A recap of the Pacers’ exciting preseason for their first-round draft selections

Indiana Pacers, Chris Duarte - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Chris Duarte - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

We saw our first taste of the Indiana Pacers‘ 13th & 22nd first-round draft picks, Chris Duarte & Isaiah Jackson, back in August during the Pacers Summer League, where they played a five-game stint.

Duarte looked great then, but rookies have a lot to prove when entering the NBA. Coming into the Preseason, I was looking to just see how Duarte would react to the game. For Jackson, I was not sure what to expect aside from his raw athleticism, which has been fun to watch.

Duarte made many plays in Summer League finding teammates and not rushing the game offensively. Can he be a consistent rotation player?

While the NBA season is long and every player has their good and bad games, Duarte has shown that he can be another capable scoring option to add to this Pacers team that has been struggling with injury problems for multiple seasons now.

Since the Indiana Pacers are retaining nearly the same team as last season, Duarte showing this capability is huge for the Pacers.

Here is a great example of Duarte reacting to the defense and getting to the rim. He creates space off Darius Garland by jabbing to his right side, drawing the defender away from the baseline, waiting for the pass, and finishing in traffic over Lauri Markkanen.

A great read and a confident way to attack the basket to end up with points:

Plays like this show his understanding of how to get open and make something happen on the offensive end, which is promising from your 13th draft pick.

His feel for the game has just been solid. When he is on the floor, you don’t get the sense of him just scrambling, or forcing plays that lead to turnovers.

He also shows his ability to space the floor with his shooting. We’ve seen multiple times in both Summer League and in preseason where Duarte gets to his spot in transition for a pull-up three:

This is a Pacers team that was one of the best at scoring in transition, so adding another threat – especially on the perimeter would be a sizable plus for this team going into its first season under the helm of head coach Rick Carlisle.

Something that really caught my eye was what Duarte was able to do in isolation offense late in the shot clock. With ten seconds left in the possession, Duarte had to create a shot opportunity, and so he did:

This is a tough shot. Duarte’s driving attempt is cut off by the defender, instead of picking up his dribble, he keeps it which allows him to get another move on the defender.

This time he goes with a step-back and just hits a tough shot rather than passing to a teammate late in the shot clock and hoping they can just hit the rim.

Duarte played in all four preseason games, averaging 13.8 points, 2.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game.

He lead the team in total points scored as well, with 55 points. Domantas Sabonis was right behind him with 54. He also lead the team in field goals attempted with an average of 12.2, as well as in three-point field goals attempted with 4.8 per game.

In those attempts, he shot 44% from the field and 31% from behind the arc. While it was just the preseason, there was a lot to like from Duarte. He averaged 23.1 minutes played – the team’s second-highest behind Sabonis who played 24.4 per game.

With Injuries to both Caris LeVert, who will miss the first four regular-season games due to a stress fracture in his back, and T.J. Warren who is still rehabbing his foot – Duarte can see big minutes right away.

Isaiah Jackson took advantage of his preseason minutes and showcased more of his athletic abilities.

The Pacers’ 22nd draft pick played nearly the same minutes as Goga Bitaze in his Pacers preseason debut – averaging 14.2 per game.

We weren’t able to see as much of him in Summer League since the trade that sent Aaron Holiday to the Wizards, Westbrook to the Lakers, and the Lakers pick to the Pacers via Washington hadn’t been finalized.

Simply put, after being on the team and learning the Pacers system under Rick Carlisle, Jackson took advantage of his preseason opportunities and showcased a ton of athletic talent.

Here he was on the offensive end – catching a lob from Sabonis:

Rick Carlise has made an emphasis on bringing another dimension in the ways Indiana can score the basketball.

The lob has been previously been discussed when asked about how to better utilize Myles Turner on the offensive end. However, for most of the preseason, that option seemed to go Jackson’s way. Another stat to look at from Jackson is his shooting. Carlisle said prior to the preseason that Jackson needed to improve his shooting, as would most 19-year-old rookies.

Isaiah Jackson lead the Pacers in field goal percentage with an impressive 68.4% throughout his 4 preseason appearances.

There were times where he looked hesitant to shoot the mid-range shot – often passing the ball back out and trying to screen or pop.

This clip sums up where he should aim to grow most this season. In a rotation with three other centers and a seemingly underutilized Goga Bitadze drafted just a few seasons before him, being able to shoot is huge:

Goga Bitadze played his best game to end the preseason – leading the team in 3pt percentage:

This to say Jackson will need to stay ready and continue to work on a consistent shot from range to add to his unique athletism that has proven to be a game-changer in most of his games played.

Jackson had a solid preseason. He averaged 7.2 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 33.3% from behind the arc.

He also tied Myles Turner in blocks per game, where they both averaged one in their four games played. There was a lot to like from his performances.

We will see when the regular season comes where Rick Carlisle places him in the rotation, but I am excited to see what he can add to this Pacers’ offense and even more so on the defensive end.

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