The Indiana Pacers, on account of their exciting draft odds and sizeable cap space, should rightfully be thrilled about what could unfold for them in the offseason after a miserable campaign. However, one question they may not be thrilled to answer is the future of Goga Bitadze in the Circle City.
The 22-year-old center logged his best season so far in 2021-22, but that is really not telling much. Operating as a low-minutes big man throughout the season, Bitadze has posted overall numbers than before, but his importance on the team wavers on a nightly basis. Unfortunately for him, the lows have exceeded the highs in his career.
With numerous questions already on deck for the front office, what should the Pacers do with Goga Bitadze?
The Indiana Pacers have a tough call to make with Goga Bitadze
The relative disappointment around Goga Bitadze is anchored primarily on something out of his control — minutes. Three seasons into his professional career, the Georgian big man has only normed 11.8 minutes per game, translating to career per-game averages of 5.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks.
However, the actual disappointment is a material fact. In the minutes that he was given, Bitadze has rarely looked poised to become a more prominent rotation player. His skillset has matched prognostications back in the 2019 NBA Draft, but his effectiveness has largely withered, something further exacerbated by logging longer minutes. His on-court demeanor has been a continuum of unnecessary confrontations with opposing players…and a former assistant coach.
In the most recent campaign, Goga flashed much better numbers and efficiency splits, registering 7.0 markers and 3.5 boards per game in just 14.6 minutes per contest on 52 percent shooting, easily a career-best mark. Still, his role on the team moving forward is as hazy as it gets. Myles Turner projects to be a staple for the Indiana Pacers, and you can only surmise about the implications of the team trading for Isaiah Jackson in last year’s draft.
The upcoming draft and the pegged strategy on Indiana’s part also does not bode well for Bitadze. With a top pick very much in play for the Blue and Gold, the Pacers are highly likely to draft a frontcourt prospect should they indeed claim a top-three pick.
However, should lady luck evade the Pacers in the lottery, then keeping Goga is not only possible, but logical. He is locked for a guaranteed salary next season, and and other clubs may not be enticed to trade for him. Unless Indiana somehow snags an immediate contributor in the draft or in free agency, retaining Bitadze and banking on a fourth-year turnaround is not the worst thing to happen.