In a season full of setbacks, the Pacers now face another: After exiting Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter with a sore right wrist, T.J. McConnell is expected to be out “a while,” according to head coach Rick Carlisle.
Injury Update: T.J. McConnell (sore right wrist) will be out "a while," according to head coach Rick Carlisle.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 2, 2021
In the absence of a consistent bench rotation and with fewer touches per game, McConnell hasn’t made quite the same impact as last season, when he had more freedom to probe and was unleashed as a full-court pest, but he made critical plays down the stretch in wins over both Sacramento and Philadelphia and pushes the pace as one of few consistent ball-movers on the roster in spite of his limitations as a shooter.
As the only other point guard available, Brad Wanamaker will likely fill-in for however long McConnell is out, but there could also be some benefit to staggering Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert — especially if the latter can work through some of his indecisiveness with increased opportunities on-ball. For the season, among the 71 guards who have attempted at least 200 shots, LeVert ranks 64th in effective field-goal percentage while posting a career-low in free throw rate (.138) and placing in the 58th percentile of assist-to-usage ratio — down from 84th percentile last season, per Cleaning the Glass.
Wanamaker, meanwhile, at times oscillates between kamikaze drives and laboring to gain foothold in the paint, but he demonstrated a steadier hand when pressed into action against the Hawks, going 3-of-6 from the field without committing a turnover.
In addition to McConnell, the Pacers are also expected to be without Justin Holiday for at least the next three games after entering health and safety protocols.
Overall, for a team that prefers situational adjustments over defining guaranteed roles, being down by the surest member of an ever-changing second unit doesn’t make establishing chemistry and playing with pace amid a three-game losing streak any easier.