3. New guys and rookies find their footing
Perhaps the thing Pacers fans were most looking forward to in the preseason was watching the new additions go at it, including the rookies.
Coming into the season, the Pacers have six new players on their roster, ready to show what they are made of, with four of these additions being rookies. Isaiah Wong didn’t play enough to really get a grip on how he will perform as a Pacer, and with the point guard rotation of Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard, and TJ McConnell already being set, Wong will most likely spend the majority of his 2023-24 campaign down in the G League with the Mad Ants.
Similarly, Oscar Tshiebwe did not do much of note during the preseason, only playing the first two games and logging a total of four points off the bench.
The real production came from the remaining four players, those being rookies Jarace Walker and Ben Sheppard, free agent signing Bruce Brown, and trade acquisition Obi Toppin.
I really want to focus on Toppin and Brown here, as Jarace and Sheppard need their own evaluation at another time.
Bruce Brown came to Indiana as an unexpected free agent signing after winning a championship with the Denver Nuggets. Brown was expected to bring another element of defense and leadership to this young squad, with him already being one of the oldest players on the team, at 27 years old.
In the preseason, Bruce Brown’s play has been pretty unremarkable. However, this is not something to be too concerned about, as Rick Carlisle is still trying to manage his rotation, and Brown is just another talented player who needs minutes.
While his numbers don’t exactly scream “superstar” (7 PPG on 38/27/50 splits), Brown did show some flashes of why the Pacers made it such a priority to bring him on board, as his defense was stellar and showed that Indiana did work on their biggest weakness, perimeter defense. This thunderous block on Bogdan Bogdanovic was perhaps his biggest highlight of the preseason.
Speaking of highlights, one man who does not fall short of them is Obi Toppin. Coming to Indiana for two second-round picks, Toppin had pretty high expectations set on him by Indiana Pacers fans, with some even projecting him to win the Most Improved Player award in Indiana.
Toppin was seen as somewhat of a missed opportunity in New York, as he always played well as a starter but could only do so if Julius Randle was sitting out. In Indiana, Toppin immediately got the starting power forward job bestowed on him by Rick Carlisle and has seemed to make the most of it.
While his first three games as a Pacer weren’t exactly spectacular, Toppin showed flashes of why the Pacers traded for him with good offense, rebounding, and some hustle to go along with that.
Toppin did save his best performance for last, but in the final preseason game against Cleveland, he logged 17 points and nine rebounds while giving Pacers fans a taste of what they could expect on the highlight reel for the upcoming season.
Toppin threw down dunk after dunk and looked fantastic doing it en route to finishing second on the team in scoring for the night and putting fans around the league on notice.
Obi Toppin was traded to Indiana to get a second chance following a misused stint in New York. Only time will tell if the Indiana Pacers and Toppin made the right decision, but as it stands, it seems like Indiana found another diamond in the rough.