At the time of writing this, the Indiana Pacers just finished their third game of the season against the Chicago Bulls. After two fantastic outings to start the year, the Pacers suffered their first loss of the season, losing 105-112 due to many reasons.
The reasons include, among other things, inefficient shooting, turnovers, bad defense, especially in the interior, and what stood out the most, poor rotation choices.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The Indiana Pacers are a deep team. This goes without saying, as many fans of the Pacers and even avid NBA fans in general have lauded the Pacers for the sheer amount of talent on their roster.
Indiana’s ability to go 13 deep when needed is one of the best things an NBA team can have, and it is definitely seen as more of a gift than a curse.
However, one issue with teams loaded with talent like this that we have seen over and over again in the history of the lead is that everyone needs playing time. Failing to dole out playing time to rotation-level players can cause problems, as egos have the potential to flare, team chemistry can be affected, and as a result, the play on the court can decline.
While I believe the Pacers players can contain their egos and know their respective places on the team, that still leaves coach Rick Carlisle with some intriguing options with plenty of room for success and failure.
In the loss to Chicago, Carlisle’s potential faults were seen, as the Pacers only played nine players throughout the game, leaving six to log DNPs on the bench when their services could potentially be needed.
Most glaring were the absences of TJ McConnell, Isaiah Jackson, and Jarace Walker.
Since the Pacers struggled with turning the ball over and maintaining possession, subbing in McConnell, one of the better floor generals and smartest players in the league, could have helped.
Also, the Pacers were lacking energy quite a few times during this game, often letting Bulls players right to the rim for easy buckets and missing some point-blank shots of their own. Perhaps the interior presences of Jarace Walker and Isaiah Jackson could have helped with that.
The relative lack of playing time given to the rookies has been a huge point of concern from fans, as Walker and Sheppard have only logged a combined 12 minutes on the floor throughout three games, with all those minutes coming in garbage time of the season opener against Washington.
Both Walker and Sheppard have yet to score their first points as NBA players and have not logged a single minute between themselves in the past two games.
I have stated in the past not to get too anxious about the lack of minutes given to the youngsters, as it is clear that Rick Carlisle is still experimenting with the rotation and is trying to see what fits, but at the same time, you can’t get a read on the rotation if you do not give everyone enough chances to prove themselves.
While we all know about Carlisle’s famous short leash with rookies, as seen with Bennedict Mathurin last season, he has to give Walker and Sheppard some playing time to see if they’re worth keeping in the rotation or given some more development before they are properly polished.
This is especially the case for Walker, who was the Pacers’ prized lottery pick they traded down with the Wizards for and who impressed in Summer League and preseason with his fantastic defense and solid all-around game.
While having a lot of good players is certainly a good problem to have, the ability to manage egos and minutes for all your talented players is key, especially when they are almost all youngsters who need to see the floor to develop.
As the Pacers are only three games into the season, now is certainly not the time to panic. However, if we get to midseason and Walker and Sheppard are logging consistent DNPs, and the nine-man lineups become a mainstay, it may be time to call for Rick Carlisle to do some serious rotation tweaking before the playoffs start and it is too late.