Reggie Jackson's next chance to strut his stuff comes Tuesday night in the Thunder's preseason home opener against Denver.
To this point, Jackson hasn't disappointed.
Though it's early in the exhibition season, the third-year point guard is quickly proving himself as a capable replacement to injured star Russell Westbrook.
In the first two preseason games, Jackson was in complete command of the offense. He set up teammates, attacked with forceful drives and feathery midrange jumpers and, of course, deferred to Kevin Durant when necessary.
“He's been doing a great job in training camp and the last two games of just getting everybody in their sets and running the point guard really, really smoothly,” Durant said. “He's doing a great job of making it easier for … everybody.”
Jackson's patience and poise was on display in the preseason opener against Turkish club Fenerbahce Ulker. He scored just nine points on 4-for-6 shooting and had five assists. But those numbers belied how effective Jackson was. He played with confidence and control while orchestrating the offense for 23 minutes. He didn't force anything and came out nearly mistake free.
Three days later, in the Thunder's second exhibition game against Philadelphia, Jackson went from solid to spectacular. He finished with a game-high 29 points, making 10 of 17 shots while grabbing six rebounds and dishing eight assists.
He had just two turnovers in the first two games.
“I'm just being aggressive, trying to make the right plays for teammates,” Jackson said. “I'm playing more freely and trusting what I see, not necessarily always playing to satisfy someone but trusting what I see out there, taking advantage of mismatches and being aggressive. It's been fun.”
Jackson has yet to show improvement on his 3-point shot — he's 1-for-7 in the preseason — but he appears to be taking shots with more confidence. Once he gets that shot down Jackson could become a nightmare match, a triple threat who can score, slash and set up teammates at any given moment.
But considering Jackson's relative inexperience, it's hard to argue against how much he's developed. Reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, for example, has played 1,673 minutes more than Jackson.
“That's the good thing about Reggie, he's in his third year and he's improved quite a bit the last couple of years,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But we still need more improvement out of him. But he definitely will keep improving because he's a worker and he gets better.”
Much of Jackson's growth in the immediate future figures to come from playing against first-stringers. Because he's entering his third season, it's easy to lose sight of how Jackson's lack of playing time in his first 1 1/2 seasons prevented him from matching up against countless players.
Tuesday's potential matchup with lightning quick Nuggets starter Ty Lawson is one of those matchups. Over time, Jackson should become more familiar with opponents strengths and weaknesses, learning such things as how much foot speed an offensive player has and how much space his man needs to feel comfortable shooting.
For now, Jackson benefits from the same unfamiliarity offensively. Most defenders still aren't sure what Jackson is capable of. But as he makes his way through different teams, Jackson expects to better understand when and where to attack defenses.
“He still has a lot to learn,” Brooks said. “It's a tough position being a point guard in this league, but I think he's really matured into a good leader.”