Indiana Pacers Mailbag: Trades, expectations, and how to fix the lineup

Adam Silver, NBA Draft (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Adam Silver, NBA Draft (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /
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Indiana Pacers
Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

From @LesWrite

What’s a reasonable expectation of Duarte assuming he stays healthy the rest of the season? Does he still fit with the youth timeline Pacers are in now?

Chris Duarte returned to the Pacers rotation in Sunday’s home loss to the New York Knicks. In that game, I thought Duarte played about the way that Pacers fans should’ve expected him to in his first game back. He was rusty. There were plenty of times that he was plainly out of sync with his teammates. Especially in the first half, he lacked some of the spontaneous movement that’s required of off-ball players in this Pacers system. On defense, he looked a step slower than who he was guarding usually, but luckily he still has the length to contest shots well, even if he’d been beaten, or was slow to rotate correctly.

Rick Carlisle has said multiple times this season that it takes players three games to get back to normal levels when returning from injury. Let’s make sure to give Duarte at least those three games before we start making value judgments on his current form.

Once he’s knocked off the rust, though, I think Pacers fans’ expectations for Duarte should be high. Duarte is one of the players on this team who needs to fulfill his potential to be a part of the next winning team. In — games in his rookie season, Duarte averaged about 13 points, 4 boards, and 2 assists. Over the course of the rest of the season, he should exceed those averages. We should also expect to see improvement in his scoring package, distribution, and on-ball defense.

I believe Duarte absolutely still fits with this Pacers’ timeline. He’s still on his rookie contract and is under team control for next season and the one after that. If the plan is to build toward a major finals push in the 2024-25 season- I believe that should be the plan- then Duarte needs to play a major role on that team, only counting for something in the range of $6 million against the cap.