We’re 50 games into the NBA regular season, and the Indiana Pacers sit at a respectable number five in the East. (But with the seven-game gap between the Milwaukee Bucks and the second-place Toronto Raptors, what does that really mean?) The Pacers have a record of 31-19, and star player Victor Oladipo has finally returned just as the trade deadline looms and the All-Star Break draws near. This team is hanging in there, but they just haven’t been playing great over the past two months. So will management make some trades to improve their playoff hopes, or will they try to improve upon what they’ve already got? Let’s talk this season’s Pacers team, Oladipo’s return, and a few trade rumors.
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What’s Going On with Oladipo?
Victor Oladipo is back! But he’s not yet 100%. The two-time All-Star has been out for the equivalent of a full season, 82 straight games to be specific, dealing with a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee. The Pacers struggled to stay relevant without Oladipo, and then they adapted, still managing to make the playoffs last year. Now they’ve got to re-learn how to play with him as he begins to increase his minutes and potentially start soon.
In Oladipo’s first two games back, he was 4 of 22 shooting, and his playing time was kept under 24 minutes off the bench. The Pacers are set to bump that up to 28 minutes soon, but he still won’t be allowed to play back-to-back games. Apparently, however, this type of slow-start performance is to be expected. According to head coach Nate McMillan, “We have a plan for bringing him back. We have to be patient. He has to play himself into a rhythm. He’s been off for a year. And getting off to a start like this is no surprise to us or him.”
Before his injury, Oladipo was averaging close to 22 points per game, in addition to 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.1 steals. Known for his ball-dominant style, it’s been hard for the Pacers’ new offense to acclimatize to his presence.
Still, it’s got to be somewhat of a relief to have the star shooting guard back among the likes of other key Pacers players like point guard Malcolm Brogdon, All-Star Domantas Sabonis, and first-round pick Goga Bitadze. This could be what really ramps things up for the Pacers this season.
Brogdon is optimistic about the return of Oladipo, saying, “Me and Victor are going to be great together. I have a lot of confidence in him, and he has a lot of confidence in me … [We] both bring different elements to the game. We play totally different styles of basketball so we’re going to do well together.”
While Brogdon and Oladipo have been expected to develop great chemistry as a backcourt duo, we haven’t seen that… yet.
It hasn’t helped matters that the recently hot-shooting TJ Warren has been out during much of this action due to a concussion. Honestly, we haven’t seen how things will truly shake out for the Pacers once everybody, including Oladipo, is back on the court full time.
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Pacers Trade Rumors
So Vic is back. But will that be the only difference to this team’s roster as we head into the final half of the season? Oladipo, Brogdon, Sabonis, Bitadze, and Warren are unlikely to go anywhere, but what about everybody else? This team is already pretty deep, particularly in the backcourt, but they need to work on a few things – defending the perimeter, communication, and well, they could use somebody besides Sabonis to help with the rebounding.
Sources saying that the Pacers are still trying to trade forward TJ Leaf, who just isn’t used frequently enough, but other than that, there’s nothing huge being floated. Myles Turner’s name is also on the table (probably because his match-up with Sabonis hasn’t been ideal), but the Pacers will likely wait until the offseason to move him, if that happens at all. Other folks say that Aaron Holiday or TJ McConnell should go.
Good thing for the Pacers they’ve got a streak of home games to try to get some wins and boost morale before the All-Star Break! It’s just too bad that two of those home games will be against the best teams in the East – the Bucks and the Raptors. Let’s see how Oladipo adapts!