October 21, 2019, 2:58 am
The Pacers enter this season as a team looking to establish its contender status for the foreseeable future. In an Eastern Conference that’s as open as it’s been in over a decade, Indiana is out to prove that they can run with the legitimate heavyweights.
The team’s core of Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner remains the same, but much of the supporting cast has changed in the last few months.
Sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday, fresh off a season in which he averaged 12.9 minutes across 50 games, will assume backup duties. It will mean consequential minutes on a team that’s eyeing deep playoff runs in the coming years and make for a mighty test – not just for Holiday, but for the Pacers’ development philosophy as well.
Two seasons ago, Indiana looked ready to embark on a long rebuild after trading Paul George to the Thunder for two intriguing young players who had shown flashes of promise, but ultimately still had questions to answer. The Pacers would be younger, but still lacked the first-year, high-lottery sort of talent that steps right into a major role.
Oladipo’s breakout was enough to lurch the team forward into the playoff field and the organization remained steadfast in its cautious handling of its youngest players. Since Turner was selected in 2015, the Pacers’ rookies have spent most of their first years soaking up the action from the best seats in the house.
Given the list of recent draftees, it’s not exactly surprising that the team felt it prudent to give them more seasoning rather than toss them right into the fire. Partly a result of circumstance, with the Pacers looking strong even after Oladipo tore a quad tendon last season, and partly a result of organizational practice, Holiday followed a similar plan despite a loftier pedigree.
Entering the draft, Holiday’s stock was up for debate. Some prognosticators viewed him as a long-term answer at point guard that could be drafted in the early teens while others had him going in the second round and carving out a role as a quality backup.
No matter the projection, Holiday was universally lauded for his ability to penetrate on offense and his willingness to battle any opponent on the defensive end. His shooting and scoring abilities also won rave reviews, and despite the prospect of Holiday becoming a major contributor, the Pacers stuck with their typical plan. Holiday, like the team’s other recent rookies, would spend a lot of time observing in his first campaign.
While his selection was cause for some long-term excitement, Holiday was stuck behind a pair of quality guards on a strong team in Darren Collison and Cory Joseph. While he impressed in his opportunities, there were limited chances for Holiday to carve out a larger role – likely by design. Still, even given the team’s depth, it felt like a bit much, especially for a player with Holiday’s expected upside.
In his rookie class, Holiday ranked 21st in minutes per game among first-round picks. When you eliminate players that missed significant time due to injury, only Jacob Evans, Robert Williams, Mo Wagner, Anfernee Simons and Grayson Allen played less than Holiday – and two of those guys were drafted with the expectation of a quasi-redshirt season.
Expand that to include the 2017 and 2016 draft classes, and only the following first-round players saw less time than Holiday in their rookie years:
2017: Tyler Lydon, Caleb Swanigan, Justin Patton (only four games but multiple foot surgeries), D.J. Wilson, Terrance Ferguson, T.J. Leaf, Derrick White
2016: Wade Baldwin, Jakob Poeltl, Thon Maker, Malachi Richardson, Damian Jones, Dejounte Murray, Henry Ellenson, Guerschon Yabusele, Furkan Korkmaz, Ante Zizic, Brice Johnson
Among that group, there aren’t many players with serious shots at big roles in the near future, and less than a handful of players who look to be established as serious contributors. In short, the good players were typically given at least the chance to make an impact right away.
It should be repeated that the Pacers simply haven’t drafted any rookies that have been so good as to demand playing time since Turner in 2015. With all due respect to Georges Niang, Joe Young, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Alize Johnson, none entered the league as a threat to crack the rotation in year one. Theoretically, Holiday was in a different class – he’s expected to be the backup point guard while the rest of that group is either already out of the league or set to work in deep reserve duty, after all.
Development isn’t one-size-fits-all, and not every player will benefit from simply being on the court. The Pacers aren’t the sort of anarchistic environment that allows bad habits to set deep roots in free-flowing, garbage-time minutes, but there was just slightly too much at stake to give Holiday substantial playing time and ask for quality play from the jump.
Still, Oladipo’s injury, plus Collison and Joseph’s impending free agency, gave the Pacers a perfect opportunity to pull the chute and see just how NBA-ready Holiday was down the stretch. Indiana was comfortably in a playoff spot and wasn’t reasonably expected to win more than a single round without their star. They chose to stick with the plan, forgoing serious reps for a presumed core piece in the process.
That’s not to say that Holiday is ‘too good’ for that treatment. It was thought that he was above that route, certainly, but the Pacers clearly felt that Holiday would benefit from a less-intense rookie season.
