Oklahoma City Thunder and NBA fans alike were at a moment of shock when news that Russell Westbrook would be lost for the rest of the playoffs after suffering a knee injury early in their first round series. Luckily for the Thunder, second-year back up point guard Reggie Jackson has been up to the challenge of filling in for the Thunder’s all-star starter.
Westbrook tore his meniscus on a controversial play by Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, putting him on the shelf after just two games in the postseason. Losing Westbrook could be cause for concern in a sense, given the fact that the Thunder’s back up PG position has been a revolving door, mostly due to Westbrook’s durability — he had yet to miss a single game in his career to date, including high school and at UCLA.
The list of Oklahoma City point guards who played under Westbrook is a somewhat long one. Earl Watson, Kevin Ollie, Eric Maynor, Shaun Livingston and even veteran Derek Fisher have all served as Westbrook’s understudy since he took over the starting role early in his rookie season in 2008-2009. But none had the opportunity to stick round long.
The Thunder took Jackson in the first round in last year’s draft, hoping that he could contribute as the back up while Maynor made his way back from an ACL injury and Jackson took a step forward this season, giving the Thunder the confidence to deal Maynor at the deadline.
Since the All-Star break, Jackson has averaged 7.3 points and two assists in 17.7 minutes per game, nothing spectacular but solid numbers in limited playing time. But in the playoffs with Westbrook sidelined, Jackson has upped his production to 17.3 points, 3.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 34.3 minutes, giving the Thunder an option with his athletic ability to compliment Kevin Durant, to an extent.
Some will only look at the stat sheet and see Westbrook’s 24 points per games as the only thing missing from the Thunder, but there is no replacing what Westbrook brought to
Oklahoma City’s lineup with his aggressive and fearless style of play, both on offense and defensively. In some ways Westbrook was the heart of the Thunder’s team. But with Jackson seemingly not intimidated by the moment, he may be enough to help Oklahoma City weather the loss of their star.