Thunder Future, Part 2

Every other day for the next couple of weeks InsideThunder.com writers Randy Renner and Jeremy Griffin are taking an in-depth look at the Thunder roster and discussing which players will be back for next season and which ones probably won't be.

On Monday in Part 1 they looked at Thunder head coach Scott Brooks and two of the Thunder's Big Three, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.

Today in Part 2, they examine the changes that could be on the way for some key bench guys, Reggie Jackson, Caron Butler and Nick Collison.

 

REGGIE JACKSON

RANDY (RETURN): Jackson has become a solid and even spectacular at times backup point guard for the Thunder who could probably start for some NBA teams. And that is both a blessing and a curse. Jackson wants to be a starting point guard. Not just a starter, but a starting point guard.

The Thunder of course already have one of those and Reggie isn’t replacing Russell anytime soon. The Thunder could dangle the carrot of the starting shooting guard spot in front of Reggie and we saw him play the position fairly well in the Spurs series. Jackson and Westbrook on the floor at the same time can create mismatches with the opponent. The problem it created for the Thunder was taking a dynamic player out of the bench rotation. One or the other of these issues will need to be addressed this summer. Either Reggie becomes the shooting guard and the Thunder upgrades the bench (which could be accomplished with Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones becoming bigger threats) or Jackson returns to his backup point guard role and the Thunder promotes Lamb to starting shooting or upgrades through a trade or free agency (Aaron Afflalo anyone?).

Jackson is also eligible for a contract extension this summer. Presti said during his end of season news conference that he will attempt to get a deal done. Don’t be surprised though if the Thunder allow Jackson to play this coming season under his current contract then see what offers might come his way as a restricted free agent. The Thunder will have the option to match any of those. One serious player in that could be the New York Knicks, now that Derek Fisher is the head coach. Fish and Reggie developed a close relationship in OKC and that could be a big factor.

JEREMY (RETURN):  If there was any question about the value Reggie Jackson added to the Thunder he answered it this season.  His play throughout the season was for the most part consistent and solid.  He has proven himself to be a capable defender as well as a strong offensive force both in assists and actual scoring.

Reggie is capable of starting at the point with plenty of NBA teams and that could be an issue for the Thunder as they try and work out a deal with him over this next season but as far as this coming season goes HE IS A LOCK.

While many are concerned Reggie will go the way of James Harden, I simply believe he will be here for the foreseeable future and if he ends up as a starter going into next season (even if it’s not the point) I think he might be key to the Thunder’s post-season success as he and Russell Westbrook have more time to learn to co-exist early on in games.

CARON BUTLER

RANDY (GONE): When the Thunder signed Butler it appeared to be a great move. Jeremy Lamb had started to tail off and Butler was a proven, veteran performer and a legitimate 3-ball threat. He proved his worth during the regular season when he hit 44.1 percent of his 3-point attempts with the Thunder. That’s the best percentage of his career and about eight percentage points higher than what he’d been shooting with Milwaukee earlier in the season (36.1).

But in the playoffs those numbers went south. He shot just 32.4 percent overall and 35.6 percent from deep. His overall shooting percentage was his worst ever in the playoffs (seven seasons). His 3-point percentage was actually his best ever in the playoffs. Despite being a solid 3-point shooter in the regular season, he’s never done as well in the playoffs. His previous best percentage was just 30.4 percent in 2009-10 when he was with the Mavericks.

The Thunder were able to snag Butler on the cheap after the Bucks bought out his contract. Now he’s a free agent and will likely get some lucrative offers. If Reggie Jackson is moved to starting shooting guard, it would make no sense to bring Butler back and further stunt the growth of Jeremy Lamb. If Jackson remains at backup point guard, Butler might be option, but you get the feeling he won’t be back unless something surprising happens.

JEREMY (GONE): Caron did a great job early on when he first joined the team but was far too inconsistent in the playoffs to seriously be considered a part of next season’s squad.

While I do think Butler added to the team in other ways such as in the locker room and encouraging from the bench he’s not quite “veteran enough” to have the kind of impact D-Fish had.

In the end the Thunder only get a moderate scoring threat, a slow defender and no more of a veteran presence in the locker room than guys like Perk and Collision already bring.  I like Butler overall, but he just doesn’t fit in the Thunder’s long term success plan.

NICK COLLISON

RANDY (RETURN): Nick Collison played the fewest minutes this season (1353) than he ever has in the NBA except for the lockout shortened campaign of 2011-12. He has been a dependable workhorse for the Thunder, but his contract is running out and so too may be his time the team. Collison was drafted by the Thunder when they were still the SuperSonics back in Seattle. He’s never been much of a stat guy, rather than black and white his work shows up in blood (especially this last season) and sweat. Collison is on the books for $2.24 million next season, down from $2.59 million this past season, so his contract is very cap friendly. A new one probably would be also. The question is will that new contract be in OKC or somewhere else? Collison will probably want to explore his options and see what else might be out there. But he loves playing for the Thunder and loves the organization and what’s being built in Oklahoma City. Collison’s limited playing time in certain games in the regular season and his complete absence from the court in some playoff games again points to the small ball trend in the NBA. In those instances, he didn’t have anyone to guard. The Thunder may be more tempted to utilize Perry Jones III as a “stretch 4” in Collison’s spot. Much could depend on how this coming season goes. Thunder management knows what Collison can do, they’re not sure about Jones, but they need to find out.

JEREMY (RETURN): Collison has been described by every single NBA coach I have ever heard asked about him as “a guy every team wants on their squad”.  He is the consummate role-player and with his tenure in the league is not only valuable to take a charge and present a midrange shooting threat on the court but is a very present force off the court for training up younger future role-players.

This guy will retire with the Thunder hopefully many years from now.  He is simply one of the best “value” players in the league right now.

The Thunder will bring Nick back year after year and be very happy to do so.

EDITOR: Click back Friday for Part 3.