The men in the middle
Myles Turner just had his best season as a Pacer. Could it be because of Haliburton? Or the fact that he was finally the primary center for the whole season? Maybe a little bit of both, but one thing for sure is how much confidence Myles had coming into the season as well as after he signed his contract extension to stay here for the next few years. After all the talk about trades (Dont get me wrong there will be rumors about him as long as he’s on this team) and the “almost” Deandre Ayton signing, Myles was able to play the whole season at his primary position as the one true center of the Indiana Pacers, and it worked out great. His ability to space the floor and protect the rim works perfectly for what this team is trying to do. He can play in the pick-and-roll with Tyrese, pull the opposing center out of the paint, and when the team is running he can trail behind and often be wide open for a three. On the defensive end, he is an elite rim-protecting big and after all the time with Sabonis, he is not scared to switch on a perimeter player and guard a wing. The longest-tenured Pacer is still only getting better with his scoring as well as his role as the defensive captain and with that he is fully entrenched as the team’s center.
Now back to the question marks. Who is the backup behind Myles? If you paid attention to his Summer League games, you probably think Isaiah Jackson is the primary backup big. If you watched the end of last season, you’d think Jalen Smith would have the first opportunity at those backup minutes. Both players have pros and cons when it comes to their skill sets. First off neither of them are forwards. They do not have the shooting touch or the mobility to attack closeouts that you need to fill the stretch 4 role. Jalen Smith is a slightly better shooter than Ijax (28% from 3 for Smith as opposed to 14% from IJax) as well as a slightly better rebounder (11.1 total rebounds a game for Jalen Smith to 9.7 total rebounds a game for IJax per 36 minutes). However, Isaiah Jackson is a way better defensive player than Jalen Smith especially when it comes to protecting the rim. The shooting touch and rebounding will continue to improve for Isaiah Jackson as he is still progressing as a player, but I am not sure if Jalen Smith will ever be as good of a defender as IJax is now. The defense along with the ability to be a lob threat for Andrew Nembhard is why I think Isaiah Jackson will get the first opportunity to be our backup center.
Behind Isaiah Jackson will be Jalen Smith who still might get minutes from time to time, or inevitably take the backup spot if Jackson struggles or can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble. Other than that we still have Daniel Theis on the roster for some spot center minutes if an injury were to occur. With the 1 and 5 spots covered its time to look at the next position in the rotation that has the least amount of question marks surrounding it