As injuries have depleted their roster, the Indiana Pacers have some question marks in their rotation to begin the season. In their first preseason game of 2021-22, Indiana started Jeremy Lamb in place of the injured Caris LeVert. That cannot be the solution moving forward.
Lamb was a common subject of trade rumors all summer long after a rough tenure in Indiana. With the team investing in younger options at the same position, starting Jeremy Lamb during the absence of LeVert and T.J. Warren would be a huge mistake.
The Indiana Pacers cannot afford to start Jeremy Lamb
Indiana’s preseason did not start off in the way many fans had hoped. Not only did they get blown out by the Knicks – preseason results don’t matter, I know – but they also traded fan-favorite Edmond Sumner midway through the game. Sumner, who is also dealing with an injury, is no longer in Indiana after being traded in a salary dump move.
To make matters even worse, Jeremy Lamb entered the starting lineup for their first exhibition next to the other expected starters (and Justin Holiday filling in for Warren). Lamb contributed with a team-leading nine rebounds but he also shot just 2-of-7 from the field.
The Pacers used their first draft pick on Chris Duarte and gave an extension to Oshae Brissett last season. The two of them are much better options in the starting five than Lamb right now and their impact on the defensive end alone should be enough to earn their minutes. Sticking with Lamb is a bad sign of things to come this season.
Indiana has a history of not playing their rookies in meaningful minutes and that can arguably hinder their development. The new coaching staff was expected to bring the most out of the young guys and get them involved right away but starting a player like Lamb over Chris Duarte is a major head-scratcher.
Duarte looked fantastic in the Summer League and has carried that over to the preseason. He scored a team-high 15 points off the bench against the Knicks on Tuesday while adding another team-high with five assists.
If the Pacers want to prove that they are ready to win right now, swapping Lamb for Duarte in the starting lineup is the first step. Of course, the team still has to get back to full strength and playing Duarte with the bench will be good for when the other guys return, but he is the best option to start right now.
I trust Rick Carlisle to work through these things throughout the preseason but time is running out for the Pacers. They have just over a week to figure out their starting lineup when the season officially begins.