Indiana Pacers versus Memphis Grizzlies - the first game without Victor Oladipo

What did we learn in the Pacers first game without Victor Oladipo?

The Indiana Pacers started off their time without Victor Oladipo on Saturday in Memphis. What can we take away from that game?

The Indiana Pacers lost Victor Oladipo, but they didn’t lose their season. They are still going to play more games and be a pretty good basketball team.

This newly shapen rotation isn’t really new, they played together back in late 2018 when Oladipo missed a few games. But this time, it’s different. The Pacers know the optics of their season have changed, and they may alter things in a more forward-thinking way than a way that is just plug-and-play, as it was last time.

This first game was important because it shows more of what the Pacers are thinking in their new forward-thinking strategy. Sure, it could be just one game, but as the organization trudges on with new thinking, the earlier they start their new brand of basketball this season the better, and I believe they did that in game 1 against Memphis.

Let’s dig in. What did we see in the rotation that could be something to watch going forward?

TJ Leaf

Teej! There was some optimism in the preseason that Leaf could be the 10th guy in the rotation for Indiana this season. That has not happened.

When Victor Oladipo missed time originally, Leaf did not crack back into the rotation. In the 11 game stretch, he only saw the floor in 7 of them, and 5 of those instances were purely garbage time appearances. The other two were games in which Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner missed with injury.

If you throw out the injury games, Leaf totaled about 21 minutes in the entire stretch that Oladipo missed. He was not a part of what the Pacers were doing.

Going forward, he might be. As the Pacers shift to a slightly more forward-thinking approach, expect to see Leaf for brief flashes every night. He hit the court for 9 minutes against Memphis, and despite not putting up a gaudy stat line, he played fine. Getting him a bit of development time is likely in the Pacers plans going forward, so expect to see him get 8-12 minutes each and every contest going forward.

Aaron Holiday

The Pacers conglomerate all knew Holiday would step in as the 4th guard in the rotation. 16 minutes was about what was expected of him. But he was heavily featured as a self-starter with the second unit, something we have never seen before.

He launched 11 shots, the second most he has taken all season. Allowing him to get more reps as a scorer is likely something the front office is zeroing in on, as it allows him to develop and it allows the team to see what his strengths are. He hasn’t really earned as many attempts as he got in the last game, but we learned that he has a long leash in his current rotation spot on Saturday.

 Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis together

These two have frequently been referred to as the frontcourt of the future in Indiana. Seeing how much they can play together effectively is a beneficial strategy for the Pacers going forward.

In the first game of the post-Oladipo timeline, the two bigs shared the floor for 11 minutes. That’s a ton. Some of that was aided by Thaddeus Young foul trouble, so we may not have learned much, but it isn’t nothing. Keep an eye on their shared minutes going forward.

Another elephant in the room was the that the Pacers lost their highest usage starter. Someone had to take over that role. Victor Oladipo had a usage rate of nearly 28 percent this season. Someone has to have the ball, and nobody was entirely sure who would get all those touches.

The answer was not Tyreke Evans like many predicted. Instead, it was Bojan Bogdanovic getting the bulk of the ball. His usage rate was north of 26 percent in this game, easily the highest among the starting 5. Additionally, his 14 field goal attempts were also the highest on the team.

He can handle it, to an extent. We have seen Bogey’s improved off the dribble game on display this season, but that really only benefits him. He can create well for himself:

But not so much for others; he only had 1 assist in 36 minutes while having the teams highest usage. Everyone outside of Bojan’s usage was pretty similar in the starting 5, hovering between 17 and 20 percent. So it would appear that the team will rely on Bojan for a decent amount of scoring going forward when the team needs a bucket late in the clock. Otherwise, expect a balanced offensive attack in the future.

Something that stuck out to me but could be nothing was the pace – only 96 possessions for the Pacers. They are one of the slowest teams in the NBA already, but wow is that molasses or what? They were playing Memphis, another really slow team, and there were only 15 steals total between the 2 teams. But a glacial pace is less effective than it used to be for the Pacers.

At the end of the shot clock in the past, the team had freakin’ Victor Oladipo to run an action through. That’s a great emergency plan. Without that, typical late clock actions are less effective. Sure, sometimes it comes down to that. But Nate McMillan is going to have to find a way to speed things up a bit in the offense or get a few more steals and run in transition if he wants to keep the offense at the league-average level they play at.

Maybe this game is a bad barometer. The rhythm of the offense was all out of whack thanks to some big changes to the rotation. But it is worth monitoring how these changes affect the team going forward, and these things are all ones that I thought were interesting and important to watch for in the future. Thankfully, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the post-Victor Oladipo timeframe this season.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.