There has never been more uncertainty entering the playoff than this year.
Injuries can always affect a team in the playoffs, but this year, teams are more vulnerability due to the possibility of Covid-19 infecting members of the team.
Because of that, teams will have to make sure their depth pieces are prepared to be forced into the rotation. In a worst case scenario, how can the Indiana Pacers’ depth pieces contribute if they are forced to contribute consistently?
Edmond Sumner, the agitator
Sumner was in a position at the beginning of the season to be in the every day rotation, but a broken hand sent him back to the bench. This has forced him to only play in 25 games and 345 total minutes this season.
Even with limited time on the court, Sumner is one of Indiana’s best on-ball defenders. With his quickness and 6’8’’ wingspan, Sumner can disrupt the point of attack as good as anybody of the court.
The 6’5’’ combo guard struggles on offense, only shooting .423 from the field and .263 from behind the arc, which is why he is not in the rotation. But if he is forced to play meaningful minutes, he can make an impact on the other end of the court.
Jakarr Sampson, the glue guy
Sampson entered the season as the clear 15th guy on the roster, but hard work and knowing his role has climbed his way up the depth chart. He has started 10 games this season and oftentimes enters the starting lineup when either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis is out.
The 6’7’’ forward doesn’t have eye-popping stats (4.2 PPG and 2.3 RPG). There’s nothing Sampson does on the court that’s spectacular, but he has few major flaws. His weakest areas, such as shooting and playmaking, are not as emphasized because he dos a good job of hiding them. Sampson’s most important trait is that he allows the second unit to stay in tact if either Turner or Sabonis were to be out. He fits in well alongside Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo and T.J. Warren because he doesn’t take touches away from them. His ability to play alongside them allows T.J. McConnell, Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday to stay together in the second unit.
Sampson has played important minutes this year and can provide toughness and grit if thrusted into the lineup.
Goga Bitadze, the protector
Bitadze has had an up-and-down rookie season. He’s flashed potential as a Turner-esque shot-blocking/floor-spacing big man. But more often than not, the game looked like it was moving faster than he could process.However, some of that may be attributed to inconsistency in minutes played. When Bitadze has seen extended playing time, he has shown the ability to hold his own.
Take a 122-120 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on November 2 as an example. Bitadze played a career-high 30 minutes. He only recorded 6 points, but he was able to impact the game in other areas, such as rebounding (11 rebounds), playmaking (4 assists) and rim-protecting (4 blocks). Despite the team losing, the 6’11’’ big man finished with a plus-minus of +15.
His most critical skill is his rim-protecting. He averages 2.8 blocks per 36-minutes, more than Turner. In a scenario where Indiana needs the most out of their rookie, they can look toward his defense as something to fall back on.