4. Fight for frontcourt minutes
Speaking of depth, a similar situation is happening in the frontcourt.
Indiana’s frontcourt has been a point of discussion amongst Indiana Pacers fans for months now and has only heated up since the FIBA World Cup, in which Daniel Theis and Germany took home the gold medal.
Following this win for Theis and Germany, many Pacers fans stated that he should take the backup center spot going into the season. Indeed, in the one game Theis has played so far in the preseason, he played well, putting up no points but staying active on the boards and playing solid defense as usual.
However, Theis did not play against Atlanta, which brought some more attention to the other big men in Indiana’s rotation. In addition to Theis not playing, Myles Turner fouled out after 15 minutes, which gave Jalen Smith the green light to take over center duties for the rest of the game.
While Smith was primarily a power forward for the Phoenix Suns and for a while in Indiana, it is now clear that his primary position should be center, as he put on some muscle in the offseason and looks like a completely new player as a result.
Smith was fantastic against Atlanta, putting up nine points (4/6 FG, 1/1 3PT), seven rebounds, and two blocks in 20 minutes of play. In addition to these stats, he just looked better and more comfortable on the floor, playing more like the Jalen Smith we saw in the second half of the 2021-22 season.
However, with Jalen Smith snagging the backup center spot with Theis out, that leaves one man on the outside looking in, Isaiah Jackson.
Isaiah Jackson has had an interesting NBA career so far. After coming to Indiana following a 5-team draft day trade, Jackson’s first couple of years in the league showed promise and upside, yet perhaps some unfulfilled potential.
Coming into the season, Jackson needs to prove to the front office and Rick Carlisle that he deserves a spot in the rotation, or he may be on the trade block soon. However, the good news for Jackson is that time is on his side.
Despite entering his third year in the league, Jackson is still just 21 years old and still looks like he has a bright future ahead of him. If he builds upon his first two seasons in the league, the sky is the limit for the big man out of Kentucky, and there is most definitely a spot for him on this team. However, if he does not show any growth as the season progresses, his days in the blue and gold may be numbered.
Only time will tell where Rick Carlisle goes with these rotations, both in the backcourt and the frontcourt, but one thing is for sure: He is not strapped for options, and the Indiana Pacers are not a team strapped for depth.