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Victor Oladipo’s absence opens the race for Pacers second best player

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Is it Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic or Domantas Sabonis?

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) steals the ball from Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) and takes it down court in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

22 games in and the Pacers are about where you would expect: 13-9, primarily led by Victor Oladipo and a second-best player that’s nowhere near him in terms of statistical impact.

Last season Oladipo led Indiana with 23.4 points per game while their second-highest scorer, Bojan Bogdanovic, was nearly nine points away.

Oladipo also led the team in defensive rating, finishing with almost an entire point higher than the cluster of Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Bogdanovic -- all of whom finished with roughly the same rating.

**Quick note: I used stats.nba.com for defensive rating but neither NBA stats nor Basketball Reference’s defensive ratings are great. That being said, NBA stats is at least better. Plus it helps prove my point.**

There is a gap between Oladipo and the rest of Indiana’s roster. His absence throughout the last six games, though painfully noticeable, has actually been important for the Pacers because it’s allowed the team to show he doesn’t determine their fate every game.

It’s also strengthened the battle for who should stake claim as Indiana’s second-best player.

The case against Thaddeus Young:

Nothing describes Young better than Mr. Consistent, but frankly I found little case for Young to be Indiana’s second-best player this season.

He’s shooting 17.4 percent from 3-point range and 48.4 percent from the free throw line while simultaneously taking the lowest amount of shots and averaging the least amount of points since his rookie season.

However I still think his defense and leadership skills are underappreciated. Even if he isn’t putting up gaudy numbers, he has value in Indiana this year and beyond.

Frankly, Young just knows how to make positive basketball plays.

But I think his days of being a number two might be behind him.

The case for Myles Turner:

Turner is the Pacers’ best defensive player outside of Oladipo. Not only is he still protecting the rim with third-most blocked in the NBA (54),

he’s started to show he can hold his own on switches out on the perimeter.

Turner has his flaws offensively -- he’s averaging only 11.5 points per game. He’s taking a frustrating amount of long mid-range two’s (nearly 30 percent of his total shots come from this area).

But his clutch shooting is up to 42.6 percent versus last season’s 26.2. By the eye the test he’s less of a disaster at the end of games... Just remember the Miami, Chicago and Phoenix games.

The case for Bojan Bogdanovic:

Bogdanovic’s stat line heading into the Pacers’ 22nd game against the Lakers: 15.6 PPG with 54.2/53.5/79 shooting splits.

53.5 percent from three -- that’s ridiculous, especially on over four attempts per game!!

In Oladipo’s absence Bogdanovic has been even better averaging 19 points per game a shooting split of 59.2/58.3/84.2.

Offensively he’s been really good this season but his defensive rating is the third-worst on the team.

I tend to think his offense outweighs his defensive mistakes but being fair to Turner, who has some of the opposite struggles, I have to knock both players struggles on one end of the floor. I think together both players’ flaws put them out of contention for the number two spot.

The case for Domantas Sabonis:

Is it obvious now that I think Sabonis is the Pacers’ second-best player?

If only he could stay out of foul trouble (he’s currently averaging 3.1 per game) and was able stay on the court for more than his average of 24.6 minutes, he would probably score more than his 14.6 points per game.

By comparison, Bogdanovic is averaging 15.6 points while playing 30.2 minutes per game.

If you extrapolate Sabonis’ minutes to playing 30.8 per game he would average 18.4 points and 12.5 rebounds.

Those numbers would garner him attention for most improved player and maybe even an All-Star bid.

I think Sabonis needs a shot to play more minutes and he needs more offensive possession run through him.

He’s shooting 66.7 percent from the field and recently has started to show off a decent three-point shot when given some time. His shot is kind of Marc Gasol-esque.

Sabonis is Indiana’s second best player, If he was given more playing time, that would be obvious.