Now, with expectations high following a year where Indiana looked borderline excellent when Oladipo was healthy, Holiday will be asked to step up to the plate and deliver, with no cushion in the standings for the team to fall back on in case it doesn’t go smoothly. Although Indiana added a pair of quality playmakers in Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell, the sophomore will be counted on to contribute in a meaningful role.
The Pacers are past their short window of patience. The urgency has been ratcheted up, as evidenced by the team’s aggressive decisions in free agency and the likelihood that first-round pick Goga Bitadze starts the year in the rotation. Indiana got good far faster than anticipated and it’s time for the team’s depth to rise to the occasion, even if they haven’t been tested rigorously yet.
If Holiday, and the complementary pieces in general, struggle to work out the kinks, then Oladipo’s eventual return will come as a major relief. If the Pacers’ gambit pays off and Holiday’s behind-the-scenes development turns into on-court production, that same return could serve as rocket fuel.
Either way, in Holiday, we’re about to see the fruits of Indiana’s development plan.
November 19, 2019, 2:44 pmKevon LooneyPF-C, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have assigned Kevon Looney to the G League on Tuesday as he works his way back from the neuropathic condition.
This is the first news we've had on Looney in a couple weeks and while there is no timetable for a return, it's a great sign for the big man that he may be well enough to get some work in as he continues his rehab. The Warriors could really use Looney's defensive presence.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 2:32 pmTony SnellSG, Detroit Pistons
Toney Snell (hip flexor strain) was able to go through portions of Pistons practice on Tuesday.
Snell's status for Wednesday's game against the Bulls wasn't updated, but that will likely come soon. Langston Galloway started the second half in place of Snell during Friday's game and may get the call again should Snell be unable to go.
Source: Vince Ellis on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 2:19 pmAnthony DavisPF-C, Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis (right shoulder soreness) is being listed as probable for Tuesday's game against the Thunder.
Though Davis has been dealing with the shoulder issue all season, he's been able to power through it to put up top-5 value in all leagues. Davis can do things on the basketball court that is simply hard to replicate. Keep him locked and loaded in your lineups until further notice.
Source: NBA Injury Report
November 19, 2019, 2:10 pmVince CarterSG, Atlanta Hawks
Vince Carter (personal) returned to practice for the Hawks on Tuesday.
The soon-to-be 43-year-old still has some life left in his legs on season number 22, but he can be left on the waiver wire in standard leagues with a minimal role.
Source: Kevin Chouinard on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 1:55 pmKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) is being ruled out ahead of Wednesday's matchup with the Hornets.
With Irving joining Caris LeVert on the sidelines again, Spencer Dinwiddie will continue to get all the run he can handle as the starting PG. Irving is putting up top-11/8 value in 8/9 category leagues to start the year. Irving's next chance to suit up is Friday vs. the Kings.
Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 1:43 pmDerrick Jones Jr.SF, Miami Heat
Derrick Jones (hip) is being listed as out ahead of Wednesday's game with the Cavs.
Jones just can't get and stay healthy this season with only four games under his belt. When Jones does return he has defensive upside with some shooting, but his role is limited in a crowded frontcourt. KZ Okpala (Achilles) is also ruled for Wednesday's game. Both can be left on the waiver wire.
Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 1:31 pmDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard (back spasms) will not play in Tuesday's game against the Pelicans.
With Lillard sitting this one out the offense will likely run through C.J. McCollum while Anfernee Simons should get the start at PG and all the minutes that he can handle. Both make for DFS value plays and Simons makes for an intriguing streaming option in a nice matchup. The newly signed Carmelo Anthony may see more usage than expected in his debut as well.
Source: Casey Holdahl on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 1:26 pmJosh MagettePG, Orlando Magic
Josh Magette was present for the Magic's practice session on Tuesday.
Magette has put up 18.4 points, 10.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 3.0 threes per game in the G League this season and may have earned himself a spot on the Magic roster with his strong play to start the season. With that said, he likely won't see much time behind Markelle Fultz and D.J. Augustin to make a difference.
Source: Magic Daily on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 1:17 pmCaleb SwaniganPF, Sacramento Kings
Caleb Swanigan (ankle) is listed as probable for Tuesday's game against the Suns.
Swanigan is not in the rotation and can be ignored in fantasy leagues.
Source: James Ham on Twitter
November 19, 2019, 1:14 pmElfrid PaytonPG, New York Knicks
Elfrid Payton (sore right hamstring) will be re-evaluated in 10 days after Tuesday's tests revealed that his hamstring is not fully healed.
A December return looks like the best case scenario for Payton who has appeared in just four games this season because of the hamstring issue. Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. will continue to hold down the fort in the meantime.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter