Wilkins, who averaged only 1.7 points on 33 percent shooting in 8.0 minutes per contest, started his first game since April 17, 2013 on Saturday against the Chicago Bulls. With Bojan Bogdanovic sidelined due to an ankle issue, the son of 13-year veteran Gerald Wilkins helped to set the tone early with his energy by slapping away the first shot of the game before confidently knocking down his first three attempts from the three-point line.
“I love him,” Kevin Pritchard said of Wilkins at media day. “We had a guy three years ago, Rasual Butler. He reminds me a lot of him — veteran presence, calms everybody down, keeps everybody (in) calm waters.”
“For me, he can still play, too.”
Nevertheless, his on-court impact wasn’t particularly discernible through his first 18 games. Granted, his readiness to catapult into the starting lineup last night afforded the bench the opportunity to get reacquainted with each other after Lance Stephenson had spent the previous four games filling in for Victor Oladipo with the first unit, but that’s also a temporary role which Alex Poythress could have assumed in a pinch with the added benefit of possible return on his long-term development.
During the second period, the Pacers were plus-11 in 4.8 minutes when Stephenson was on the floor with Cory Joseph, Joe Young, T.J. Leaf, and Domantas Sabonis.
Assuming that the veteran presence of Wilkins was deemed more valuable than buying low on young prospects (i.e. Ben Moore, Jarrod Uthoff) at the beginning of the season, it is somewhat odd that the team’s position on that changed with the portion of the season which could include a possible playoff berth drawing closer.
However, the move opens up a roster spot which will allow Indiana to keep a watchful eye on the waivers of other teams along with the buyout and free agent markets, as they did at the close of last season with Stephenson.
Additionally, the deadline for the Pacers to sign another player to the team’s open two-way contract is January 15.