Indiana Pacers: What should the starting five be when Caris LeVert returns

Indiana Pacers, Caris LeVert - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Caris LeVert - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

After missing the first four contests of the season, starting shooting guard Caris LeVert is set to rejoin the Indiana Pacers sooner than later. Having been reevaluated recently, fans should be able to expect him to make his season debut in the near future barring a setback.

While an exact timeline of his return is yet to be announced, LeVert’s impending return to the lineup will be a massive boost for the Pacers. After all, despite missing half of the season in the previous campaign, the 27-year-old managed to log career-highs in his first year donning the Blue and Gold.

In the thick of his prime, LeVert has been projected by many to be among Indiana’s primary options on offense as an explosive 20-point scorer with much-improved secondary playmaking. While known more for his scoring eruptions, his fortified perimeter defense was also deemed crucial to the Pacers’ goal of reemerging as a defensive unit, a facet of the game that still hasn’t been a consistent motif for the team at this juncture.

With his comeback now looming, how should the coaching staff and the team adjust to facilitate his return? More specifically, what should the starting lineup look like with him reclaiming his expected spot in the opening group?

The Indiana Pacers will options lineup-wise with Caris LeVert set to return sooner than later

One option that the Indiana Pacers can consider is to bring Justin Holiday off the bench. A starting five of Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, LeVert, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner would certainly be lights-out offensively.

With the Pacers’ offense still quite predictable, LeVert should be able to thrive both on and off the ball with his diverse skillset. If he can improve his three-point shot, the team’s accuracy from downtown should face an uptick. With the ball in his hands, the team can veer away from having Brogdon carry a very heavy load with ball handling duties.

The caveat with this lineup is, of course, on defense. Replacing Holiday with an offensive-minded player like LeVert, while not a negative defensive presence, will make the Pacers more vulnerable on D, especially when facing against team with big wing players, especially with him needing more time to get his moxie back. Raving about a theoretical switchy defensive troika on the perimeter with Brogdon, Duarte and LeVert will almost certainly be not as good as expected, especially with Brogdon getting beaten by quicker guards in the early going.

With that considered, it wouldn’t shock me if coach Rick Carlisle opts to bring one of LeVert or Duarte off the bench as a super sixth man. LeVert will almost surely get the starting nod, which shouldn’t shock anyone to be frank. While the rookie has thoroughly impressed with his eye-popping upside as a scorer, giving him full liberty off the bench could easily cure one of Indiana’s glaring problems: bench scoring.

After four games, the Pacers bench is tied for 26th in scoring with an average of 24.3 points per outing, a putrid, yet expected mark given that Indiana’s projected depth has been sapped away by injuries. While Duarte on the second unit could push Jeremy Lamb away from the normal rotation, it will give the team a better balance between the starters and the bench, a completely missing dimension from the team’s dynamics so far.

Alas, if the coaching staff wants to ease LeVert back into action, he can take that sixth man slot, which should be a harmless maneuver as he works himself back to the hardwood.

The Indiana Pacers have had a rough start to the season, but the addition of Caris LeVert should be a big step towards flipping that early script and getting back to the winning circle.

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