clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Preemptive Peek at the Pacers Rotation

New, comments

With 240 minutes to go around, how might Nate Bjorkgren go about allocating them?

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

During Wednesday’s media availability, Kevin Pritchard alluded to and spoke on some of the changes that may occur within the Pacers rotation.

Specifically, Pritchard mentioned needing to play T.J. Warren at the 4, as well as finding developmental minutes for younger players on the roster. This builds upon the general thesis of the Pacers off-season since the hiring of Nate Bjorkgren: Versatility, different looks, and ingenuity are expected to be the norms.

On our latest podcast, Tom and I talked briefly about the minute allocation and the difficulty there. After taking some time and really diving into how the roster and rotations could shake out, there are some questions that pop up when looking at these scenarios.

J. Lamb Out

Player Point Guard/1 Shooting Guard/2 Wing/3 Forward/4 Center/5 Minutes (Individual)
Player Point Guard/1 Shooting Guard/2 Wing/3 Forward/4 Center/5 Minutes (Individual)
Malcolm Brogdon 20 9 29
Victor Oladipo 8 17 3 28
T.J. Warren 15 17 32
Myles Turner 22 5 27
Domantas Sabonis 33 33
Justin Holiday 7 12 4 23
Doug McDermott 14 4 18
Aaron Holiday 10 9 19
Jeremy Lamb 0
Goga Bitadze 1 10 11
Edmond Sumner 6 4 10
T.J. McConnell 10 10
JaKarr Sampson 0
Cassius Stanley 0
Minutes (Position) 48 48 48 48 48 240
This is just a projection. The positions are relativley meaningless/flexible, more just to make it easier to visualize. Because Myles is the four on offense, I considered his 5 minute when he’s the lone center.

How will the starter minutes look?

One of the most perplexing things to me is trying to wrap my head around how minutes will be handled for the starting five.

Domantas Sabonis averaged the most minutes per game on the team last season (34.8), and while he’s coming off a plantar fascia injury, I’d be surprised if his minutes dip much. Domas is so vital to the offense’s production through his screening, floor vision, and overall ability as an offensive lubricator.

Barring significant improvement in playmaking on the roster, it’s difficult to envision Sabonis playing much less than this. That’s without even mentioning his rebounding; Lineups run out by Indy not featuring Domas were in the bottom 10% in both offensive and defensive rebounding among all lineups in the NBA per Cleaning the Glass.

My overall sense is that the starting minutes will be reduced across the board, especially if there’s going to be an emphasis on versatility and throwing different looks at opposing teams. This season is an awkward blend of weird and uncertain, allowing for more experimentation than we’re accustomed to during the grind of the regular season.

Given the durability issues with Malcolm Brogdon, I’d bet that he plays less than 30 minutes on average and I imagine similarly with Victor. I mentioned this in a previous article over the summer in regards to Victor Oladipo’s injury prognosis; historically, player’s with the same injury don’t play back to backs during the regular season. Also, considering how logjammed the Pacers are with combo guards and small wings, it’s tough to find minutes for non-starters without either playing them out of position or lessening the load on Victor and Malcolm.

I’m extremely intrigued to see how Nate Bjorkgren and the coaching staff tweak the rotation and minutes game by game. While the Pacers are a pretty deep team, at what point does the team start to see regressing benefits from depth? I frankly have no idea, and by no means is that a concrete number, which makes this an even juicier mystery that I’m interested to see worked out.

J. Lamb Back

Player Point Guard/1 Shooting Guard/2 Wing/3 Forward/4 Center/5 Minutes (Individual)
Player Point Guard/1 Shooting Guard/2 Wing/3 Forward/4 Center/5 Minutes (Individual)
Malcolm Brogdon 20 9 29
Victor Oladipo 8 15 5 28
T.J. Warren 11 20 31
Myles Turner 20 6 26
Domantas Sabonis 33 33
Justin Holiday 4 8 6 18
Doug McDermott 15 2 17
Aaron Holiday 18 18
Jeremy Lamb 13 9 22
Goga Bitadze 9 9
Edmond Sumner 2 7 9
T.J. McConnell 0
JaKarr Sampson 0
Cassius Stanley 0
Minutes (Position) 48 48 48 48 48

When Jeremy Lamb eventually returns to the lineup, things become even more of a crunch.

With the full roster in place, how can the Pacers accomplish all that they aspire to with the rotation?

One of the dynamics of a roster chock-full of small wings and combo guards; It’s pretty easy to slide T.J. up to the four and go small. It’s a necessity in order to parse out minutes in the wing rotation.

Next, Goga Bitadze needs to play more, specifically with a more consistent role.

Goga played just under 9 minutes per game on average last year. But, if you pull out the first 12 games he played in which he earned a few starts and played heavy minutes (15.7 mpg) due to injuries to both Myles Turner and Domas, he played 6 minutes per game on average. However, this is where the dilemmas start to show through in the rotation.

In both of these scenarios, Myles Turner is shedding minutes. Myles has more than solidifed himself as a starter in this league, but it’s hard to see how his minutes won’t be reduced to his lowest amount since his rookie year.

As mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to see Sabonis’ role and load decreasing much, if at all. Ditto for T.J. Warren whose scoring, size, and versatility are at a premium on this roster.

If the Pacers are really hellbent on getting Goga minutes (They should be after using a first round pick on him), that makes things murkier.

Again, these are all just projections, but this is without factoring in any minutes that JaKarr Sampson plays as well as any minutes from T.J. McConnell, Cassius Stanley, and whoever else earns a spot after training camp.

The Indiana Pacers have great depth and a multitude of solid basketball players, but at some point, are there too many good players to give minutes to? I’m not sure, but I think there’s some credence to that idea. It’s difficult to find a balance and proper chemistry with only 240 minutes to go around.

Nate Bjorkgren has shown an ability to be flexibile and creative throughout his career. I’m excited to see him flex his ingenuity with a good, but imperfect roster this season.