A Look into Goga Bitadze’s third NBA season with the Indiana Pacers

Goga Bitadze - Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Goga Bitadze - Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers selected Goga Bitadze with the 18th pick in the 2019 NBA draft. You might have seen the viral picture of Goga sitting next to Zion Williamson during the pre-draft media sessions – all eyes on Zion.

It became a notorious picture that I think paints Goga’s time in Indiana realistically.

Goga Bitadze was drafted to play center for the Indiana Pacers who start two centers. How has Goga been impacted by the replete structure of the center spot this season?

Goga Bitadze, 22 years old, has had an interesting three years of NBA experience. Playing in more games during his rookie season than in year two and what will likely be year three is not ideal.

Some of this is due to injury troubles, where he missed 19 games in his second season. However, Goga’s troubles have not been just with injury.

The structure of the current Pacers roster simply does not allow for a guy in Goga’s position to get consistent playing time which is truly all he needs, consistency.

With the Pacers’ front office trading up to draft another center – Isaiah Jackson with the 23rd pick in this year’s NBA draft – it is hard to see Goga ever getting that consistency without a change.

So far this season, the Indiana Pacers have played 34 games and currently have a record of 14 wins, 20 losses. Not where the team should be.

Goga has only played in twenty of those 34 games with his highest minutes being 21 against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 19th. He had 11 points and 4 rebounds in that game.

He has only had the opportunity to play double-digit minutes five other times this season. It was, for this reason, the Pacers decided to send Bitadze to their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Goga certainly proved that he is an NBA-caliber player after playing in two games with Fort Wayne. He scored 38 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists in a win against the Grand Rapids Gold.

The most recent game where Bitadze saw meaningful minutes was against the Houston Rockets – with Domas Sabonis not playing due to injury.

Goga has struggled in previous years with his decisiveness and ability to screen and move. However, his hustle under the basket was something I noticed in this game against the Rockets.

Goga actually seems like he wants to go to the corner, but once he realized Jeremy Lamb was going to shoot off the pass from Wannamaker he makes a great effort on the ball.

He gets back to the rim and positions himself to not allow his defender the rebound – notice his foot placement. He follows this with an aggressive rebound of his own and finishes strong at the basket over Sengun for the two-point play.

It may not seem like much but a hustle play like that can take a lot out of a player and that many won’t go after.

My takeaway here – good to see Goga gain the confidence to be aggressive in that situation without the consistent in-game reps.

We see it again here just a few minutes earlier in the game where Bitadze makes an impressive play at the rim.

You can see Bitadze sets up the pick and roll with Wannamaker and then makes a great read when he sees Sengun try to help on Wannamaker, which allows him to make an aggressive move to the rim.

He does miss the first shot but gets his own rebound and finishes after being fouled by Sengun trying to recover. A three-point play.

Seeing Bitadze become more active with his decision-making is a huge step for him and is something he needs to maintain when he does get minutes.

Goga has also shown flashes of defensive awareness and timing in the paint, of course, he has the top shot-blocker in the NBA in Myles Turner to ask directly on this subject matter.

Goga has a similar frame to Myles Turner but when it comes to shot-blocking, Goga has not always been able to get to the best position for himself to avoid fouling.

Myles often says that shot-blocking is mostly timing – let the defender think they have an easy layup.

Goga does this here against the Knicks, where he tied his season-high 3 blocks during this game. The patience that Bitadze shows in the paint for Quickley to drive – you can almost see Goga telling himself to wait for Quickley to get closer to the rim.

When Goga notices the defender is driving to the rim, he is at the top of the paint. A great defensive effort by Goga to cover that space and make a play without fouling.

Goga has only appeared in 20 games this season and has had at least one block in 6 of those games for the Indiana Pacers.

Goga Bitadze has shown glimpses of what his shooting can be in previous seasons. How has that progressed into his third season?

Unlike Myles Turner in this category (shooting 36% from three), Goga has struggled to connect with his shots in his limited time on the floor.

Bitadze is 4 of 28 from behind the arc this so far this season – 14.3%.

This is not to say Bitadze is incapable of becoming a shooter of that caliber as he is still a young NBA talent. When he was assigned to the Mad Ants – he made 6 of his 8 shots from three in his second game with the team and finished with 38 points.

In his first two seasons, Bitadze averaged 44.5% shooting from the field. Although his third season is halfway done, that number is 32.2% as it stands on Dec. 28th.

So this to me comes back to, as Myles Turner put it, role clarity. As it stands now Goga’s role is to wait for someone to not be active to play so he can fill in, instead of consistent backup center minutes.

Since Rick Carlise likes to stagger the Sabonis and Turner pairing, this just makes it tough for him and there isn’t much he can do until a change is made.

On top of these factors, the Indiana Pacers drafted another center this year, 19-year-old Isaiah Jackson.

As the season progresses I hope to see not just more time on the floor for Bitadze, but simply a continuation of his growth as a player that can boost his confidence for the fun talent he has.

Next. The Pacers should trade for this young star. dark