Prior to Indiana’s four-game win streak, T.J. Leaf was averaging 13.7 minutes of action per contest. Since then, he’s logged less than 13 total minutes, including a DNP-CD last night against the Orlando Magic.
On the season, the 20-year-old rookie has appeared confident attacking closeouts while making an impressive 10-of-20 threes at the NBA’s longer distance, but the combination of his skinny frame and sketchy lateral quickness defending the perimeter has contributed to the Pacers being outscored by 7.5 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.
Meanwhile, Bojan Bogdanovic has been downright incandescent over the last four games, averaging 20.8 points while shooting a white-hot 60 percent from the field to go with 62.1 percent from three as his minutes have expanded from less than 30 to 33-plus.
As such, the Pacers have recently started experimenting more with the Croatian sharpshooter’s offensive firepower at power fauxward, most notably matched with Cory Joseph’s peskiness at the point of attack alongside Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson as well as the rebounding presence of Domantas Sabonis.
According to Advanced Wowy Stats, Indiana has scored an absolutely lethal 116.5 points per 100 possessions in the 48 minutes that Bogdanovic has played at four across all lineups.
In part, Leaf’s spot in the rotation has also been a casualty of those brief, yet informative, bursts near the end of both the first and third quarters where Sabonis checks in for Thaddeus Young and plays alongside Myles Turner.
Though the balance is currently, and understandably, tilted in the direction of the multi-dimensional big men, measuring the importance of evaluating whether the pair of 22-and-under centers can play together in the long run against the development of the team’s first-round pick in the immediate is nonetheless delicate.
Until Glenn Robinson III returns, the threat of suffering additional injury hits to the already thin wing rotation will likely cause the Pacers to pause before assigning Leaf to the Mad Ants.
None of which is to mention that overwhelming opponents with their pace has the potential to become more challenging over time with an 8-man rotation
Still, even if all of the above mentioned reasons suggest that it’s at least temporarily necessary for Leaf to mature in garbage time, he shouldn’t be the odd man out until under 3:00 minutes to play when the Pacers have more than a 25-point lead on the front-end of a road back-to-back.