By R.L. Bynum
The reuniting of 2017 national championship teammates Tony Bradley and Justin Jackson on the Oklahoma City Thunder lasted only five games.
Twelve days after Philadelphia traded Bradley to the Thunder, the team on Monday waived Jackson. The move came two days after he missed all eight shots in nearly 17 scoreless minutes of a 48-point loss in Portland.
Jackson, 26, was on a $5 million expiring contract and can sign with another team and be eligible for the playoffs. He had the third-highest salary on the Thunder roster and would have been a restricted free agent had the team kept him for the remainder of the season.
Until Jackson signs with another team, Bradley and New York’s Theo Pinson, who rarely plays, are the only members of the 2016–17 UNC team on NBA rosters. The 2009 national-championship team has three players on NBA rosters: Philadelphia’s Danny Green, Detroit’s Wayne Ellington and Minnesota’s Ed Davis, although Davis hasn’t played in the last 26 games.
This could be a good turn of events for Jackson if he gets picked up by another team that gives him more of a chance. He’s now an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team except the Dallas Mavericks.
He didn’t get off the bench in 16 of Oklahoma City’s first 49 games. In his 33 games, he played fewer than 10 minutes in eight of them, played more than 30 minutes twice and started three games.
Except for Saturday’s Portland game, Jackson has been efficient in recent games, with 15 points in 12 minutes Friday at Phoenix, 12 points in 24 minutes Wednesday vs. Toronto, nine points in 13 minutes on March 22 at Minnesota and 15 points in 13 minutes at Houston on March 21.
Jackson didn’t play in three consecutive games before playing in Oklahoma City’s last three games.
Jackson averaged 7.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, shooting 40.6% from the floor, 30.6% from 3-point range and 85.7% from the free-throw line.
Jackson’s best two nights of the season came in consecutive mid-February games: 20 points and three 3-pointers on Feb. 12 in a loss at Denver and 22 points and four 3-pointers in a home win Feb. 14 against Milwaukee in which he hit the dagger 3-pointer with 14.3 seconds left.
Jackson was the 15th overall pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2017 NBA draft and was dealt on draft day to the Sacramento Kings. He scored a career-high 28 points with five 3-pointers on Jan. 5, 2019, for Sacramento in a 127–123 home loss to Golden State.
Late in his second season with the Kings, they traded him to the Dallas Mavericks, along with Zach Randolph, for Harrison Barnes.
Jackson has collected five 3-pointers in a game twice, the last time March 6, 2019, when he scored 18 points in the Mavericks’ 132–123 loss at Washington.
After two seasons in Dallas, the Mavericks dealt him to Oklahoma City on Nov. 27 along with Trevor Ariza and a 2023 second-round pick.