Welp, so much for hitting the ground running with improved health and roster continuity. After logging only 86 minutes together last season, Indiana’s long-projected starting lineup is once again expected to be down by a man, as the team announced today that T.J. Warren, last season’s leading-scorer, is week-to-week due to right foot plantar fasciitis.
During the restart, Warren sat out against the Houston Rockets with the same diagnosis. At the time, the injury didn’t prevent him from suiting up in the postseason, but former head coach Nate McMillan revealed that the 27-year-old interchangeable forward had been managing the injury throughout the season. Unfortunately, also included in the injury update on Warren was a note on two-way player Brian Bowen II, who is expected to be out 6-8 weeks with a partial groin tear.
For a team brimming with mostly combo guards and centers, this puts even more strain on the already thin wing rotation, which now includes Justin Holiday, Doug McDermott, and perhaps, Kelan Martin. That said, given that Nate Bjorkgren previously indicated that he hasn’t designated starters yet, it’s possible that the strategy of boosting camp competition with balanced, hybrid units could already prove salient in terms of preparing for the eventuality of needing to play different lineup combinations, as was likely so often the case for Indiana’s bench boss at the G League level.
In the event that the team pivots more toward bridging the gap with three-guard lineups as opposed to automatically promoting Justin Holiday, who oftentimes sops up minutes at stretch four (especially in the footage coming out of practice), Malcolm Brogdon and Edmond Sumner are both capable of defending bigger wings. At greater issue, however, will be replacing Warren’s scoring as well as giving up lateral size within a high-pressure, potentially switch-heavy defensive system. Not to mention zone schemes when gaps are wider and identifying a player to block out is already more difficult.
By comparison, Sabonis is back in action after being sidelined with the same injury for the entirety of bubble play in Orlando; however, as was the case then, rest is (typically) the best medicine for plantar fasciitis, which also happens to be the remedy in shortest supply amid a shortened offseason and condensed schedule.
After all, Indiana opens preseason play on Saturday, when yet another starting lineup, other than the one including Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, T.J. Warren, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis, will likely be announced.
Despite cooling down against heightened coverage in the playoffs, Warren scored 30 or more points in four of the six seeding games he played while expanding the range of his capabilities to both the four spot and the three-point line — momentum which will obviously be more difficult to carryover from the sidelines.