Indiana Pacers: Oshae Brissett’s flexibility has been a pleasant addition

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

When Oshae Brissett signed a three-year deal with the Indiana Pacers on April 21, it was met with a positive reaction. There was a sense that Brissett could crack the rotation and provide Indiana with some help on the wing. 

Since then, Brissett has exceeded even the optimist’s outlook on his impact. Not only is the 22-year old combo forward providing some much-needed spacing and athleticism at the three and four spots on offense, but he’s also proven to be one of the Pacers’ best defenders – and maybe their best weakside defender available right now with Myles Turner sidelined. 

What does Oshae Brissett bring to the Indiana Pacers?

In 12 games, Brissett is averaging over 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks per 36 minutes. Add in 45% shooting from deep on over five attempts a game, and he’s beginning to look like one of the more valuable players on Indiana’s roster.

Not only does he help cover up for a lack of size when one or both of Turner and Domantas Sabonis is inactive (or even play center when both are down), he provides the ball-dominant backcourt of Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert with some necessary spacing and relief. Want to play small with Brogdon, LeVert, and Edmond Sumner? Brissett can help cover up rebounding issues. Want to play big? Brissett is an apt enough shooter (and has even flashed some off-the-dribble shooting), and quick enough laterally to fit in most lineups as a small forward.

While Saturday’s game against Oklahoma City certainly shouldn’t be used for any serious evaluation, as the Thunder are executing a tank the likes that haven’t been seen since Philadelphia’s “Process”, Brissett was an absurd +49 in the game. Overall, Indiana has been outscoring teams by 16.5 points per 100 possessions when the Syracuse product is on the floor (again, the OKC game is a heavy influence there).

Brissett isn’t a perfect player, obviously, and his offensive game is fairly raw. He rarely passes out of dribble drives and his shooting is unlikely to stay as potent. But, he can play, and he clearly fills a vital role.

So, what exactly does it mean for the future of the Pacers?

Brissett gives them flexibility, both on the floor and in roster construction.

Indiana has been disappointing this season. Partly a product of health and partly a product of an uninspiring defense, both in plan and in practice, they’ve struggled to get out of the middle of the Eastern Conference standings.

That’s left fans with questions about both the present and the future of the roster. Bigger picture questions like the upside of the roster as currently constructed, and more short-term questions like Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnel’s expiring contracts.

Even though the Pacers are unlikely to ever tank, some have called for a shift in direction. Others have maintained that with health, Indiana’s roster is enough to be competitive in the East.

Brissett doesn’t solve any of these, but he leaves the front office with more options than they previously had.

The most divisive and persistent question around the Pacers revolves around the pairing of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. The pairing continues to be solid, but underwhelming together. No clear answer remains about which is better by themselves. 

Brissett fits well next to both. His shooting and solid help defense theoretically helps cover up Sabonis’ flaws on both ends. His impressive rebounding totals to this point and defensive versatility helps with Turner’s deficiencies on the glass and allows him to remain glued to the opposing team’s center.

He also fills a need that they’ve had for the entirety of the Sabonis and Turner era, a backup four. If both big men are in Indiana for the long haul, Brissett may fit the description of the backup stretch four that Kevin Pritchard has been looking for. His fit would allow for Nate Bjorkgren to stagger the bigs more and experiment with more versatile lineups.

Additionally, Doug McDermott’s pending free agency looks less daunting with the emergence of Brissett. With no clear replacement on the roster, McDermott was looking like a must-sign if the Pacers still wanted to focus on contending next season. Now, the loss of McDermott could be a bit more palatable.

Brissett signals a shift for Indiana. No matter the opinion of Nate Bjorkgren to this point, he hasn’t had a chance to work with a roster built for his style. He’s implemented improved shot selection on offense, and his defensive philosophy has yet to be seen with personnel that fits.

Size and length are a staple in any defensive system like Bjorkgren’s. There’s a good chance that Brissett isn’t the last big wing to be added to Indiana’s roster shortly

Bjorkren’s former team, the Toronto Raptors, have been applauded for their player development and scouting. Players like Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, and others have gone from late draft picks or bargain free agents to valuable contributors in Toronto or elsewhere. Brissett could be the first in a line of many for Indiana under Bjorkgren.

In what’s been a rough year overall, Brissett has brightened both the present and future outlooks for the Pacers.

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