It was a rough start in Indianapolis as the Indiana Pacers had to open the season without all-star Victor Oladipo. They lost their first three games, giving themselves and immediate hole to dig out of. Since that poor start, the Pacers balance and depth have stepped up and the team is playing some of the best basketball in the Eastern Conference. Indiana is now sitting at 13-7 after winning six of their last seven contests. The team is streaking despite not having their star.
Indiana Pacers Balance and Depth Key to Solid Start
This group has found a groove after that 0-3 start. They have done it with a full team effort, and multiple guys who can step up on a given night. So far this season, six different players have led Indiana in scoring. The Pacers balance has been the main factor, with five players averaging in double figures. Nine players average over 20 minutes a game, as Coach Nate McMillan is utilizing the depth on this roster. The NBA is a superstar driven league, which is why the Pacers’ success has gone largely unnoticed. This team is proving that they can win as a collective group while knowing their franchise player is set to return from injury at some point this season.
Sign Me Up
The NBA’s off-season was frantic, chaotic, and filled with blockbuster moves. Despite not garnering the media or fan attention like some higher profile moves, the Pacers did a great job of improving their team this past summer. Point guard Malcolm Brogdon came over from the Milwaukee Bucks and has taken little time making himself feel at home. The former rookie of the year is averaging 19 points and eight assists a night, as he has taken over the lead role for Indiana. Brogdon is looking like one of the signings of the summer, even though the move received little fanfare when it was made. He is a proven defender on the perimeter and is now showing he can lead a team offensively as well. When Oladipo finally comes back into the fold, the Pacers will have one of the more underrated and dynamic backcourts in the NBA.
Indiana’s other big summer move was to extend the contract of big man Domantas Sabonis. The former Gonzaga Bulldog has taken his play to a new level so far this season. His numbers are excellent through 20 games. Not only is he contributing 18 points and 13 rebounds a night, but he is also doing so in an ultra-efficient manner. He is shooting 51% from the field, and 80% from the free-throw line. Sabonis is also posting a career-high with just under four assists a game. The inside out combo of he and Brogdon have given the Pacers balance they’ve needed to keep opponents off guard.
Depth of Options
Forward T.J. Warren has also played a large role in Indiana’s solid start. He signed this past summer as well and has fit right in as a third scoring option on the wing. He has played in all 20 games, scoring in double figures in all but two contests. Warren provides this team with some extra outside shooting, but he is also a creative offensive threat in the paint. He has hit eight threes over the last two contests and has eight 20 point games on the season.
Myles Turner and Jeremy Lamb have both missed some games for various reasons, but they have each played well when in the lineup. Turner brings a big-time defensive presence with his rebounding and rim protection. Lamb is a very good scorer capable of getting hot and carrying the team on any given night. Brothers Justin and Aaron Holiday have provided even more bench depth. The two versatile guards are both shooting over 38% from three this season.
The Pacers balance has allowed them to keep winning despite having almost everyone in their rotation missing time due to injury across the first 20 games. Off-season additions, plus young players stepping up have helped ease the burden of so many guys hitting the injury report. Of course, the biggest missing piece is Oladipo, and the time table on his return is still uncertain. Indiana has shown it can survive without their best player. However, to be the best version of themselves they need him back. The depth and balance this team has shown through 20 games will help them sustain a challenge in the East while they await the return of their superstar.
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