Since entering the Indiana Pacers’ rotation, Rakeem Christmas has impressed on both sides of the ball.
It’s hard not to root for a guy like Rakeem Christmas. Most players would grow increasingly frustrated if it took them well over a year to play meaningful minutes in the NBA. Christmas remained patient, and that patience is paying off for him and the Indiana Pacers.
Since entering the rotation, Christmas has averaged 4.8 points and 4 rebounds per game while shooting 58.3% from the field. He’s done this while playing backup center to Myles Turner, averaging 15.8 minutes per game.
One of the more impressive statistics for Christmas is his foul shooting. He’s shooting a better percentage than any power forward or center on the roster. Yes, he’s even shooting it better from the line than the smooth-shooting Myles Turner. It’s a small sample size since he’s only taken 11 free throws on the season, but he’s showing he can knock them down. Christmas is shooting 81.8% from the line.
Another small, but interesting sample: So far he has had the biggest impact of any Pacers as far as rebounding goes. According to the on/off numbers from NBA.com, he suddenly made Indiana a much better rebounding team. That’s something this roster is sorely lacking.
Stats aside, let’s talk about his physical presence. He’s 6’9″, so he is capable of playing both power forward and center.
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That helps his chances of playing time. He’s a big man. Christmas always sets rock solid screens, which is an under-rated skill to have as a big man. It frees up your teammate and gives you a better chance at scoring. He also rolls to the basket well, which creates a chance to finish.h
Al Jefferson was in uniform on Wednesday night, but picked up a DNP-CD. Christmas continued his duties as the backup center. I think Jefferson should get back out there soon, simply because he’s Al Jefferson. He’s too good of a player to be picking up DNP’s, regardless of how he’s not a two way player.
Even if Al regains his backup five duties, Christmas can still find a way to play. As mentioned before, he’s 6’9″. He can easily slide to the power forward. Also, if there’s match-ups Nate McMillan doesn’t like having Al Jefferson in, Christmas could pick up most of his minutes. For instance, Al only played 3 minutes against the Cavaliers on February 8th. He was healthy, it was just a tough game for him to play in.
Overall, I think Christmas has shown some flashes that he can be a nice piece to this team. I think he’s earned a spot in the rotation, even if it’s only playing below 10 minutes a night. He can provide the Pacers with solid depth.