- Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will miss the rest of the season after rupturing the quad tendon in his right knee.
- Here’s a look at how this recent development will affect the team looking ahead.
Last season, the Indiana Pacers finished with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference en route to 48 victories. This marked the team’s highest win total since 2013-14, when they posted a 56-26 mark.
Additionally, the Pacers were one game away from knocking off LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
Fresh off a season in which they exceeded expectations, the Pacers were hoping to take the next step in 2018-19 and they are certainly off to a good start.
They are the top defensive team in the league in points allowed, giving up 103.2 points per game. Indiana’s 105.1 defensive rating is the second-best mark in the NBA.
So, while this team may not be an offensive juggernaut (ranked 21st in scoring), this squad certainly knows a little something about playing defense.
At 32-15, the Pacers have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Toronto Raptors (36-15) and the Milwaukee Bucks (35-12). With that in mind, the Pacers were having a good season until … it happened.
Victor Oladipo suffered a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee during a game against the Toronto Raptors on January 23 and will be forced to miss the remainder of the season.
This is a bitter pill to swallow, to say the least.
Will the Pacers be able to continue pressing forward in his absence? Which players can help fill the void for the rest of the season? Is this squad still a formidable playoff foe?
Here’s a look at how Oladipo’s injury will affect the Pacers moving forward.
HE WOULD BE SORELY MISSED
When the Indiana Pacers acquired Victor Oladipo prior to the 2017-18 campaign, he was considered a decent player, but not the kind that had superstar potential.
However, last season, he was given a larger role than he had with the Orlando Magic and the Oklahoma City Thunder and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
In 75 appearances he posted averages of 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists. His shooting numbers were respectable, as he shot 47.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Additionally, he also led the league in steals with 2.4 per contest, paving the way for him to win the Most Improved Player award.
This season, his scoring output is down a bit, but he is still the Pacers’ top scorer at 18.8 points per contest. He is second on the team in assists (5.2 per game); fourth on the roster in rebounding (5.6 per contest) and he leads the team in steals with 1.7 per game.
Although Oladipo leads the team in multiple categories, the one area where he’s really been a difference-maker is delivering when the game is on line. In fact, the Pacers have the best win percentage in the NBA in clutch situations (15-6, 71.4 percent).
A lot of that has to do with the fact that Oladipo has scored 76 points while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range in 50 crunch-time minutes, per NBA.com.
Taking all of this into consideration, it is more than fair to say that while the Pacers have no choice but to march forward, they will certainly miss what Oladipo brings to the table on a nightly basis.
WHO WILL BE CALLED UP TO STEP UP IN OLADIPO’S ABSENCE?
Last season, the Pacers didn’t fare too well when Oladipo was out of the lineup. In the seven games he sat out, Indiana did not win a single game.
Earlier this season, when Oladipo sustained a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for 11 games, the Pacers produced a 7-4 mark during that stretch.
With its top scorer and one of the team’s best play-makers out for the rest of the season, which players will be called upon to step up in Oladipo’s absence for the rest of the season?
One player whose role will increase is Tyreke Evans. In 32 appearances off the bench, the ninth-year shooting guard compiled averages of 11.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest. The good news is he posted similar numbers when he was inserted into the starting lineup.
In those 11 games, Evans averaged 10.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals per contest.
Head coach Nate McMillan has also mentioned that first-round pick Aaron Holiday will see more playing time and that the team intends to call up Edmond Sumner — who was a second-round pick in 2017 — from the G-League to the active roster.
Another option may come by way of a trade. And while the Pacers have not decided whether or not they’re going to make a move before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, they could make a play for Mike Conley — who is reportedly being shopped by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Considering that Conley is a local product, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see these two teams engage in trade talks at some point.
EXPECTATIONS HAVE TO BE MEASURED
To recap, the Pacers were one of the better defensive teams in the league prior to Oladipo’s injury. They have a decent second unit that is averaging 40.3 points per contest, good enough for the ninth-best mark in the NBA.
Additionally, Indiana’s reserves are shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and a 36.3 percent clip from 3-point range. Although Oladipo isn’t quite playing at the same level he was a season ago, the Pacers were just starting to hit their stride, as they have won 12 of their previous 15 games.
Having compiled 32 wins through their first 47 games, the Pacers are on pace to eclipse last season’s win total. Not only that, as one of the more balanced teams in the league, the Pacers appeared to be poised for a deep postseason run as well.
Needless to say, those expectations have to be tempered somewhat with Oladipo being out for the reason of the season. Yes, the Pacers should still make it to the playoffs and should finish no lower than sixth in the conference playoff race.
On the flip side of the narrative, though, Indiana looked like a team that would make some noise in the playoffs and now it would be considered an accomplishment if they managed to just make it out of the first round.