T.J. Leaf has been ruled out for Indiana’s first meeting of the season with the New York Knicks, reports the Indy Star’s Clifton Brown.
The reserve four hobbled off the floor with assistance early in the second quarter of Friday’s contest with the Sixers after having turned his left ankle attempting to score in transition off a bounce pass from Lance Stephenson.
Following a season wherein various combinations of plodding big men shrunk the bench’s floor spacing, Leaf has been a welcome change, averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from three-point range (1.3 attempts) and appearing confident attacking closeouts.
While out, the 20-year-old’s 15 minutes per game will likely be tacked onto the existing work loads of Thaddeus Young and Domantas Sabonis.
If so, expect 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 to lengthen.
The pair of 22-and-under centers have the potential to become a dangerous offensive tandem with Sabonis rolling to the rim and Turner drifting behind the three-point line or by running 4-5 pick-and-roll action. But, they can’t both stay at home in the paint on the other end of the floor, which means any minutes they log simultaneously should be used to evaluate whether they can defend in space together.
If Young and Sabonis are stretched too thin, Al Jefferson can spell them by manning some of the backup center minutes. Over the team’s first nine games, Indiana has been outscored by 7.4 points per 100 possessions with the anachronistic center on the floor.
Alex Poythress is also an option if they get into some sort of unforeseen pinch.
The 6-foot-7 forward, who has averaged only 1.4 points in four games for the Pacers, knocked down above 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc with the Mad Ants last season on less than 100 total attempts, a mark which represents a considerable improvement over the 30 percent clip he registered during his final season at the University of Kentucky.
Contingency plans probably won’t be necessary. however. Since head coach Nate McMillan expects Leaf to be back “fairly soon,” per Brown.