Within the next couple of weeks, if things go according to plan, Russell Westbrook will return to the Thunder lineup.
And the domino effect will knock Reggie Jackson back to the second unit, a more comfortable role in which he had been thriving, generating buzz that he was one of the NBA's best reserves.
Both developments will make the Thunder a more complete team.
But so, too, did Westbrook's absence and Jackson's forced insertion into the starting lineup.
Because during his experience over the past 25 games, Jackson became a better player, even if it included a bumpy path to get there.
“The point guard is a tough position,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “And then the point guard on a very good team, it's challenging. He's embraced the challenge and he's improved.”
But it certainly didn't go as seamlessly as expected.
Given his consistent production in the first couple of months, the Thunder's hope was that Jackson would step into a more prominent role and continue that steady output. But it's been far from steady.
He began his latest stint as a starter with a 4-of-19 shooting performance against the Charlotte Bobcats. Then he went for 16 points, eight assists and no turnovers two nights later.
In back-to-back games in early January, Jackson went for 47 points on 26 shots. Then, right after, he followed up a 1-of-8 shooting performance with a seven turnovers and three assists.
That trend has continued into February, with his level of play becoming the team's biggest question mark from game to game.
“He's learning,” teammate Serge Ibaka said. “He's still young, third year, first time as a starter and on a good team … It's normal. All of us have (made) mistakes. Kevin makes mistakes.”
Jackson's defense has also been exploited, with plenty of opposing point guards taking turns burning the Thunder
“Defensively, he needs to continue to get better,” Brooks said. “The point guards in this league are so good and they're so offensive minded and there's a pick and roll 60, 70 times a game. That area, he needs to improve.”
But through it all, he has.
The experience has helped. The battles against first-teamers have been beneficial, which includes his third showdown with All-Star Damian Lillard in Portland on Tuesday night.
It has given Jackson a better understanding of scouting reports and schemes, how to operate against a game plan and how to adjust on the fly.
“People are starting to go under on pick and rolls and play different coverages, at times trapping,” Jackson said. “(I'm) just trying to get experience and pick it up better, figuring out what coverage they're in and then figuring out how to counter.”
When Westbrook is back, Jackson's most important minutes will likely come without Durant or Westbrook on the floor — in those crucial mid-game pockets where his attacking style will fit nicely into a second-unit that's been void of some playmaking in his absence.
And reinserted into that bench squad, Jackson returns a better player.
“I think he's improved in that area as far as managing the game,” Brooks said. “Understanding who's hot, who's not hot, who needs a bucket, who's open and just making sure he continues to make the right decisions. He's done a great job when Russell has been out.”
And that'll continue to pay off for the Thunder when Russell is back.