The depth that we have
Okay, so out of all the problems a team faces in the NBA, having good depth is one of the best ones to have. In the Pacer’s case, it’s not as much of a problem as it’s just the complete opposite of what we experienced last year with the power forward position. For the 2 wing positions that we have left in our starting 5 and the backup minutes behind those starters, 5 players are deserving of minutes.
The first player up is the newcomer, Bruce Brown signed a 2-year 45 million dollar deal with the Pacers on the day free agency started. Now, did he sign with us because that’s the most money he was offered…maybe. But, Bruce Brown is a winning player who saw an opportunity to join an improving team and help them win games. He is going from playing with possibly the best playmaker in the league to playing with the guy trying to take that title. I talked about how great the fast break will be with Tyrsese and Obi Toppin, and Bruce Brown will make that even more dangerous. He deserves the money, he will work hard, will probably guard every position as the season goes on, and is just exactly the type of player you want on your team.
Now a guy who started for us the majority of last season until about the last 10 games, Buddy Hield is the model of consistency. He shot 46% from the field last year including 43% from 3 giving the Pacers about 17 points a night. When he catches fire it is a spectacle to watch and the gravitational pull he has on defenders opens up so much for the other guys on the court. An underrated part about Buddy that doesn’t get talked about enough, is just how available he is every season. He played 80 games last year for the Pacers and has played 70+ games every season he has been in the NBA. They say the best ability is availability and in addition to it, Buddy continues to provide great offense night in and night out in a league where 3-point shooting has become so important.
We’ve brought up two potential starters, now things get interesting by bringing up a third. Bennedict Mathurin is coming into his second season with some pretty high expectations. He primarily came off the bench in his rookie year and proved himself to already be one of the best scorers on the team and one of the best young players in the league. Can he take another leap this year? It depends on how many more opportunities he will have, and I think it will behoove the coaching staff to give him as many of those opportunities as possible. In terms of guys on this roster who can be 25 points per game scorers, he is the one.
Aaron Nesmith and Jordan Nwora will round out our wing rotation and will get their minutes on more of an as-needed basis. Aaron Nesmith showed last year that he is a positive defender and oftentimes was tasked with guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing team. He plays with great energy and showed several times last year he will take on any challenge thrown his way. I believe his jump shot will continue to improve and expect him to continue to grow as a defender now that he won’t be responsible for guarding guys 4 feet taller than him. We saw Jordan Nwora briefly last season but when given playing time he showed just how much offensive potential he has. An offseason with Rick Carlisle and the coaching staff will help him feel more comfortable in our offense and in today’s NBA you can never have enough length and 3-point shooting, which is exactly what we have with Nwora.
With all that being said, it’s likely only two of these guys will be the starters on opening night and for this article, we are going with Bruce Brown and Bennedict Mathurin at our 2 and 3 spots. Mathurin played great as a rookie and now he should be given the opportunity to play against the opposing team’s best players and continue his growth. Even if he is the worst shooter on the floor, his ability to get to the rim and draw contact will be showcased while the other 4 players can space for him. Bruce Brown provides us great perimeter defense for both guards and wings and as I said earlier, will make our full court game even scarier. Bruce Brown will want to prove that he deserves the contract he just got and the energy he will bring will only motivate the players around him to match it. If anyone in the starting 5 is struggling with their shot, in comes our sixth man Buddy Hield who will do what he does best and that’s shooting the ball. He will still average well over 20 minutes a game and knowing him, will be available whenever he is needed.