- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
Oklahoma City Thunder fans have seen this movie before. Only this time, they're hoping for an alternate ending.
In case you haven't noticed, the Thunder are juggernauts again. They're 20-4, which is the best record in the NBA. And they've achieved that lofty record despite the sixth-toughest strength of schedule in the league thus far. With 10 victories over winning teams -- no other team has more than eight -- they've earned the top spot on the Hollinger Power Rankings with a comfortable cushion over the rest of the league.
Kevin Durant is playing like an MVP once again, pushing his ceiling to seemingly impossible heights. Russell Westbrook is back, registering a Westbrook-like 23.2 PER in December. Only one other player can match Serge Ibaka's 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game this season, and he was drafted No. 1 overall a year ago -- Anthony Davis.
Why not? To be the best, I think you eventually have to get to a starting role and you have to do it consistently. Thirty-plus minutes night in and night out and get championships. So that's the thing that motivates me each and every day and what I strive for.
"-- Reggie Jackson to the Oklahoman
We knew the OKC trio was good. We just didn't know teammate Reggie Jackson would be this good, this quickly. This season, he is averaging 12.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. Not impressed? Well, those numbers are deflated because he's playing as a reserve. He is averaging 17.6 points, 5.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor. As I pointed out in last week's episode of The Big Number, the list of players who can match those totals is a short one: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili.
Yeah, Jackson's good. But OKC fans might be dreading that he's too good. Here's why: One of the ironclad rules during general manager Sam Presti's tenure in OKC is he does not let his young studs get to free agency. Sign them to an extension before their rookie deal expires or flip them to another team for more assets. Jackson is eligible for an extension in July.
The small-market organization can't afford to let the open market set the prices. Faced with the possibility that his young player could walk away for nothing, Presti has made his policy clear: extend early or trade before it's too late.
Presti is serious about this rule. Just ask James Harden, who was traded four days before the final season of his rookie contract began. Look at Jeff Green, who was starting for the division-leading Thunder before he was dealt midseason in 2010-11.
Is Jackson next?
1dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann