Nothing is more irrelevant than preseason basketball. These four games are considered a success if no one gets hurts and the starters don’t look completely incompetent. Tonight the Pacers passed this threshold with flying colors.
But just because these games aren’t important doesn’t mean they’re not relevant questions to ask about Indiana as they head into the start of their season.
Why was Darren Collison the only starter to play against the Pistons?
The simple answer: Nate McMillan decided Collision could use some extra reps. But humor me for a minute.
Maybe Collison was playing with all the bench players because he’s going to be the bench unit point guard. The most dynamic lineup the Pacers can play involves Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson playing the guard spots. This was an opportunity for McMillan to get Collison some minutes with the bench unit without giving away his future plans.
Can Oladipo play like a Russell Westbrook lite next season?
The short answer is no. Westbrook is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete who can play at 110 percent for 82 games and make the rest of league look lazy for taking nights off.
In the first two preseason games, Oladipo did his best Westbrook impression. He was flying around on defense and pushing the ball up on offense as fast as he could.
During Indiana’s win against Cleveland Oladipo stole the ball, made a layup, made a dunk, turned the ball over, blocked Kevin Love, and missed a long 2-pt shot all within a minute. If that isn’t the most Westbrook-ish sequence then I don’t know what is.
Are the Pacers even going to try and play defense?
No. No. Maybe? Just kidding...no.
Does Myles Turner look better than last season?
He doesn’t look worse. The sample size is so small that it’s difficult to really judge him. In the first two preseason games Turned played he shot exactly 50 percent in and made five blocks, proving he’s still a strong rim protector.
Turner’s shot doesn’t seem to come out of his hand any quicker than last year. He might be able to shoot over clunky forwards centers, but if he’s switched over to an athletic forward he might not be able to get his shot off fast enough.
He also shot only 1-6 from three-point range and continues to take too many 20-foot jump shots. Cutting Turner's 20-footer out of the game will prove critical to his taking the next step as an NBA player. He should have spent his entire summer working on his 3-point shot...but I’m not sure he did.
Does T.J. Leaf make his way into the rotation to start the season?
Hell yes. Remove the first preseason game and Leaf looks like he might be better than Al Jefferson. Even with the first one he still might be. Leaf’s defense isn’t great but if he’s going to shoot 4-5 from 3-point range he deserves to be playing over Jefferson.
If Leaf plays just 5 minutes a game in 70 games that would be considered a success for him. Rookies drafted in their late teens don’t play NBA minutes in their first season - it's extremely rare. Leaf has the offensive skill to play in the league right now and that alone will get him minutes. We’ll have to wait and see if he can add defense to his repertoire.