Victor Oladipo is the only addition needed to elevate the Indiana Pacers as the push for the playoffs begins
Every team has played over 30 games in the 2019-20 NBA season and anyone sitting back analyzing the league can start morphing ideas on each team. One team, you should still be holding out judgment on? The Indiana Pacers, who are expecting the return of their star shooting guard Victor Oladipo in late January.
Oladipo suffered a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee on Jan. 23 during the 2018-19 season. He missed the remainder of the season and has yet to play a game in the 2019-20 season. The wait is almost over.
The Pacers, who were the third seed in the East at the time of Oladipo’s injury last season, went 16-22 to close out the regular season before being swept in the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
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Indiana put all the playmaking and shot-creating duties on the shoulders of 30-year-old Bojan Bogdanovic – who is a good player, but not the type of player you lean on for the duration of a season or a playoff run.
Oladipo’s injury is a worrisome one; there is skepticism on whether he can still be the sort of athlete he was pre-injury. (You know this type of athlete).
Even if Oladipo doesn’t return to form athletically, his scoring, defense, and playmaking are exactly what this year’s Pacers will need to elevate themselves to the group of teams just above them. That group consists of the following teams: Celtics, Raptors, Heat, and 76ers.
The Bucks have separated themselves from the rest of the teams in the conference but each of the teams listed above has a flaw they need to address before they can be considered a true contender.
The Pacers are one piece away from joining that group, and that piece comes in a 6-foot-4, 210-pound package.
Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard brought in Malcolm Brogdon from the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a sign-and-trade deal then signed Brogdon to a four-year, $85 million contract. The deal is a risky one due to Brogdon’s injury history (he’s had some nagging injuries this season as well) but he’s the perfect player to slot in right next to Oladipo.
Brogdon is a versatile player who can play either guard spot, offensively or defensively; and he has the poise of an NBA veteran.
A backcourt of Oladipo and Brogdon is an exciting concept that the Pacers and their fans should be ecstatic to witness.
The Pacers are fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 22-13; they have the league’s 13th best offense and the 10th best defense. They are fifth in the league in field goal percentage (46.8 percent) and fifth in 3-point percentage (36.9 percent).
Coach Nate McMillian’s team has more than “stayed the course” without their franchise guard this season, and while other teams around them eye deals they can make to reinforce their rosters the Pacers have been patiently awaiting the return of Oladipo.
Sabonis’s improvements have made the “Sabonis or Myles Turner?” debate moot at this point. Along with his 17.8 points per game, the fourth-year big man is averaging a team-leading 13.0 rebounds per game and is third on the team in assists at 4.2 per game.
Amongst players who’ve played in at least 25 games and log at least two possessions per game as a roll man Sabonis leads the league at 5.6 possessions per game, per NBA Advanced Stats. He also averages 6.4 points out of those possessions, also first in the NBA.
Brogdon has been a steady contributor as a lead guard. His scoring numbers are great, but let’s take a peek at his assists. Brogdon is ninth in the league with 7.4 assists per game. He is excellent at keeping his composure running the pick-and-roll and is a willing passer.
Brogdon and Oladipo running screen and roll plays with Sabonis while Turner – who is shooting 36.7 percent on 3’s – spots up on the perimeter is reason to celebrate the future for this team.
There’s a chance Oladipo won’t be as explosive when he returns to the floor, but he won’t have to be thrust into a situation with expectations of being a savior. The Pacers have developed chemistry with one another – Brogdon and Sabonis are good playmakers – so Oladipo can step in and focus on being a scorer.
The Indiana Pacers don’t need to worry about the February trade frenzy or mull over buyout guys. They have a good team in place and a good player ready to join in on the fun.