Grading Goga Bitadze’s NBA debut for the Indiana Pacers

The #18 overall pick of this year’s draft, Goga Bitadze, made his NBA debut Tuesday night for the Indiana Pacers. In an offseason that has been arduous for the 20-year-old, Bitadze showed flashes of talent and potential against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the team’s final preseason contest.

It’s been quite the offseason for Indiana Pacers fans. With new faces sprinkled throughout the roster, one of the most anticipated debuts for the Pacers this season has been the #18 overall pick of this year’s draft, Goga Bitadze.

In the team’s final preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bitadze finally made his NBA debut in a Pacers uniform. For the Pacers’ front office, coaching staff and fans, Bitadze’s debut displayed promise for the future.

However, it has been quite the journey this offseason for the 20-year-old center from Sagarejo, Georgia.

After being drafted back in June, Bitadze dealt with a visa issue that prevented him from participating in the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas. The Summer League serves as somewhat of an orientation for rookies and prospective NBA prospects.

After being unable to participate in the Summer League, Bitadze’s then faced another setback. A sprained right ankle would plague the remainder of Bitadze’s summer.

However, due to a willingness to display his talent and the expertise of the Pacers’ medical staff, Bitadze was able to take the floor for the first time in his NBA career on Tuesday night against the Timberwolves.

In 24 minutes of play, Bitadze proved why Kevin Pritchard and the scouting department regarded the center with such high praise.

Bitadze would have an efficient evening shooting the ball. From the field, Bitadze shot 6 for 9 (67%). Bitadze would add to that efficiency by shooting 2 for 3 (67%) from three-point range.

Bitadze’s fluidity on offense earned him 14 points in his NBA debut. Not bad for a big who hasn’t had much physical time on the floor since being drafted back in June.

Bitadze would also contribute on the glass. The center would hall in four rebounds while also adding two assists and one block, a fantastic stat line for a rookie’s debut playing against a projected Timberwolves starting lineup.

Despite the production on both offense and defense by Bitadze, there were several critiques of his NBA debut.

Perhaps due to a lack of conditioning Bitadze committed four fouls. The speed of the game seemed to catch up to Bitadze, but that’s just the nature of the business as a rookie.

However, with time, Bitadze will be able to alleviate any worry that he will put himself into foul trouble but is something the rookie will have to make note of moving forward.

Bitadze also committed a team-high six turnovers. For some, this may be alarming. However, if you take into account that it was the rookie’s debut against one of the best centers in basketball, Karl-Anthony Towns, you can understand how six turnovers can occur.

A sense of nervousness may have also played a part in Bitadze’s inability to take care of the basketball. But with the regular season approaching Coach McMillan and his staff will make an effort to curtail the issue.

Overall, for a rookie who has had time off due to injury and a visa issue, it was a strong and encouraging performance for a debut. There is a lot to look forward to as the regular season nears.

There was a lot unknown to fans about Bitadze’s game. However, the rookie was able to give us a taste of what is to come and where he will improve.

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Even though fans aren’t sure how many minutes Bitadze will see on the floor in real game action, they at least have a foundation to what the 6-11, first-rounder can do.

Grade: B+

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