3. Interesting rotation choices raise eyebrows
While a balanced offensive attack and garbage time due to a significant lead late in the game meant that almost the entire team got to play, except Daniel Theis, Rick Carlisle’s minute distribution for Opening Night looked a bit odd, to say the least.
The biggest concern was a stark lack of Jarace Walker minutes. Coming to the Indiana Pacers as the eighth pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Walker enters the season with decent expectations, as he is expected to be the full-time backup power forward, backing up Obi Toppin and looking to get a decent amount of minutes in his rookie season.
However, if Opening Night was anything to go by, this seems to have changed, as Walker only played around five minutes of garbage time when the game was all said and done, failing even to get a single point but showing some impressive defensive potential all the while.
While this is no reason to hit the panic button, as the case probably is that Rick Carlisle is testing out different lineups and rotations at the start of the season and is definitely looking to give Walker a more concrete role on the team, the rookies not playing at all until there were less than six minutes left in the game is a bit peculiar to look at.
Instead of Walker being subbed in early to alleviate Obi Toppin’s duties, Aaron Nesmith played some backup power forward minutes, and Walker didn’t see the floor. As a matter of fact, Isaiah Jackson and Ben Sheppard saw the floor before Walker, which was truly bizarre, as Jackson is the third-string center behind Myles Turner and Jalen Smith, and Ben Sheppard was the Pacers 26th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
This could be a bad sign going forward or just Rick Carlisle testing out certain rotations, but it does further one point, in particular: The Pacers are a stacked basketball team if they only play the eighth overall pick five garbage time minutes at the end of the game.
This is not something fans should be worried about, as it is pretty clear that the rotation will be a bit odd to start the season, as Carlisle looks to see what works with this Pacers team and what doesn’t.
Whatever it was today worked, as the Indiana Pacers played very well and gave Pacers fans more than their money’s worth to kick off the season. And one other thing is for sure: The Pacers are a good bit better than they were to start off the last season.