3. The fight for guard/wing rotation minutes
A deep rotation can sometimes be a gift and a curse, and for the Indiana Pacers, it’s potentially both.
While Indiana has one of the deepest rosters in the league on paper, this may spell trouble when the season starts, as players inevitably need minutes to showcase their skills and help the team.
However, the Pacers have a surplus of wing players who are just begging to get playing time in the regular season and have been playing too well to be ignored. Bruce Brown and Bennedict Mathurin have already cemented their spot in the rotation, being named as the starting shooting guard and small forward, respectively. This leaves us with the bench rotation, and that is certainly easier said than done.
For one, Aaron Nesmith has cemented his spot with fantastic play during the preseason, including 15 points against Atlanta, so he will most certainly get a spot in the rotation. In addition to Nesmith, rookie Ben Sheppard has also been fantastic during preseason, hitting three three-pointers tonight and adding four rebounds to help the Pacers win.
Initially, one can imagine the plan was to keep Sheppard in and out of the rotation while you facilitate a possible Buddy Hield trade or extension. However, with the strides Sheppard has made in three games alone, it is getting hard to overlook him in the rotation and his spot may be starting to set in stone as the regular season looms closer.
This leaves two players unsure of their roles, Jordan Nwora and Buddy Hield.
While Hield’s place in the rotation last year was set as the starting shooting guard, the arrival of Bruce Brown and the emergence of Bennedict Mathurin have changed things for the 30-year-old sharpshooter.
Over the offseason, the Pacers were looking for ways to trade Hield before quickly rescinding their intent and deciding to stay put for the regular season. However, it has been hard to ignore how mediocre Hield has been so far in the preseason, and just how well Sheppard has been doing, with Sheppard even being a better shooter than Hield in these three games.
In addition to the emergence of Sheppard, TJ McConnell has also looked impressive in the preseason, and you can’t forget about Andrew Nembhard’s inevitable return. With these players being surefire rotation pieces, and with Hield being one of the oldest and highest-paid players on the team, it may be time for Indiana to bite the bullet and ship Hield off to a contender sooner rather than later.
After all, after it was evident that the Pacers found their point guard of the future in Haliburton, they immediately shipped Malcolm Brogdon off to Boston as soon as the offseason hit, getting Nesmith in the process, who has been fantastic for them.
This is precisely what Indiana should do, ship off Hield to a contender and get an unproven young player and perhaps some draft capital in return as you gear up for a promising future.
While Hield pairs well with Haliburton, and their chemistry is on point, you have to be looking towards the future, and with Hield still not set on signing an extension, it may be the smart move to ship him off rather than lose him for nothing, and with Ben Sheppard performing as well as he is now, it may be time to give the full-time backup shooting guard spot to the rookie out of Belmont.
However, Rick Carlisle is notoriously stingy when it comes to giving rookies minutes, especially unproven ones, and he may vouch to keep Hield around due to the undeniable value he presents to the team.
Regardless of whether Hield stays or leaves, Indiana still has one of the deepest guard/wing rotations and overall rosters in the league.