Obviously, Victor Oladipo being injured is not a good thing for the Indiana Pacers. The team has announced he will be out “indefinitely” with the knee soreness that has plagued him for much of the season and kept him out of the team’s last six games.
That being said, with injury comes opportunity. It’s a situation that the Pacers would rather not be in, but there are positives that can come from it.
Fortunately, it doesn’t seem as bad as the initial announcement made it seem as indefinitely can mean just about anything from a few games to months but is a clear downgrade from “day-to-day.” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski offered more information than the Pacers official press release initially did and offered a more encouraging outlook.
And with Scott Agness’s report, it seems like the Pacers are just tired of answering questions about Oladipo’s injury every day and want him to take his time to return.
Hopefully, this ends up being similar to last season where once he came back, he was good to go for the remainder of the year.
Here are some possible positives that could come from the extended absence of the Pacers best player:
Pacers will get a longer look at Aaron Holiday
The Pacers first-round pick has played well in his first chance for rotation minutes. Now, Holiday knows that he will be continuing to play regular minutes for the foreseeable future and the Pacers can figure out if they’ll need to find time for him on the court permanently once Oladipo comes back.
It’s been immediately clear that he’s very confident in his abilities as every game he seems to find a way to score within 30 seconds of checking in. He’s finished at the rim well in traffic against bigs that challenge his shot and has been a burst of energy for the Pacers during this stretch playing fairly well on both ends of the floor.
Most of the time, he’s essentially served as the team’s shooting guard when he plays as he hasn’t been the primary ball-handler, which plays to his strengths offensively. While he has made many terrific plays, he still has a lot of room to grow as a point guard running an offense and making the right passes at the right time and on target. His decision making is that of a rookie and is a big reason why it would seem unlikely that the Pacers trade away Darren Collison and hand over the backup point guard job to him this season.
He’s been aggressive but has also missed a few passes that he probably should have made like this one with Doug McDermott wide open in the corner as Holiday gets called for the charge.
Holiday scored in double figures in his first five games in the rotation but scored only nine points in the last two combined. He started off hot from 3-point range by making five of his first eight attempts from distance but has since made only two of his last 17. Even with his recent struggles with his shot, he’s had a positive plus/minus in every one his games during this stretch.
How he plays over these next however many games with Oladipo out will decide whether or not he keeps a consistent role. It’s not an easy task to find minutes for him, so seeing improvement in these areas could help his case. Even if he doesn’t, he’s offering plenty of positives to be a productive part of the team.
Regardless of whether or not he stays in the rotation, more minutes in the present for the young point guard is good thing for his future development.
The timing couldn’t be any better
This is the deepest team in recent memory for Indiana and they’ve used their depth to survive without their superstar to this point.
They’ve gone 4-3 without him this season if you count that Atlanta Hawks game where Oladipo left after just a few minutes in the first quarter and won the previous night over the Miami Heat with Oladipo scoring just 8 points as well. Last year, they went 0-7 without him.
Oladipo carries a heavy burden for the Pacers especially during crunch time and if the team is able to continue to win more games without him, more players will be confident to step up to lighten that load the rest of the season once he returns. During the playoffs, the Pacers struggled to adjust to the Cavaliers double teams as they were doing all they could to try and make someone else on the Pacers beat them other than Oladipo.
While it was not ideal for the Pacers to let the Phoenix Suns back into the game at all, it was good to see them win a close game on the road without their star. This time it was Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic making the game-winning plays as Turner made a 3-point shot and then assisted Bogdanovic on his game-winning 3-pointer on the next possession.
Oladipo’s absence creates more opportunities for others to make shots in those big situations and if success is found for those players like Turner and Bogdanovic it should give the team even more confident options in close games.
The timing of the injury couldn’t be much better as the Pacers next five opponents are the Kings, the Bulls, the Magic, the Kings again and the Wizards.
Really for the entire month of December the Pacers schedule isn’t too daunting. They do face each of the four teams ahead of them in the conference currently, but those are the only four games against opponents better than .500 and 11 games come against teams below .500.
Chance for struggling Pacers to find their rhythm
Darren Collison has talked about his rough start to the season and said he feels like he can’t find a rhythm and after having a career best season in the year prior, he’s started this one off with numbers that would be his worst.
The current road trip began with Collison playing much better with 11 assists in each of the games against the Suns and Jazz but he’s still struggling to make shots at an unusual rate for someone that led the league in 3-point percentage last year. Oladipo’s absence will put more playmaking duty on him and perhaps that will help him find the rhythm he’s been lacking.
Tyreke Evans has looked lost as an Indiana Pacer for much of the season. While he started off the year well against his former team the Grizzlies and has had a few more good games, he’s been very inconsistent, turnover prone and is struggling to make shots at the rim at an incredible rate (42% on 90 attempts at the rim).
It’s gotten so bad that he’s getting blocked by ghosts now.
The Pacers need more from their free-agent signee that seemed like he would be an ideal secondary playmaker for the Pacers. They’ve yet to lose a game when he scores at least 13 points but that’s only happened seven times in his first 20 games as he’s made less than 37% of his shot attempts.
Somehow the Pacers need to figure out how to get him going offensively with consistency. Without Oladipo, this would seem like the perfect time but it hasn’t worked out so far for Evans even as he’s been starting.
Initially, it seemed as if the team was encouraging Evans to be more aggressive by calling him passive with Oladipo giving him the nickname “John Stockton,” but now it seems like he’s holding onto the ball way too long and rarely doing anything positive with it. The fit just hasn’t been there yet.
Collison and Evans have the team’s lowest net ratings for any rotation player on the roster. If they don’t start picking up their play, Cory Joseph may find himself starting over one or the other before Oladipo is back.