How Reggie Jackson Can Become OKC Thunder's New 6th Man Extraordinaire

Justin HussongContributor IIIAugust 11, 2013

Can OKC stay at the top of the much-improved Western Conference next year if Jackson doesn't step it up?
Can OKC stay at the top of the much-improved Western Conference next year if Jackson doesn't step it up?Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No one is expecting Reggie Jackson to replace James Harden's outside shooting, his superstar potential, and certainly not his glorious beard.

Coming off a 60-22 season and the top seed in the Western Conference, what will OKC do to follow it up? They have gone from the NBA Finals in 2011 to a second-round exit in 2012.

James Harden was replaced by Kevin Martin. Kevin Martin has now seemingly been replaced by the incumbent Jackson. The team is trending downward, so who is going to step up and break the trend?

The menacing triumvirate of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka is continuing to improve, but can only do so much. This upcoming season is Jackson's time.

Jackson rose to prominence during the postseason after Westbrook went down with his injury. A few things need to happen for us to see more of that and for Jackson to seize the role of sixth man.

Learn to Co-Exist with Westbrook

We all were wowed by Jackson's coming-out party during the playoffs where he put up 13.9 points on 48 percent shooting. He rounded that out with five rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

The big question is whether or not he can extrapolate that over a full season. Better yet, can he produce similar numbers with a healthy Westbrook?

At first glance, Westbrook and Jackson have many similarities. They both are quick and love to attack the paint with reckless abandon. Both have developing jumpers and play like combo guards at times.

The beauty in the defunct Westbrook-Harden tandem was that they could share ball-handling duties at times while on the court together. Each was a capable playmaker and facilitator and most of all, unselfish.

Asking Jackson to be James Harden is absurd. If he comes into his own, he can most definitely do big things alongside Westbrook as his own special type of player.

Develop That Jumper

Whether Jackson likes it or not, he will constantly be compared to Harden and Martin, at least for the near future. 

Harden is a career 37 percent three-point shooter, and Martin a 39 percent shooter.

Jackson? He sits at just 22 percent in his short career.

There is now a big hole on this team on the wing. Jackson does not have to elevate his outside shot to the level of Harden's, but he cannot be a dominant sixth man on this team unless he is at least respectable from the perimeter.

A reliable three-point shot would provide Jackson with more space to operate in terms of slashing and cutting. If defenders are able to just sag off him, his effectiveness will be handcuffed.

Jackson did shoot over 30 percent from downtown in the playoffs, so we know he is at least somewhat capable. We mustn't forget he is still just the ripe age of 23. A quality jumper could very much be in his future.

Display a Killer Instinct

It is impossible to be a star in the NBA without that killer instinct. Jackson showed glimpses of it in the postseason, and if he is to succeed on an elite team like OKC, he will need to show much more of it.

Once again, Westbrook and Durant can only generate so much offense. Jackson holds much more value to this team as a Jamal Crawford or J.R. Smith-type than he does as strictly a change-of-pace guard.

The former Boston College product has flown relatively under the radar to this point of his career. He was a first-round pick at one juncture after making the All-ACC First Team for the 2010-11 season while scoring 18 points per game. A big-time player is in that body somewhere, and it is up to coach Scott Brooks to help coax it out.

The above video shows a glimpse into what Jackson has to offer. Even if it was only Summer League, his performance was nothing to scoff at.

Jackson is very much an X-factor heading into next season. OKC is obviously hoping to solve its woes internally. The Thunder were dead silent in free agency, so a boatload of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Jackson.

His mentality is the most important thing moving forward. In order to hang with the big guns on this team, Jackson needs to have the burning desire to be great.


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