Potential found in Thad Young and the Indiana Pacers bench

When the Indiana Pacers bench takes the floor with Thaddeus Young, good things tend to happen.

The Swiss Army Knife, most commonly known as a multifaceted tool that can be used for practically any job or predicament. It is considered a tool that everyone should possess. For the Indiana Pacers, its Swiss Army Knife is Thaddeus Young.

With the playoffs looming for the Pacers, the value of having a player like Young on a roster can pay dividends as a team is tested through an arduous postseason. In addition to Young being a complete basketball player with a diverse skill set, the Indiana Pacers have a bench that has displayed dominance despite the peaks and valleys of the last few weeks of the season. Together, they are a strong group.

Young, the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft has been one of the most consistent players in the Association for the last decade. Young has had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves. However, in his time the Pacers, Young has had career-high per game averages in field goal percentage and three-point percentage. Those numbers are a testament to his fluidity within the Pacers’ approach.

In addition to Thaddeus Young’s stint as a Pacer being the best three seasons of his career, 2018-19 has been particularly special for the eleven-year veteran. This season has served as an indication to the value of having a Swiss Army Knife-like Young in the lineup. That has become even more apparent with the loss of all-star Victor Oladipo, and Young has proved how valuable he is for the team.

In accordance with his ability to bring a multitude of skills to the table, Thaddeus Young has experienced heightened success on both sides of the floor. Part of that may be due to the absence of Oladipo, but also the strength of the Pacers’ supporting cast, particularly the bench.

If you look at the structure of contending playoff teams, there are usually two common characteristics. A player who can do it all (like Thaddeus Young) and also contributing bench play.

In a league that has been dominated by the star power of a starting five, the prevalence of strong bench play has appeared to be scarce. However, the Indiana Pacers front office neglected that mindset when constructing this season’s roster. They wanted depth.

From the moment training camp opened for the Pacers, the roster had its foundation set on having multiple talented players. Evidence of this is the team’s ability to stay afloat in a razor-thin Eastern Conference without Oladipo. The Pacers should be proud to hold a potential top-five seed heading into the playoffs given how their season has gone, and their bench is a big reason why that is possible.

Now, with only three weeks until the start of the postseason, it is important to evaluate the potential for the Pacers bench as they compliment Thaddeus Young and the rest of the starters. The potential begins with Domantas Sabonis.

Sabonis could start for several NBA franchises. Luckily for the Pacers, the power forward/center who has averaged 14.2-points & 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting 59.3-percent from the field and 53.3-percent from three-point range is the first man off the bench for Coach Nate McMillan.

After missing five games post-all-star break due to an ankle injury, Sabonis is currently returning to old form. This month, Sabonis has scored over 20-points on two separate occasions while also tying career-highs in assists and rebounds in the process. With Sabonis trending in the right direction despite still recuperating from an injury, there is potential for him to be a strong contributor down the stretch for the Pacers bench.

There is further potential in the Indiana Pacers bench due to the maturation of Doug McDermott in the blue and gold. McDermott has always been regarded as a shooter. However, in the earlier portions of this season, McDermott had trouble finding his rhythm. For the season, McDermott has averaged 7.0 PPG.

Recently, McDermott has reversed that trend. During the Pacers most recent road trip, McDermott has had a surge in scoring and efficiency. In three of the four games during this west coast road trip, McDermott has averaged 12-points, with his most dominating performance coming against the Los Angeles Clippers. McDermott had 17-points while shooting 66.7-percent from the field. He showed what he can do with a bigger opportunity.

When approaching postseason play, it is important for teams and their players to improve and peak at the appropriate time. The consistency of Sabonis and his comfort coming off the ankle injury will allow the sixth-man to give the Pacers a threat off the bench that will continue to elevate with each game.

The trajectory of McDermott has improved with his willingness to pull the trigger and those shots beginning to fall. The potential for this Pacers bench to impact the team as a whole is tremendous. Solid play by McDermott gives the Pacers and their fans comfort in the bench for the playoffs.

Even though the NBA is almost considered position-less at this point, the need for a big man as a post presence and rim protector is still required. When the Pacers don’t have the league’s leading shot blocker in Myles Turner on the floor, they lean on the six-year veteran Kyle O’Quinn.

After being acquired in the off-season, O’Quinn has been a nice addition to the Pacers bench when on the floor. Despite only averaging 8.5 minutes of play per game collectively this season, Coach McMillan has leaned on the center more recently. In the last month, O’Quinn has averaged 15 MPG. That can be significant in the playoffs as the Pacers will need to compete on every possession in a draining seven-game series. Should Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner need a rest, McMillan should have no fears turning to O’Quinn.

In terms of bench point guard play, fans have been concerned with Cory Joseph as of late, but they should have no fear. In the NBA there are going to be stretches where players go through peaks and valleys. That is evident right now for Joseph, he’s stuck in a valley. However, Joseph has been on the game’s biggest stage and is an NBA Champion. A veteran point guard who comes off the bench with that type of resume is a hot commodity for any franchise. Luckily, for the Pacers, they have one of their own. Joseph should be a steady hand when it matters in a few weeks.

Indiana Pacers fans know that Tyreke Evans can be a sensitive subject. There have been question marks concerning Evans due to his lack of availability due to undisclosed and personal reasons. Many have assumed that the team had fallen out of favor with the guard or vice versa. However, due to the structure of the roster and the assumption that he would be a consistent threat off the bench, his lack of availability for the Pacers has been worrisome.

The only thing is, it’s hard to part ways with a player who comes off the bench and occasionally shines. This was evident in the recent west coast swing. Against the Clippers, Evans had 19-points, and seven rebounds in the loss. Two nights later against Golden State, he tore it up again. He looked like a real contributor.

The recent performances of Evans, McDermott, and Sabonis can be comparable to starting lineups across the league. This solidifies the potential of the Pacers bench as the regular season comes to a close. The sky is the limit for the Pacers with the consistency of Young and ability for the bench to allow the team to not skip a beat.

Without the presence of Thaddeus Young on the floor on a nightly basis, the Pacers would lack leadership and fluidity on both sides of the floor. He will always be a swiss army knife, and with the bench playing well, a lineup featuring Young and the reserves could be lethal. When you combine Thad with the all-bench group, good stuff happens. That lineup has a net rating of +25.7. It could be huge for Indiana in the postseason.

Next: 5 players Pacers fans should keep an eye on in the NCAA tournament

The potential of the Indiana Pacers bench should excite fans. The Pacers have a unique opportunity to prove to fans of the NBA across the globe that a team can win without a superstar. With players like Thaddeus Young leading the way, the Pacers will attempt to seize it.

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