AST, 0.4, 3.0 BLK 0.5 TO|
|Past Accolades||24th pick in 2011 draft|
|Contract Status||$1.3mm, Thunder just picked up his 4th year option|
With Westbrook out, we're going to see Jackson back in his playoff role as our fill-in starting point guard for the early portion of the season. Obviously, this role comes with a lot of expectations and responsibilities. Even after that, he'll have to take on the sixth man role that Kevin Martin held last season. The overarching theme of the beginning of Jackson's season is whether or not he can live up to these expectations. A lot to live up to, for sure.
Of course, there's little reason to doubt that Jackson can't produce in that role. While he was a rarely-used substitute at the beginning of last season, he's developed to the point that the Thunder were comfortable trading away Eric Maynor at the deadline last season and even to make him the starter at point guard in the playoffs when Westbrook got hurt. Jackson should be good for 15 points plus a healthy mix of rebounding and assist numbers. While not quite the athlete that Westbrook is, Jackson has speed and hops of his own, and he scores at the rim exceptionally well.
The most important thing with Jackson this season could be whether or not he develops a consistent three-point shot. It was his most discernible flaw in the playoffs, as he couldn't make opponent teams pay for double-teaming Kevin Durant. With Kevin Martin gone and no new three-point shooters in (unless you count Ryan Gomes), the need for three-point shooting will be huge. Jackson, as the guy who will be our eventual go-to guard off of the bench, being able to offer that three-point shooting will be invaluable.
With that said, Jackson will do fine in a role supporting the Thunder's stars. He's strong in the tertiary scorer/playmaker role, and a true breakout season is in play for him this year.
I am particularly excited about this year's Reggie Jackson campaign. For as much guff as we like to give the coaching staff for how they seem afraid to play rookies, the same cannot be said when that player hits his 2nd year. Remember, Jackson was drafted in 2011 when the Thunder already had a bona fide backup in Eric Maynor. Regretfully, Maynor was lost for that year and Jackson had to learn on the fly (in the playoffs Derek Fisher took his minutes), but the message was clear even then - the Thunder were looking to eventually upgrade their backup PG position, and they believed Jackson was the Man.
After some ups and downs during the season, Jackson was given full control of his role after Westbrook went down in the playoffs. He made some good plays, he made some bad plays, but the one thing that stood out to me the most was that Jackson never looked rattled even as he was staring into the teeth of the top-rated Grizzlies defense. He had a playoff look about him, and that is a tremendous foundation on which to build.
Jackson's improvements have been notable in the offseason. His mid-range jumper is near automatic, he has cut down on his turnovers, and he has shown that the 3-point shot has to be part of his arsenal. Those are the tools he must use. These tools rest upon a player who is confident enough to wield them, and that is what gives me hope for RJ.
During Jackson's rookie year, a number of critics noted how harsh that guys like Durant and Westbrook seemed to be on the youngster. Wouldn't they break his spirit? Wouldn't they cause him to crater when it matters most? Turns out, maybe those guys knew what they were doing.
|A||Player has exceedingly high expectations attainable only if they play to their fullest ability.|
|B||Player has reasonably high expectations that are attainable.|
||Player has moderate expectations which should be met with little trouble.|
||Player has moderate expectations but will struggle to meet them.|
||Player should not be on the Thunder roster.|