The Indiana Pacers roster looks very different from the one that earned the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference last season. We’re about a month into the season, which gives a bit of a more accurate read of how the new pieces are fitting in. Today, we’re going to be grading each free agent and draft pick through the first 17 games of the season. So, buckle up, because we have eight of these to go through.
Victor Oladipo: 22.6 ppg, 3.7 apg, 5.0 rpg; .460/.446/.798; Current Grade – B+
Since coming to the Pacers, Oladipo has been on an absolute tear. The athleticism he has flashed throughout his career has allowed to him to finally break out as the number one option on the sixth ranked Pacers offense. He still has some work to do on the defensive end to live up to his full potential, but he and the Pacers look like a great match so far.
Damontas Sabonis: 12.9 ppg, 2.6 apg, 9.5 rpg; .602/.333/.725; Current Grade – B
The other half of the Paul George trade, along with Oladipo, Sabonis has been a force on both ends of the floor. He currently boasts the teams third best offensive rating, while being tied for the third best defensive rating. He sports the teams second best PER, and is demonstrating the skills that made him the No. 11 overall pick in last years draft. If he continues to play at this level, the frontcourt of he and Myles Turner will be one of the better duos in the game.
Bojan Bogdanovic: 14.3 ppg, 1.5 apg, 3.3 rpg; .517/.464/.839; Current Grade – B-
Bogdanovic is averaging a career high in point, minutes, and three-point percentage. While he has struggled on the defensive end, his breakout on offense has led to his highest offensive box plus/minus of his career at 2.9, which dwarfs his previous career high of .6. He is also grading out as 15.3 in terms of PER, which is the highest of his career. He is embracing his role as a floor spreader and thriving.
Darren Collison: 12.9 ppg, 6.8 apg, 2.6 rpg; .491/.385/.894; Current Grade – B-
Collison has been an average starting point guard throughout his time in the NBA, and that has continued since his arrival to the Pacers. The majority of his numbers have gone slightly up from his career average numbers. This includes his three-point attempts, field goal percentage and, most importantly, his assists per game. He is playing very well in this up-tempo Pacers offense, but has regressed on the defensive end as he’s gotten older. Due to Cory Joseph failing to develop significantly, he should have a firm grasp on his starting spot.
Cory Joseph: 8.7 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.7 rpg; .435/.500/.818; Current Grade – C
After serving as the primary backup to Tony Parker and Kyle Lowry for the first six seasons of his career, Joseph finds himself backing up Darren Collison. He has begun functioning as more of an off-ball player while on the court, and has also upped his three point attempts and make percentage. His previous career high was 36%, which suggests he should regress, but if he can maintain some of this progress he should continue to be a solid contributor off the bench.
TJ Leaf: 4.6 ppg, 0.3 apg, 1.8 rpg; .508/.500/429; Current Grade – D+
After a successful season at UCLA, Leaf was plucked by the Pacers in the first round of the draft. He projected as a stretch big, which runs counter to Sabonis who thrives on the inside. Due to his athleticism, he works best in transition with a point guard who is constantly pushing the ball. That being said, he needs to work on his defense and free throw shooting in order to carve out a more significant role.
Ike Anigbogu: .7 ppg, 0.0 apg, .7 rpg; .200/.000/1.000; Current Grade – D
Ike has played a total of 17 minutes across six games. In such a small sample, this grade almost seems too low, but, even when looking at his per-36 minute stats, he hasn’t been effective. He’s averaging 4.2 turnovers per-36, and, due to his limited offensive skill set that relies mostly on athleticism, one would expect him to be shooting a higher percentage from the field. He’ll struggle to break through for regular minutes in a rotation that features Al Jefferson, Myles Turner and Damontis Sabonis, if he continues to play at this level.
Damien Wilkins: 1.2 ppg, .6 apg, .8 rpg; .462/.000/.000; Current Grade – D
After being out of the NBA for four seasons, Wilkins was able to earn a roster spot to serve as a veteran presence in the locker room for a young team. He’s played in 10 games thus far, and managed only 62 total minutes. Barring injury, this will probably be his role throughout the remainder of the season.
The season is still young, and many of these grades will change as the season goes on. If these grades go up, then that just means more good news for the Indiana Pacers.