Is Goga Bitadze a viable backup center for Indiana Pacers?

Indiana Pacers Goga Bitadze (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers Goga Bitadze (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The 2019-2020 Indiana Pacers come into a new season with a few question marks. A few of those questions surround the 18th overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft, Goga Bitadze, and his ability to be a viable backup center for the team.

This season’s revamped Indiana Pacers roster includes a few new faces. The new additions are primarily players who will impact the team’s backcourt. However, for the team’s frontcourt, there are familiars faces scattered throughout with the exception of Goga Bitadze.

This season it has been indicated that big men, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner will start at the power forward and center positions respectively. This move thrusts last season’s primary backup center, Sabonis, into a new position and opportunity.

Due to the absence of Sabonis at center, this moves Bitadze into what seems to be the backup center role for the Pacers heading into the start of a new season.

As a result, there have been questions and concerns about Bitadze’s viability to properly fulfill the role of being the team’s primary go-to option at center off the bench.

The majority of the speculation surrounding Bitadze’s ability to be viable backup center steams from his inability to participate in the majority of the team’s offseason activities.

Bitadze had the unfortunate circumstance of dealing with a visa issue and sprained right ankle which halted his progression and acclimation into the Pacers organization.

However, a strong performance in the team’s last preseason contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week gave the organization and fans confidence that Bitadze indeed has the talent to compete in the NBA at a high-level.

Now, with the potential of Sabonis being moved via trade due to static contract negotiations, the importance of a capable backup center is even more important.

When it comes to Bitadze there aren’t necessarily concerns involving his ability on offense. In his time with Mega Bemax in the Serbian Super League, Bitadze averaged 14.1 points while shooting 63% from the field and 40% from three-point range. Bitadze is efficient on offense but defensively there is a lot for the 20-year-old to prove.

But in his performance against the Timberwolves and one of the best centers in the NBA, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bitadze displayed a willingness to defend and be physical at the point of attack.

With that being said, Bitadze can indeed be a viable option for the Pacers at center, even though the sample size is small. The 18th overall pick will have to lean on the instruction of the coaches as well as take his physical conditioning and strength to the next level. But with the foundation that has been established in his time overseas, there is untapped potential.

For the reason that Bitadze is coming off of injury and is just now getting exposed to the speed of the NBA, there is hope that what fans saw against the Timberwolves is only step one in the progression of the first-rounder.

Bitadze’s experience overseas will correlate to his viability to be a backup center for the Pacers.

The Sagarejo, Georgia native has been playing professional basketball since he was a teen which means he has handled the competition of grown men and professionals for quite some time. This should be encouraging for those who question his ability to be a center in the NBA.

Now, with the landscape of the NBA changing, the center position has taken on a new life. Productive centers in today’s NBA don’t necessarily solely live in the low post, but now have the ability to stretch the floor and shoot from distance. Bitadze fits that bill.

The skillset of Bitadze will force other bigs to step out of their comfort zone defensively in order to match up with his 6-11 frame. This adds a new layer at the center position for the Pacers.

Turner can stretch the floor but has made a name for himself defensively as a rim protector. The duo of Bitadze and Turner gives the Pacers coaching staff a one-two punch when it comes to the starting and backup center roles.

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Bitadze is just getting started, but his sole preseason performance should be encouraging for those who question his validity as a formidable NBA player. As the regular season approaches and the trade deadline looms, Pacers fans should look forward to a new season and the potential change that can continue to ensue.